5 Ways to Package and Ship your Handmade Products More Sustainably

(Note: Companies or products listed in this post are not sponsored, and any endorsements are purely out my own personal experience)

 

Sustainable, ethical, eco-friendly. It means a LOT of different things. What are the greenhouse gas emissions? Is it recyclable, biodegradable, reusable? What is it made of? Who made it and where did it come from? Is it toxic? How many times can it be used before it becomes waste? What raw or recycled materials are used to create it? The list goes on. It’s no wonder there’s confusion and frankly, a lack of important knowledge, on the subject. It’s overwhelming. And I’m merely at the tip of the iceberg.

 

But being an owner of a handmade business and being passionate about finding answers to all of these questions I have, I’ve come across a few tips and resources that have helped me begin to sort out the puzzle of trying to run my creative business in a more sustainable way. And the biggest thing for me, is packaging. Most of my sales are made online online including on platforms like Etsy, which means I have to pack and ship items for customers mostly in the US but some internationally as well. Even when I sell in local markets, I still have to package my items somewhat to ensure they make the trip home with the customer in pristine condition.

 

When it comes to a handmade business, packaging tends to be the most wasteful while simultaneously being the most insignificant considering that it is not actually part of the finished creation. Packaging is almost always single-use in nature. It is the padded mailer and tape you ship your art in. It is the hang tag and plastic wrapping for your craft to be sold in stores. It’s insignificant in the long term, so for me, this was one of the first aspects about my business I wanted to change to be less harmful to the environment. Here are 5 changes I made to make my business packaging more sustainable:

 

Buy locally manufactured and sold goods

Product shipping and origin alone is a considerable factor when determining which packaging products to purchase. Why? Because fossil fuels will most likely be transporting your goods from the country the raw materials were produced in, to the country the goods were made, to the reseller company in your country, and then to you. There will most likely be at the very least two “hands” that touch your packaging products before they get to you. Often more. And the more the products travel, the greater the environmental footprint they create along the way.

I can’t speak for other countries, but fortunately in the United States, there are several major packaging supply companies that sell from manufacturers right here in the USA! For example, Uline is a large and probably the most well-known packaging supply company and they offer over 15,600 products made in the USA. But location isn’t everything! Considering where and who you buy from is a complex process, and more than one factor should be considered when selecting where you get your products!

 

Less is more

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle” more than a few time sin your life. Well there’s a reason the words appear in that order. Reducing consumption is most effective in reducing waste because the future waste is never bought to begin with. Think about how you can reduce the amount of packaging used in shipping your products. Many products we sell aren’t overly fragile despite what our emotional connection to the item might make us think. If your items are fragile, you know who you are and don’t fret it. We’re all doing the best we can. That being said, I find most sellers tend to overpack perfectly durable items that simply don’t need it. It’s partly due to looks and partly due to fear, but imagine if you cut 20% of your excess packaging for shipped items. Not only would that save you money, but that could be roughly a 20% reduction in the environmental footprint of your shipments.

 

Opt for supplies made of recycled and/or natural materials

Poly, bubble wrap, paper, oh my! There’s an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to materials your shipping products are made of. And not all are created equal. If you can find packing supplies that are made of recycled materials that’s GREAT, because typically sourcing and processing virgin material like paper creates far larger an environmental footprint than recycling already used materials. A second benefit is that these recycled materials are avoiding the landfill and other places trash tends to end up… like the ocean.

Buying supplies that are made of a high percentage of recycled materials is great, and I do it whenever I can. But it’s also just as effective (arguably more effective because there is less processing involved) to recycled packaging supplies yourself. Think of the second and third “R”s of recycling: Reuse and Recycle. Reuse avoids the reprocessing of materials that recycling involves, thus saving that environmental weight. I try to buy locally in business and my personal life, but often getting things shipped to your home is inevitable. And I don’t let that go to waste. I save all boxes, bubble wrap, packing paper, even bags that I can possibly reuse for packaging my own products. I can guess what you’re thinking. ‘But it won’t look good.’ Yes and no. There’s a good chance if up to this point you’ve been sourcing brand new shiny materials to package your products, using something that has already been used once might not look as pristine. But I would put in the argument that sustainability is gaining momentum. Buyers are looking for shop owners to care. And find that beautiful and its own way.

On top of buying recycled materials, consider what your materials are made of. My favorite products are biodegradable, because if composted properly, the end of their life is quick…. rather than staying in the ground tens of thousands of years before breaking down, and leaching out chemicals in the process (I’m looking at you, plastic). I prioritize biodegradable and recycled when possible, then recycled plastic as necessary (mostly for protecting art prints).

Product packaged for shipment using biodegradable tape, natural jute twine, a reused bubble mailer, and reused packing paper.

Some of my favorite packing supples: biodegradable tape, natural jute twine, art misprints/sketches, and reused packaging (such as this mailer and packing paper)

 

Consider the end life of your packaging

Again, this is a consideration of what materials your packaging products are made of. Above we considered the beginning of life of your supplies (is it recycled, natural/virgin material, synthetic?) but we must also consider the end of life of your packaging. This goes back to what I said previously about biodegradable supplies. While the start of life of any “new” products almost always has a relatively high environmental impact, the “end of life”, or when these shipping supplies make it to the trash, recycling bin, compost, or elsewhere, varies quite dramatically between materials.

I try to opt for biodegradable materials because not only should these products not leach unsafe chemicals into the ground and water supply, when properly composted, they typically can decompose very quickly. Non biodegradable materials have a couple of options. They can be reused (ideally by the consumer; this is the best first option), they can be recycled (by commercial waste management services; this is the second best option as it still lengthens the functional life of the item), or they can be trashed. Unfortunately we can’t control which of these choices our buyers make, and the progressively more sustainable options tend to also be progressively less used.

