The Beginning of A New Journey

 

I am starting this blog in the wake of yet another environmental crisis, hurricane Harvey. I have always been an eco conscious person, and I care, a lot, but I become overwhelmed with crisis articles rather than how we can all help. I recycle, I turn off the lights like a crazy person and try to eat locally whenever possible. I am absolutely NOT a saint, and lead a very normal life. Over the past 8 years, I have been on a mission to spread the word about simple ways that we can actually help our planet. Since we can not depend on government (which is always my fall back excuse, that we just need regulation) and we can not depend on our American ways to change anything, I figure I may as well just start at home, no more excuses and no more waiting for our government to care. I read a great article that exemplified the point, that we need to have grass roots change, or there will be no change. 

Ten years ago, I started my journey as a designer/maker/solopreneur, I wrote a book with a friend to teach young children simple meaningful ways to lead an eco-friendly life, you can see the project here. After reading the book cradle to cradle, I felt the responsibility as a designer to so my part by being 100% responsible for the books we created. We had the books printed locally in Chicago using eco inks and recycled papers. We hand bound over 800 books using volunteers and lots of man hours with simple water based glue. *Consumer market issue: we could not meet the demand of the books with hand binding them. After learning that all board books were manufactured in China we had to end the project. 

After that project I embarked on a 100% compostable loose leaf activity book that would take kids thorough the systems that lead to a cleaner planet, you can view it here. Hoping that by creating the piece kids would learn how they can help. As a designer, my goal is always to understand the entire process from start to finish and the impact each project will have. The end life of that project was to compost it, leaving zero waste. *Consumer market issue: the consumer could not understand the book because it was not bound and retailers were not willing to commit to something different causing the book to go out of print. 

Once I finished those two books, I explored creating an eco-friendly dollhouse made of recycled paperboard that was made in Indiana, USA, you can view it here. Committed to my mission this series of dollhouses were designed to be recycled at the end of the life of the project. I did not sell stickers with it but it was designed to be drawn on and fully played with leaving no trace if recycled properly. I created a blog with free downloads so kids could have everything to make their home, you can see it here. *Consumer market issues: Retailers required elaborate packaging for the product with shrink wrap causing non recyclable material to be used. Issue #2, in order to sell lots of something, you need to attend trade shows which produce more garbage than one person can stomach. The amount of IKEA that went into landfills from this sort of show is mind numbing. Issue #3, consumers won't pay enough for USA produced goods, leaving me in debt. 

My latest project is my textiles line, you can view it here, and this is perhaps my favorite, possibly because it completes me as a maker. Over the years of trying desperately to throw myself into a mass marketplace, I had an awakening. I spent a year struggling with my role in our society as a maker. I didn't see the value in my hand and I didn't see why someone else's hand is undervalued. I struggled as a maker with why I had the desire to compete with things made in third world countries. As a result of reading, writing, talking with people, I have come to realize that the consumer marketplace I believe in is committed to micro-businesses and the independent marketplace, having learned a lot from the above projects, I am committed to making in the smallest way possible. I am exploring my own patterns and designs that celebrate the cities I love bringing together the urban with the natural. All of my textiles are produced solely by me.,as my art, and I use eco-friendly inks and am loving screen printing at a local co-op maker space. I sell my wares at local shows, online and with select retailers. I have no desire to grow and am writing and exploring how I believe micro-economies will drive us into the future. I will also share some of the books that I am reading with you for inspiration. 

Ok, so that is my resume and my eco-work as a designer, as a family we have also tried to grow our own food (not super successfully but would love to improve or just support my local farmers), I LOVE the plastic ban (we need that everywhere), we recycle what we can, but I could be much better about not buying packaged foods, and we compost. We have 2 kids, a large dog, 2 gas powered cars, a lawn mower, energy efficient appliances, and a normal amount of stuff. Being designers, we do however have a lot of "stuff" guilt, having been addicted to IKEA for all of our kids furniture etc.. over the years. Matt my Urbs partner and husband is a LEED, Architect and I am a designer with my bachelors in architecture and MFA in visual communications, having managed our interior renovations over the years. URBS is our new endeavor to create a great company with a simple value: creating: beautiful, sustainable, honest, affordable, housing for people, that in turn makes great places.

-Alyson

 
alyson beaton