Sustainability in the Photographic Industry, Written by: Sandra Chile
The other day I saw the video of “Henry the Environmentalist” on Facebook, have you seen it?
Like Henry, I was seven years old the first time I had heard about the struggles of our planet. I was in horror after the teacher, at school, said spray cans and refrigerators had a toxic gas that destroy the ozone layer. I’m pretty sure this fact would not have meant anything to anyone else, including myself, except for one key factor: I lived in Punta Arenas, Chile, right underneath the big ozone depletion .
I came home that day, and jumped in front of the fridge every time my mom attempted to cook. I was determined to prevent her from releasing any more CFC’s into the atmosphere.
You see, there are some people that cannot live without thinking about the consequences of devastation, or how things here, affect others elsewhere (like in other countries) and I am one of those people.
This is why, when photography and I crossed our paths, I knew right away that I didn’t want to contribute to a careless industry. My heart believed in preserving memories, but at the same time, I didn’t want to preserve memories at the cost of our planet or other people.
The industry of photographic products can be so toxic, that workers can end up with severe skin burns, when coatings are applied to prints. This issue gets magnified, when the photographic labs outsource to underdeveloped countries where safety is not a priority, nor is there a priority to be polite to our planet.
Over the past weeks, I have reached out to different photographic labs, and I decided to highlight those who are making things different and taking the “green” stand for you, the Ethically Minded Engaged Couple and for some of us, the Curious Eco-Photographer/Wedding Professional, but first, let me explain two concepts: Sustainable & Ethical.
Sustainable has a relationship with the control of contamination and how much they care when it comes to the environment.
Ethical has a relationship with the practices regarding consumerism. Often times, a lab that has an ethical standard is environmentally friendly, but not necessarily.
Why should engaged couples care?
The level of pollutants in a photo print are pretty high. Think of all the chemicals that come together to coat your picture, album, or photo book. Then, think of the residual effects of these chemicals. Then, think of the paper, in the deforestation produced. Then, think of packaging: Boxes, tissue papers, paper bags, ribbons, plastic… Do you follow me?
If you are ready to start a family, isn’t it logical to think of the planet you are going to leave to your future children? And when it comes to ethical, wouldn’t it be better to purchase products and services produced in a way that minimizes social and/or environmental damage?
So for you, the ethically minded bride and/or groom, I have 2 suggestions:
First, ALWAYS prefer photographers who have a clear standpoint regarding sustainability and ethics. In the same way your grocery shopping is determined: you buy organics because you want no pesticides, you prefer sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup, you buy things with no dye, etc; make a point to choose a professional photographer who is committed to this cause, and if the photographer of your choice is not ethically minded, then ask for it! I know we have to ask in order to be given.
If you plan to print your own images (whether they are from your phone or from a usb), my suggestions for printing are:
Artifact Uprising, Based in Colorado, this consumer based lab was created by photographers with the intention of offering good quality products with a sustainable approach. You’ll find many of their products use recycled and reclaimed materials. Their aim is not only to create products that won’t end up in a landfill, but by using recycled papers, they limit what gets to the landfill in the first place.
What makes them especially awesome?: The pages of their books are made of 100% Post-Consumer Waste (PCW) recycled paper, and they’ve given new uses for wood from trees killed by the mountain pine beetle – otherwise considered waste.
Everything they manufacture is done in America, so by making things at home, they empower the economy of our country.
But my favorite thing about AU is their partnership with SKCAC, a non-profit based in Seattle, whose team proudly assembles and brands the calendars and wood blocks sets, providing jobs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Artifact Uprising is proud to empower them and to have them as a part of their vision.
My favorite Product: The Square print set
Tip: Artifact Uprising has generously given us a discount code to allow you to test their products with a 10% off from Now until July 31st
Now, let’s talk with the professionals:
Why should a professional photographer care about Ethical Consumerism?
There is a bible verse that says “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”.
I like to apply that same thinking process to our industry: How will the consumer buy, if nobody is offering them the right products?
Early on my career path, I made a commitment to offer only fair trade products, and I quickly realized that I was not alone in the search for responsible printing. This means that there is demand, and you as a photographer are responsible for offering your clients products that fulfill their demands.
In the past, people thought that “green” was equivalent to lower quality, but thanks to media, this idea is now left behind, and consumers know that ethical, sustainable solutions mean better quality, more attention to detail, and an altogether more responsible industry, a win win.
Loktah: Located in West Monroe, Louisiana, Loktah was founded in 2008 with a desire to provide eco-friendly packaging alternatives to replace the lackluster plastic cases common to the photography and videography industries.
I spent a long time talking to the founder, Joshua, who patiently explained to me, how the company is committed to ethical practices.
Lokta paper is a wildcrafted, handmade artisan paper indigenous to Nepal. It is made with an ancient technique that shaves the bark of the trees, producing a pulp that is laid out flat to sun dry. The paper itself is one of the most sustainable papers on the planet, and is known for being socially responsible. The production of the paper has helped to empower the local people and revitalize their culture.
The certified fair trade sheets of paper, are then imported for the workers at the lab to mold into beautiful boxes, right here, in the USA.
The fabrics used by the lab in the production of packaging and album covers is hand woven hemp, produced by local artisans.
The inks are water based, and the pigments used in the printing process are part of a new zero waste technology that is not animal derived, making them stand above other labs for their vegetarian product line.
While other are using harsh chemicals, Loktah is the only lab in the country that offers a water based coating that is environmentally friendly and safe for the workers.
The company is continuously seeking ways to enhance their commitment to the customers and to the planet, and to engage other professionals to jump on the bandwagon of ethical consumerism. This is why they are they are offering a generous 15% discount to professional photographers with an accepted account.
Valid through August 15th, 2016.
Favorite Product: The Lagniappe canvas
Bay Photo Lab: Located in California, this is one of the oldest labs in the country, with over 40 years under their belt. Bay Photo is a Green Certified Business and has earned this Certification Award “For Exceeding Environmental Regulatory Requirements, Preventing Pollution, and Conserving Natural Resources!” .
They make a constant effort to reduce water consumption and other equipment to reduce energy consumption. They implement practices that reduce solid waste and pollution in compliance with all California’s environmental regulations.
In addition, Bay Photo offers a few environmentally-friendly “Green” options for the papers, featuring recycled fibers and one of their papers is created using wind-power.
Favorite Product: The Standout Bamboo
Written by Sandra Chile from Sandrachile.com
Sandra is an immigrant (from Chile), a passionate rabbit lover, an olive connoisseur and a ferocious advocate of conscious living.
*No compensation was provided for this review. These opinions are solely my own, just because I am a very opinionated person.