 

Optimize your process

As I talked about in my first tip, the more hands almost any product is involved in, the larger environmental impact it is going to have. This also applies to quantity. If you can buy 100 mailers at once instead of 10, that saves 9 trips to your supply store or 9 flights and delivery truck drives to your home or place of business. Not to mention the 9 additional boxes if it is shipped and 9 times excess packaging. Buying in bulk is not always an option, I know. It can be a huge upfront investment sometimes just isn’t practical. But if you can make it work, it’s a great option. You will save some money in the long run and it can help streamline your packing process as well.

My second optimization tip would be to not ship products daily. Select one or two days of the week where you ship all orders that are ready. Save your time which guaranteed can be used better elsewhere and save gas running to and from the Post Office. Even consider offering local pickup if you feel comfortable with doing so and avoid the need for all that extra transportation and packaging.

 


 

What environmentally-friendly packaging tips and resources have you found? I’d love to accumulate an ongoing list of resources for sustainably-minded creatives. By pooling our knowledge together, we can work to become the best environmental stewards we can be while reducing time spent researching, reducing costs, and removing barriers to sustainability. High costs in particular have always been a major barrier environmental movement, which has put an ugly veil of elitism to its name. While some sustainable lifestyle changes don’t cost a thing, many changes do, and that’s not something everything can afford. I hope to be part of the movement that says “that’s okay”. I hope to be part of the movement that looks for solutions that work for everyone, which is why I’ll be continuing a series on sustainability in the coming months. All suggestions here are meant to be just that. Suggestions. Some may work for you and some may not. But I hope it gets you thinking more about your environmental impact, because with more heads together comes more ideas, and with more ideas, more growth.

 

So what’s my go-to packaging supply company?

 

When I’m not using supplies I already have and can reuse/repurpose, EcoEnclose is the best resource I’ve found for myself for sustainable, biodegradable/compostable, recycled, and recyclable shipping materials. They even offer custom branded packaging for large quantity orders and frequently promote the eco-conscious businesses that ship with their products (I’ve found several of my favorite companies through them!) Boxes and cardboard sheets are custom cut to the exact size and quantity you need. Price-wise, many of EcoEnclose’s products are highly competitive with less sustainable alternatives, but inevitably, the care and process put into products that are less damaging to the environment tends to cost more than products where environmental impact was completely overlooked.

 

While EcoEnclose rarely offers sales, there are two ways I’ve found to save money on my packaging supplies. Number one is buy in bulk. The more of one product you need and can buy up front, the greater discount you will receive. Most discounts range from 2-15% depending on quantity purchased. The number two way to save is their refer-a-friend program, which gives an incredible discount of 20% to the referrer and 20% off to the referred friend. If you want to make the switch to more environmentally packaging, you can use my referral code for 20% off your first order at http://ecoenclose.refr.cc/rebeccagrogan

 

Best of luck in your sustainable journey!

 

-B

Uganda Cultural Immersion Trip 2018 with Far Away Friends

Uganda Cultural Immersion Trip 2018 with Far Away Friends

For three weeks in July of 2018, I traveled to Uganda on a cultural immersion trip with the nonprofit, Far Away Friends. We spent 8 of those days in a small fishing village of rural northern Uganda called Namasale. Here, Far Away Friends partners with the community and local schools to help alleviate generational poverty through education and cross-cultural connection. Part of that partnership includes Global Leaders Primary School, which Far Away Friends helped fund the building of from the ground up.

 


 

At any event of significance in my lifetime I find myself counting the ways in which my decisions precisely led me to this point of being, and had I walked any other path, would never have taken me to the moments I hold as the ones that define me entirely.

 

Think about it. I don’t subscribe to the “this is your destiny” and “everything happens for a reason” worldview, but I totally see why someone would. If these things hadn’t happened, if I hadn’t say, begrudgingly gone to a film screening about child soldiers in central Africa so that I could receive easy credit for a non-major class in the fall of 2011, well, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be where I am mentally and I definitely would not have just spent the three weeks in Uganda after facing my greatest fear for 19 hours and then again for 22 hours on the way back.

 

On July 10th, 2018, I left on my very first trip out of the country. Destination: Namasale, Uganda. 19 hours of flying, 7+ hours at airports, one night at a hotel, 3+ hours of driving, and a 45 minute ferry ride later, I arrived. This is in spite of the fact that I once had a very long and serious conversation with myself on whether I could lead a happy life if I never stepped on an airplane again. I think I decided yes. But people change. And now, having gone, having experienced discomforts I didn’t know existed, I wouldn’t trade it for certainty.

 

Eight mzungus sleeping in a van and one who can't (me)

Eight mzungus sleeping in a van and one who can’t

 

This trip will be one of those moments I look back on and say, “That moment. That’s where I changed. Things are different now.” The people I traveled with are now my brothers and sisters. Namasale, my second home. But such feelings are not to overlook the discomforts I faced. That would be a disservice to you and I both. As one of my newfound brothers wrote, “There is something extraordinary about traveling to other cultures, knowing other humans, eating their food and being in their homes. The further from your current comfort zone, the larger the effects.” I was well outside my comfort zone. I needed to be.

 

The Far Away Friends team walking up the dirt driveway of Global Leaders Primary School

The Far Away Friends team walking up the driveway of Global Leaders Primary School in Namasale, Uganda.

Things work differently in Namasale. And in Uganda. Time moves at a different pace. I love that I got to observe that. And I hope I can bring some of that back to the US.

 

In Namasale we made several visits to other local schools, local health facilities, and some of our students’ homes. Every single time, without fail, chairs and makeshift seats would be pulled from all locations to make sure everyone was able to sit down and be comfortable as we talked. People were so accommodating I felt guilty. Who am I to deserve this respect from a stranger? We were often given gifts for no other reason than showing up. Cold water and soda. Snacks. A portion of the family’s harvest. A rooster. What is this place where total strangers can stop by out of the blue and be treated as honored guests?

