Eco-friendly, sustainable, environmentally responsible, green. These labels ply the heartstrings of supporters of sustainability, a growing demographic that has become decidedly more mainstream than those once disparagingly known as “tree huggers”. But what does green really mean, in the day-to-day world of a designer?
CFDA inducted jewelry designer Melissa Joy Manning has built a burgeoning business based on environmental and social responsibility. “Being ‘green’ is a core precept of my original business plan and one we are always endeavoring to follow and develop further,” she says.
For Melissa being “eco-friendly” is not some marketing ploy, it’s simply a no-brainer. “Growing up in California, I spent most of my free time playing and dreaming outdoors,” says the designer, whose genuine regard for nature is inherent in her design. “I believe it would be incredibly disingenuous of me not to respect our environment.”
This proud recipient of US Congressional Recognition for her commitment to sustainability, clearly outlines each step she takes to ensure that acquiring the materials comes at the least possible cost to the environment. Seventy percent of her stones, for example, come from companies that adhere to above-industry-standard ecological and social practices. Her silver and gold pieces are made from 100% recycled metals, and any production scraps are sent back to be recycled again. The metals are refined through a unique process that filters gases, produces 75% less liquid waste, and recycles the water used throughout. The pieces are handmade using traditional metalsmithing techniques, which avoids waste incurred by modern machine molding and casting. As committed to social responsibility as she is eco-friendliness, Melissa ensures that her team of in-house artisans receives living wages and benefits.
But, as a famous froggy once crooned, “it’s not easy being green,” (though nothing worth it ever is). As Melissa Joy Manning found, low environmental cost comes with a hefty price tag. The hardest part about following through on her “green” concept, she says, is remaining competitive in the market. “So many of my contemporaries manufacture off-shore…it’s quite a challenge to compete with them in terms of pricing,” she says. “Green materials and domestic labor are so much more expensive!”
However, she finds that those initially attracted by her designs become return customers once they are educated about the brand’s ethos. “Once they understand what we do they definitely become more engaged with our product and return to us again because they can feel good about what they buy.”
Want to be part of the change and channel your own inner earth goddess? Check out stunning pieces from Melissa Joy Manning on Fab.