 

Team members of Far Away Friends enjoy reuniting after a year apart and meeting the newest member of the FAF Family.

My new extended family from Colorado and Uganda. Times like these were my favorite moments.

 

Driving from Kampala to Namasale to Lira to Chobe to Gulu in two packed sweaty vans was a test of patience and self control. To the towns we passed, we were a spectacle. But those long drives gave me time to reflect and observe. And one thing that I observed is that car signals are used differently here in Uganda. Horns aren’t used aggressively. They aren’t laid on for 30 seconds straight to show the guy in front of us just how much we hate him for cutting us off. Instead, they’re used to simply say, “hey I’m here” so bodas, humans, cars, and livestock can coexist on the same road in impressively close quarters. Impressively close. Blinkers are used just as much (if not more) for letting cars behind us know whether it’s okay to pass or if someone’s coming the opposite direction as they are for signaling a turn. What is this world in which transportation is a team activity? Where the goal is not to beat the car next to us, but to work in a way that most benefits all?

 

Global Leaders Primary School overlooks its well used soccer field where little grass now grows.

This is Global Leaders Primary School. I am so proud of what they have accomplished in just a few short years and can’t wait to see the impacts of these students years down the road.

 

The students and teachers at Global Leaders Primary School have impressed me beyond anything. It is so clear how much each teacher cares for his or her children and for seeing the school grow into one of the best in the district. I learned the long hours every student spends at school every day, particularly the older students who are studying for the exam that will get them into secondary school. Some of our team had the honor of staying with these girls in their dorm overnight to get to know them better without the pressures of a teacher or principal hearing. We asked if they were tired because of all the work, and they were. We asked if it was hard, and it was. But then we asked if they thought the school day should be shorter, and allow more time for rest. To that they said no. Their education is so important to them that waking up well before sunrise every day to study before class even starts was not a question to even be considered. I respect these students so much. When education is a privilege and not something taken for granted, respect for that education, for teachers, and for community is a beautiful and invaluable byproduct.

 

Two students of Global Leaders laugh together, enjoying the company of Far Away Friends visitors

Spent an hour this day passing the soccer ball with the kids and FAF team members. Hard work must be balanced with play, after all.

 

Four Ugandan men lay bricks that will be the future dormitories for Global Leaders' boarding students.

These men are laying bricks for what will be the future dormitories for Global Leaders’ boarding students. We’re still working on raising the total of $30,000 to have them completed. If you’d like to donate to this project, you can do so here

 

It’s amazing how such small moments can mean everything. The respect of a stranger. The team mentality of getting from one place to another. The dedication of a child. Nothing miraculous in its own right (although sometimes I think it is) but these weren’t one-off instances. It was everywhere. Baked into the culture in a way I haven’t seen before. It was refreshing. And real.

 

I find myself in awe of new places, new experiences because they give me a perspective on life that I was previously blind to. How lucky are we as humans to have that? The ability to see and experience and be completely different when we come out the other side? That’s what I find myself chasing after again and again, even if it’s just in my head. I want to learn and change and come out the other side closer to this thing that connects us all: Earth, humanity, life, what have you. That thing that makes us desire to do better. To care. To help. To empathize. To protest. To speak up. To speak out. To fight. To love. It’s the thing that makes me confront my phobias and embarrass myself in front of strangers. It’s the thing I’ll be willingly vulnerable for.

 

Four Global Leaders Teachers sit in a classroom attending a child safety lesson with some members of the FAF team.

I had the privilege of sitting in on a child safety lesson with the Global Leaders teachers and FAF team. It was a great moment of learning how we can better serve and protect our students.

 

“I remember the moment I first realized I’ve been living my whole life in black and white. It was like discovering a color I never knew existed before. A whole new crayon box full of colors, that was it for me. From then on, there was no putting the pieces back together. No going home. Things were different now.” – Anthony Bourdain

 

Things are different now.

-B

(keep scrolling for more photos!)

 

Hanging out in Mama Jass' shop in town drinking sodas and learning everything we can

Hanging out in Mama Jass’ shop in town drinking sodas and learning everything we can

 

The FAF team appreciating a visit with Itat

We have so much to learn from one another

 

The Far Away Friends family shares a drink and conversation

The Far Away Friends family shares a drink and conversation

 

Close up of a giraffe near Chobe Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park

After our time in the village, the FAF team traveled around Uganda to see more of what this beautiful country has to offer and that of course included Murchison Falls National Park

 

A herd of Cape Buffalo in Murchison Falls National Park

Found a herd of cape buffalo and their bird friends

 

Overlooking the Nile River at Chobe Safari Lodge

Can’t explain how cool it was to wake up in Chobe to the sound and sight of the Nile River

 


To learn more about the work of Far Away Friends or donate to important projects at Global Leaders Primary School and within the Namasale community, go to www.farawayfriendsglobal.com

SRC for Purpose: Funds Raised June – Sept 2017

Oh my, I am a little embarrassed by how long it’s been. But in my own defense (warranted or not, you decide), I’ve been SO BUSY since May. I moved out of my apartment in Richmond, went on a two week, cross country train trip (and then recovered for another two weeks), moved AGAIN to Philadelphia, PA, celebrated my baby niece turning one year old, got a new part time job with an event planning agency, and somehow kept up and even expanded my own business. Life is weird.

Becca and Winston at Canyonlands National Park in Utah

But I’m finally back and hoping to be a little more consistent with my posts now (haha, yes, I say that every time). I’m even working on a new activist print! I haven’t determined yet if this will be included in my for purpose series, but I am so excited to share it with you all as soon as I get all the supplies in. I wasn’t able to focus as much on selling during this time period (see paragraph 1) and actually had my shop closed the entire month of July while I was travelling. I think my results reflect that a bit. Though I’m always proud of being able to give anything, it does get me motivated to work even harder for next months and the months after.

Part of what I’ve been working on to boost my business I just quietly launched late yesterday evening. I’ve finally taken the dive to start my very own email subscription list. I know that can mean a lot of different things, and don’t worry, if you sign up you won’t be getting 20+ emails a week (maybe in a year), but I did want to offer people a chance to stay connected with me that may not be on social media as much or want a more personal connection. Everyone who subscribes will get the chance to choose where their interests are more focused, that way you won’t be getting emails about web design for small businesses when you really just want coupons for my Etsy shop. I get it! You might see my sign up form poking out around my website here and there (*cough cough* check out the right sidebar) and I hope you’ll consider being one of my first subscribers! There may even be a little special treat for my first 50 subscribers.

If you’re interested in any of these nonprofits, and want to help support them and get a great piece of art at the same time, check out my “nevertheless, she persisted” design in screen printed posters, digital prints, and tshirts, my “wash your spirit clean” design in limited edition screen prints and tshirts, and my compassion honey bee design screen printed posters.

Unfortunately this summer wasn’t all fun and games. We had devastating hurricanes in Texas and Florida (I had family in both states in hard hit areas) and Puerto Rico. Even more recently, Las Vegas and the whole country has been devastated by the worst mass shooting in modern history. In August, the world lost an incredible human being and high school friend of mine, Karen Shollenberger, to her sixth battle with leukemia. Life is unexplainable.

I wrote this tribute to Karen in late August while creating a work of art in her memory (accompanied by a picture of the original work):

You’re on the rim of a valley. You’ve come all this way up from the floor looking for something but you know not what, all you know is the feeling you get inside as you soldier on. You can see beauty around you, everywhere. No matter how many times you see the same tree or stream or patch of wildflowers, your heart still swells with the magnitude of it. “Pity the poor beloved needs [sleep], weak, weary, forespent; oh, the pity of it, to sleep in the midst of eternal, beautiful motion instead of gazing forever, like the stars.” You march on, arriving towards the edge of a river as it tumbles off the imposing rock into the green valley below. You know at once, this is what you’d been searching for. But you can’t get close, the rock refuses it. But you know this is what you need. You scan the rock face. You see a ledge of rock not three fingers wide, and no way to arrive at that point. You “therefore concluded not to venture farther, but did nevertheless.” You arrive.

That was Karen. Taking danger and hardship and any obstacles in her way and venturing foreward nonetheless for the beautiful gifts life has to give. Too many people miss these gifts because it is too easy to get distracted, to find a reason not to look. Karen didn’t. I only know a few people who have achieved this so fully, and Karen was by far the youngest. You battled leukemia 6 times over 13 years, but somehow you made that just a side-story to your life. There were bigger, better things to focus on and so many mountains to tackle. But despite your other interests, your schooling, your treatments, you became a guiding light and source of strength for others going through similar things through Cool Kids and Camp Sunrise. I still have so much to learn from you.

I am creating this work of art in honor of someone I never knew as well as I wished, but has taught me and is still teaching me so much about how to truly live. A portion will be donated to Cool Kids Campaign or Camp Sunrise or one of the organizations helping other kids and families battling cancer live life beyond the disease just like you made sure to do. Rest in power, Karen 

Picture of 11x17" Venture Farther poster print with digital tree illustration and John Muir quote

 

The print is now available on my Etsy page, and 25% of all sales will be donated to Johns Hopkins’ Camp Sunrise. Camp Sunrise is a youth overnight camp for kids who are undergoing or have undergone treatments for cancer and is 100% free for campers. Karen knew so well the importance and beauty of finding oneself in nature as often as possible, and I wanted to honor that message through this print and the donation.

 


Funds Raised June–September 2017

350.org

Number of sales: 3

Profit made: $105.00

Amount donated: $15.75

ACLU

Number of sales: 7

Profit made: $170.00

Amount donated: $25.50

Pollinator Partnership

Number of sales: 0

Profit made: $0.00

Amount donated: $0.00

Camp Sunrise

Number of sales: 0

Profit made: $0.00

Amount donated: $0.00

 

Funds Raised To Date

350.org

Amount donated: $59.10

ACLU

Amount donated: $72.45

Pollinator Partnership

Amount donated: $13.50

Camp Sunrise

Amount donated: $13.50

 

 

With Love,
Becca

SRC for Purpose: Funds Raised April + May 2017

Whoah how time flies! From selling at markets to planning a move to dealing with car problems and my own health, this spring has flown by and humbled me beyond words. I am finally finally getting around to my accountability updates, combining that of April and May! To recap, earlier this year, I started a series of “for purpose” works in attempt to create art that does good in addition to looking good. In March, I released my “wash your spirit clean” design in limited edition screen prints and tshirts, benefitting 350.org. I also released for preorder my “nevertheless, she persisted” design in screen printed posters, digital prints, and tshirts, benefitting the ACLU. You can learn more about the original designs and the nonprofits from my original post, here.

"compassion" bee design screen printed on wood plaque

I am also so excited to share with you my newest design, “compassion”. This design is in response to the decline in our honey bee population and concern for what that could mean for nature as well as our own food production. I have created screen printed posters (not in my online shop yet) and wood wall art of this design. 15% of the sales of all of these products are being donated to Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of all pollinators and their ecosystems. A huge amount of what they do revolves around educating kids and the public on ways to protect and support pollinators such as by planting native plants that provide food and habitats for the different pollinators.

This design reads, “Compassion is our deepest nature. It arises from our interconnection with all things.” The source of this quote is not entirely agreed upon, but is believed by many to be a Buddhist proverb. I thought this quote fitting of the pollinator cause because this is one most people don’t really feel impacted by in their day to day lives. Many people are scared of bees. But they are so important for us. We need to have compassion towards this cause because while we may not feel the effects immediately of fewer pollinators, our ecosystem is so interconnected with theirs. Pulled from the Pollinator Partnership website, here are just a few reasons they matter to the human world:

  • Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.
  • Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila.
  • In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.

 


Funds Raised April + May 2017

350.org

Number of sales: 4

Profit made: $121.00

Amount donated: $18.15

ACLU

Number of sales: 8

Profit made: $313.00

Amount donated: $46.95

Pollinator Partnership

Number of sales: 3

Profit made: $90.00

Amount donated: $13.50

Funds Raised To Date

350.org

Amount donated: $43.35

ACLU

Amount donated: $46.95

Pollinator Partnership

Amount donated: $13.50

 

 

With love,

-B

SRC for Purpose: Accountability Update, March 2017

Hey everyone! If you’ve been following me on social media or Etsy lately, you’ll know that I’ve started a series of “for purpose” works in attempt to create art that is not only beautiful and looks good, but does good too. During March, I released two designs. The first is my “wash your spirit clean” design, available in limited edition screen prints and tshirts, and the second is my “nevertheless, she persisted” design available in screen printed posters, digital prints, and tshirts available for preorder!

"Wash your spirit clean" design on tshirt

My wash your spirit clean design is a quote from environmentalist, John Muir, and the mountain and campfire design is to serve to remind us that we were born from nature, it is our true home, so we must be considerate and always evaluate our impact on it. For that reason, 15% of the sale price of all items with this design are being donated to 350.org, a global grassroots movement focused on reducing climate change by reducing carbon emissions and creating and implementing sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.

"Nevertheless, she persisted" gold ink screen print

My nevertheless, she persisted design comes from a women’s empowerment motto that developed after the nomination hearing for Jeff Sessions’ as attorney general. While Elizabeth Warren was reading a 1986 letter by civil rights leader, Coretta Scott King, in protest of the nomination, she was interrupted and ultimately silenced by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. His words: “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Because this phrase has feminist, racial, and civil rights implications behind it, I chose to donate 15% of the sale price of all items with this design to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

Funds Raised March 2017

In the coming months, I will continue to do each of these updates after the month is over and also include in them an amount raised to date.

350.org

Number of sales: 6

Profit made: $168.00

Amount donated: $25.20

ACLU

Number of sales: 0

Profit made: $0.00

Amount donated: $0.00

* I was pretty bummed about this too. The good news is, I’ve gotten 3 orders already at the start of April and it has gotten lots of views on Etsy, so I am still very hopeful!

 


 

If you want to support my work, but can’t make any purchases right now, you can still vote for my shop until April 6th for Etsy’s #DifferenceMakesUs Small Business Contest! All you need to do is enter a valid email address and select whether or not you would like to receive emails from Etsy in the future. Easy as pie. Please consider voting here: http://wshe.es/7YXq6zJs

 

With love,

-B

Your Mission. Your Voice. Take a peek inside my process for creating, lettering, and designing these passion posters for Voice A Story Magazine.

Your mission. Your voice.

On creating visual passion statements for Voice A Story Magazine.

 

Just over a month ago, I had the pleasure of sharing some of my favorite hand lettering work to date with the world through Voice A Story Magazine. If you don’t know, I am lucky to be the Creative Director of this digital magazine, so in addition to creating it’s very first physical product to sell in collaboration with South Ranch Creative, I also design each quarterly issue, create marketing graphics and images, and keep the website looking sleek and up-to-date.

 

WHOAH, you’re thinking. She’s got a LOT of passion for this company. And you’re right. My work as Creative Director for this magazine is currently 100% pro bono because the mission behind this magazine, this movement, is both powerful and necessary. And that’s where this whole idea started. The mission statement of Voice A Story magazine is as follows:

 

We are a magazine devoted to telling worthwhile and relevant stories, conducting thoughtful interviews, and publishing excellent fiction, poetry, and art without the media biased lens of what is or is not "news." We think people should able to define their own news based on things that really matter to them, rather than what the media thinks is sexy, dramatic, or contentious. Our goal is to point people to news and stories that matter. But we want to do more than that. For every issue of our magazine that is purchased, we donate one dollar to a hand picked nonprofit that’s helping give others a voice or bringing a voice to an issue. It is our belief that the best stories are the ones that have not yet been told, and we promise to do our best to provide the most relevant content on things that really matter, whether it is mainstream news or not. - Voice A Story Magazine

 

We are a magazine devoted to telling worthwhile and relevant stories, conducting thoughtful interviews, and publishing excellent fiction, poetry, and art without the media biased lens of what is or is not “news.” We think people should able to define their own news based on things that really matter to them, rather than what the media thinks is sexy, dramatic, or contentious. Our goal is to point people to news and stories that matter. But we want to do more than that.

 

For every issue of our magazine that is purchased, we donate one dollar to a hand picked nonprofit that’s helping give others a voice or bringing a voice to an issue. It is our belief that the best stories are the ones that have not yet been told, and we promise to do our best to provide the most relevant content on things that really matter, whether it is mainstream news or not.

 

The idea.

 

I created this visual mission statement for Voice A Story because I wanted the mission statement to not only tell of our passion and dreams, but show it. A visual portrayal of emphasis, passion, dedication, and most importantly, flaws was built to prove to readers that we mean what we say and we mean. We are here to share stories that matter from people and charities that have something powerful to say.

 

Our mission statement simmered in the back of my mind for weeks, as I continued to feel empowered by its message. I thought to myself, why not bring this same message of empowerment to our readers, our contributors, our supporters? To our adventurers, our storytellers, our activists, and our dreamers? That is the heart and soul of Voice A Story.

 

Process shot of hand lettering Voice A Story Magazine's Mission Statement. I created this visual mission statement for Voice A Story because I wanted the mission statement to not only tell of our passion and dreams, but show it. A visual portrayal of emphasis, passion, dedication, and most importantly, flaws was built to prove to readers that we mean what we say and we mean. We are here to share stories that matter from people and charities that have something powerful to say.

 

Putting our mission into action.

 

I set out excitedly sharing this idea with Voice A Story’s Founder and Editor-In-Chief, Ryan. With the rest of the VAS team, we set out to collaboratively write four passion statements for the adventurer, storyteller, activist, and dreamer. It has a little bit of all of us in it, and we hope it speaks to you too. These missions are both utterly personal and globally understood. We find commonality in our deepest convictions, where we can acknowledge our differences but see the beauty and strength in this thing we both feel.

 

These passion statements were written entirely by hand, with minimal retouching for prints. Because for me, it is important to recognize the inherent power in our very fingertips. That, while they may have flaws or hit a few bumps along the way, have the incredible power to create and feel and build. That we don’t need computer and technology and money to be fulfilled. We need passion and humility and creation.

 

Inspiration is a powerful tool because it allows us to see that we are the masters of our life, and thus we have the ability to shift and shape it into something good, something meaningful, something better than what came before.

 

 

So which are you?

 

You may notice that the four pillars of Voice A Story relate strongly to the core of South Ranch Creative: create. dream. explore. act. So it was incredibly difficult for me to say that I am not every one of these things! Let’s be real, most of us are probably at LEAST two and I know that in my own way I AM all of these things and more!

 

The print that kept me coming back, though, was the activist print. I praise many of the wise words of my friend Sara in this statement, for she (and we) were able to touch on everything I care about in six little sentences. Because activism is about donating or volunteering for nonprofits. It’s about the deeply felt belief that you are an equal being to every other on this planet. It’s about the feeling of obligation to lift up those who are down, in trust that you will be lifted up when you need it. It’s about humility and service and using your voice. Creation, art, crafts, design. Those are all tools for me to act. To be the person I want to be and help others do the same.

 

The print that kept me coming back, though, was the activist print. I praise many of the wise words of my friend Sara in this statement, for she (and we) were able to touch on everything I care about in six little sentences. Because activism is about donating or volunteering for nonprofits. It’s about the deeply felt belief that you are an equal being to every other on this planet. It’s about the feeling of obligation to lift up those who are down, in trust that you will be lifted up when you need it. It’s about humility and service and using your voice. Creation, art, crafts, design. Those are all tools for me to act. To be the person I want to be and help others do the same.

 


Which are you? The activist? The storyteller? The adventurer? The dreamer? Are you all four or something else entirely? I’d love to hear your story and which poster resonates both with you. They are available for purchase here so check them out along with our latest issue of the magazine! For a limited time, you can bundle issue 04 (our most recent issue) with a passion print of your choosing to get the ultimate passion package deal! That deal is available here and you can feel great about your purchase because $1 of every current magazine purchase goes to our featured charity of that issue. Issue 04’s featured charity is Far Away Friends, a brilliant and youthful nonprofit that just put the finishing touches on a school they built from the ground up in Namasale, Uganda.

 

So my adventures, my activists, my storytellers, my dreamers, and my CREATIVES, never stop looking for your passion and working towards the reality of it. You may just surprise yourself when you make it.



Stay creative. Stay you.

-B

 

Your Mission. Your Voice. Take a peek inside my process for creating, lettering, and designing these passion posters for Voice A Story Magazine.
The past four years have been the hardest of my life, in ways bigger than exams and essays and wandering out blindly into the “real world” after graduation. The funny thing about being enlightened, and the one that no one warns you about, is that you suffer so much more mental and emotional pain as a result of being a more aware, more empathetic, and more humble human being.

The Moment that Made the Millennial | Part 2

When I say that Invisible Children ruined my life in the best way possible, I don’t just say it because it’s a nice phrase. The past four years have been the hardest of my life, in ways bigger than exams and essays and wandering out blindly into the “real world” after graduation. The funny thing about being enlightened, and the one that no one warns you about, is that you suffer so much more mental and emotional pain as a result of being a more aware, more empathetic, and more humble human being.

 

If you haven’t caught up on the story of my life, go ahead and read The Moment That Made Me: Part 1. Go on, I wouldn’t want to ruin the story for you.

 

Now you might be thinking, wow, this sounds like a terrible thing, why would I want to deal with all that extra baggage on a day to day basis? But I would argue to say that I am living much more now than I ever was before. This experience helped me come to two important realizations:


1. This is my only life.

Why would I spend it just going through the motions of what I think I should be doing? That not only sounds boring, but also unproductive. I strongly believe that if you do work you care about, you will work harder, you will work quicker, and your work will be better because of it.

 

And for those of you that are shaking your heads at the impracticality of it all,  this doesn’t mean you have somehow have to find this amazing dream job with a nonprofit or for your favorite sports team or one that lets you travel across the world. A lot of times, finding a job you care about just means one where you can support their ethics and work environment. A small business. A company that has a ping pong table in the break room. One that encourages creativity and sharing ideas instead of stifling them. Or maybe it means you get the courage to break off on your own and stop feeling like it’s “just too far-fetched.”

 

2. I need to start thinking bigger than myself.

Seeing the suffering in other parts of the world that one evening and even more so with current events today made me realize not only that it’s selfish to develop all your thoughts and opinions solely around your own wants and needs, but also, in doing so, you are lacking forward thinking. We can see on a grander scale how “me me me” thinking has plagued the United States and the world already. Global warming is setting up future generations (and even this generation) for catastrophic consequences everywhere from the 6th global mass extinction to an increase in horrible and devastating natural disasters. We knew it was coming and we were too greedy to stop burning oil and look for alternative, possibly more costly options. We refuse to cut back on our excessive meat consumption, thus releasing incredible amounts of methane through grazing agriculture. We’ve known that discrimination and racism is wrong for over 100 years, yet somehow so many kids still grow up thinking it’s okay to judge someone based on their religion or the color of their skin, and even kill because of it.

 

I could go on but I think it’s unnecessary. The root cause of all of these things is a lack in forward thinking, because why should we care what happens to the world after we’re gone? Why should I, one person, feel responsible for helping people in a country devastated by a natural disaster halfway across the globe? To me it is all connected. No one wants to say that they don’t care about future generations or people who are suffering in another country. Most people would probably strongly refute it. But when it comes time to take action, to show up, to change your habits, to donate just a little bit of your paycheck, we often hold back. We don’t take that action that we say we support because “oh, I just donated XX amount to this other organization last month” or “well just changing my eating and waste habits aren’t going to make any difference in the grand scheme of things.”

 

Guess what? If everyone made these changes, it would make a difference. Not only would you encourage people around you to make little changes in how they live too, you would be setting up better and more sustainable habits for your children and future generations. That is how we create change. Saying your own habits and actions don’t matter is an excuse and it’s selfish and just generally not true.

 

So I want to leave you with a few words of encouragement based on what I’ve learned over the past four years. 

 

When in doubt, do.

Learning shouldn’t stop once you’re done with school. We’re better people if we continue challenging ourselves and trying out new things. But fear of failure, laziness, and fear of being outside of our comfort zone often scares us into inaction. Saying “yes” is often higher risk, but the reward is so much greater and it keeps us moving forward.

"The Moment That Made Me | Part 2" | by South Ranch Creative

Ever heard the phrase, “the world is your oyster”?


Take control over your life.

It’s impossible to be conscious of every little consequence of our day to day actions. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter or that we shouldn’t try. Next time you go out shopping, consider looking for locally made or fair trade products, so that you aren’t indirectly supporting sweatshops, poor working conditions, and unfair wages. Do you really need a giant hunk of meat with your dinner every day of the week? If so, can you purchase from a local farmer’s market instead? I’m not a vegetarian but I swear tofu is actually good, guys. Think a little bit more about the waste you are creating when you purchase items. Try to find one with recyclable, biodegradable, or just less packaging overall. Or consider if you really need the object at all. We are plagued by this drive to buy, buy, buy all the time, but it didn’t used to be that way and it doesn’t have to into the future. Small changes mean something. They add up. And everyone making small changes creates a movement.

 

Take control over your life. | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 2" | by South Ranch Creative

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, speaks about how influential young people are in society and why they should take greater action on issues they are passionate about at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit. 

Be more empathetic, stress less.

I’ve found that when I am more open to considering and trying to understand other opinions and actions that I disagree with, I tend to be calmer, happier, less angry, and less stressed. This applies to almost every situation, even when I think those other opinions or actions are absolutely absurd. Because I’m not necessarily changing my opinion on the absurdity, but I am choosing to take a more thought out, less aggressive approach. Let me give an example. Road rage is a serious and kind of terrifying thing. Driving up and down 81 for three hours every time I came home from college over the past four years caused me a lot of stress and a lot of anger. Because so many people are just terrible and angry drivers. And terrible and angry drivers make me a terrible and aggressive driver. And one day, driving home again on 81, I just decided that I was going to stop. I wasn’t going to get angry at bad or aggressive drivers anymore because I didn’t like how it made me feel or act. We can choose how we feel and how we react. It made a world of difference. I am more relaxed, and I’m a better driver because of it. It doesn’t mean I don’t still think people do stupid things on the road, but I try and be empathetic when possible and take control over my own driving so that someone doesn’t get angry at me for doing something stupid or aggressive.

 

One of the most important ways I’ve applied this tip is politically. As passionate as I am about my own views, a huge portion of the population views things differently. And for the most part, that’s okay. The majority of my family has hugely different political views, and they are great, well-intentioned people that I love. Promoting, explaining, and supporting your just beliefs is good. But being entirely close-minded to other beliefs and opinions is not good. I would argue that it can be devastating. If we aren’t willing to change, adapt, and compromise, we will never make progress. And the world (both the physical Earth and the people around us) are going to change and adapt and leave us behind. So empathize. I love this video by RSA , The Empathic Civilisation, that shows how we are hard-wired for empathy and how that does us good.

 

 

Value your own worth.

While there are a handful of people that value themselves a little too much (I’m looking at you, Mr. Trump), I would say the vast majority of people undervalue their skills, their opinions, and their impact. I have always done this, particularly when it comes to pricing my products and services, which you can read more about in my blog post, “What it’s really like graduating from college with a degree in ‘Art.’”

 

Why do I do it? I naturally assume other people are more of an expert on things than I am. I took a beginner calligraphy course on modern calligraphy recently, and while I had a great time and learned a lot, I realized that my skills were almost, or could be with a little practice, just as good as that of the instructor. And that’s not to put her down, she was awesome. It’s to say that if I took more progressive action on selling my skills, then I could be just as successful as she. I just haven’t made that jump yet. 

 

Another reason I undervalue myself is that I don’t want to come off as cocky or arrogant, but I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t that black and white. Confidence lies between insecurity and arrogance, and that is the goal we should all shoot for. It makes us better people and we become more valued by ourself and those around us.

 

 

Value your own worth. | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 2" | by South Ranch Creative

Valuing you own worth breeds positive confidence which breeds success and action.

 

I live by the words: The future of the world hinges on our ability and willingness to stop at nothing.



Always take an active role in your own life.

-B

Since when has it become easier to talk to friends online than in person? What does that mean about the connections we are making? Can social media be a helpful tool for introverts?

Is Social Media Helping Us or Hurting Us?

Some late night musings I wanted to share about the power and problems of social media. I originally posted this on Instagram with a way too long description, so I thought it more appropriate to share here. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly from my fellow introverts.

 

This video by young Insta-star, Essena O’Neill, went viral a couple of weeks ago when she declared that she is quitting social media because of the negative consequences it has on viewers who think that their lives should look like this. It got me thinking.

 

Since when has it become easier to talk to friends online than in person? What does that mean about the connections we are making? The book, Quiet, by Susan Cain taught me that social media and online communication may be beneficial to people like me who are introverted and shy, because we feel safer behind this invisible barrier. We have the time to collect and organize our thoughts instead of being put on the spot in a face to face conversation. I find this to be incredibly true. And, as strange as it sounds, I often feel like I am more me and less like someone who’s trying to act like me when I’m communicating through writing or digital means. But recently I am seeing all these people declare (on Instagram and social media,  ironically) that Instagram life isn’t real life. So, which is it then? How can this be my fake life but the true me? I’m not sure of the answer.

 

I think it’s something about photography that seems to lie, whereas writing that description, that blog post, that status update almost always sounds genuine. Even art feels… truthful. It’s  funny how in a way the most accurate depiction of real life is the one that feels the most fake. Maybe because these pictures are missing the story behind them.

 

This featured picture is one of my happiest memories from 2014. I was at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Retreat. But what isn’t shown is the horrible terror I have of flying and how this trip multipled it tenfold. The anxiety and panic attacks I was struggling with at the time, and the health issues I was having, preventing me from really feeling “there”. Not to mention the “slimming” slip I wore under my dress that I thought I needed to look good felt like it was squeezing every ounce of life and oxygen out of me. Does that make the picture different? To me it does. It makes it all that more special. But to you all… I don’t know. I just feel like I’m complaining. The ugly stuff, the boring stuff, the sad stuff-it’s important. But I would never want to burden others with these things. We shouldn’t forget that it exists just because celebrities don’t advertise it to thousands of strangers each day. We are more than our photographs.

 

Stay thoughtful. Stay true.
-B

"If we want to see change, we have to become the change." -Samantha Power

Quotes that Matter Monday | Becoming Change

In light of recent tragedies, I wanted to share a quote this Monday that might help us move forward through our fears, our worries, and our anger. Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad are suffering; and I only shudder to think of what might happen next week or next month or next year. We now live in a world where mass killings happen daily, and students are afraid to go to school. And it hurts. Every piece of my being aches in the pain being experienced across the world today. But we can’t just feel sorry and afraid. We owe it to the world to do more than that. We owe it to the world to act.

 

“If we want to see change, we have to become the change.” -Samantha Power

 

Samantha Power is an activist, diplomat, and author. This quote comes from her 2008 Ted Talk, “A complicated hero in the war on dictatorship,” where Power discusses the lessons she learned from Sergio Vieira de Mello, and what we can take away from them about combating evil and stopping injustices. 

 

We have come to a point where we must do more than just empathize, we must take action to stop these atrocities and develop methods of prevention to keep them from ever happening. In a world so complex and full of different ideas and individuals, it is increasingly difficult to agree on what the right way to act is. And that makes it hard for us to take action. But I know that we can agree that these innocent deaths are not okay. That this suffering is not okay. So we must try. Even if we are wrong. Even if what we try isn’t exactly how you would have gone about it. We must work together and we must try because we have no other choice to stop what is happening.

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” This is more important than fear. We must stand up. We must not just wish for change, we must create the change. On Veteran’s day last week, I stumbled across a blog post by Adam Ericksen about pacifism that spoke in much more elegant terms than I ever could have exactly what I am feeling. “Nobody wants war. Everybody wants peace. Despite accusing one another of being ‘the Great Satan’ or the ‘Axis of Evil,’ we all want peace. We want peace and those we call our enemies want peace, too. This desire for peace is a good thing. The problem is that each side views the other as an evil threat to peace; and each side believes the same thing – that the threat to peace must be eliminated. Peace will come, we believe, when our enemy is eliminated. But history has shown that when one enemy is eliminated, another will soon emerge to threaten our peace.” We have to stop hating each other and fearing each other and making generalizations. If not, we will be the end of ourselves.

 

Samantha Power, among many things, is currently the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. I first heard her speak in 2013, in fact at her very first speech in her new position, at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit. She talked to us about #whatmatters and told us that we are not just student activists; we are leaders, we are diplomats, and we have the power. I’ve never forgotten what she told me. That I not only have the power to shape my own future, but the future of the world. And I’m doing it now. Not five, ten years down the road. Now. You too, must realize the power you inherently hold simply by using your voice to stand up to violence and hate. Vote. Talk to your representatives. Get involved. Volunteer time, services, or money. It is no longer enough to just hope.

 

Live intentionally,

-B

"Quotes that Matter Monday | Imitate Nature" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

Quotes that Matter Monday | Imitate Nature

One thing I’ve learned by growing up in the millennial generation is that we are obsessed with quotes. Quotes about life. Quotes that inspire us. Quotes that make us laugh. Quotes that somehow describe our life so perfectly at that moment that it’s a miracle that someone else said it. And I love it. If quotes can make us feel more connected as human beings, make us laugh, or help us feel better when we are down, then I am 100% a fan.

 

This is why I’m starting a post series called Quotes that Matter Monday (hashtag it, y’all) where I illustrate one of my favorite meaningful quotes and share it with the rest of the world in the hopes that they might draw meaning out of it too. This weeks quote is by one of my biggest role models: adventurer, writer, and child at heart, Jedidiah Jenkins.

 

“Whenever you can, imitate nature. You just might remember that indeed you are also an animal in her kingdom. We spend so much time avoiding this”  -Jedidiah Jenkins

So why does imitating nature matter? You can take it as literally or figuratively as you want, but nature has been around for a whole heck of a lot longer time than mankind has, so there’s definitely something that it can teach us. For me, being more in-tune with nature helps me better appreciate the things I have, which in turn helps me stay more humble, focused, and generous. So what does being in-tune with nature do for you? #quotesthatmattermonday

 

 

 

Check out Jed’s Insta and his blog about his amazing bike trip, Oregon to Patagonia. They’ll blow your mind. Oh, and he’s writing a book on this trip and his life, so be on the lookout soon!

 

Live intentionally,
-B