It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green

1 07 2011

My condolences to Kermit the Frog, from whom I stole the title of today’s topic.

Running a green or environmentally friendly stained glass studio is about as successful as trying to get Congress to unanimously pass a bill. In other words, it ain’t happenin’.

Flux (the stuff you use to make solder stick to copper foil) is corrosive. Kilns require electricity to run. Etching takes a whirlwind of things (yes, the pun was intended) including an air compressor (which uses electricity) a shop vac (more electricity) and aluminum oxide (the stuff that actually does the etching, and is mined, separated into various elements and sieved before it ever reaches my door.)

Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. By far, the biggest “waste” product I create is scrap glass. No recycling center that I’ve found takes truly “mixed glass”. I’ve checked. “Mixed glass” at recycling centers means a mix of clear glass or brown glass or green glass. Mixed glass does not mean blue-and-orange-and-pink-and-EveryColorUnderTheSun mixed together in plastic buckets.

My Scrap Bench

So I brainstormed. I was already making my magnets from small pieces of glass, except that I was cutting down whole sheets of glass to make them, because it was faster and they were uniform in shape. I took a look at my scrap bench, grabbed some glass, and made a few trial magnets in whatever shapes the scrap dictated. I took an informal poll, ’cause frankly, I’m biased, and I liked the way my old ones looked better. Nearly everyone I showed them to liked the new organic shapes more. Thus overruled, I took the hint.

The "New" Magnets

I clean off my scrap bench once a month, and use as much of the scrap as I can to make magnets. It hasn’t fully eliminated my scrap production, as not all glass can be fused (melted), and many glasses cannot be fused together, because their COE (coefficient of expansion) differs. (Mixing COE’s in a stack in a kiln leads to nothing but breakage.) The scrap that I can’t use in magnets goes in boxes, and gets given to aspiring stained glass hobbyists I find on Craigslist.

Making magnets this way is a little slower, and definitely limits my color palette on any given month to whatever is lying around, but I think it’s a better long term decision to help my business “go green”. I also believe that as recycling and upcycling become more mainstream (and therefore, more popular) it will become a bigger selling point as time goes on.

Like my magnets? Buy them here: Molly’s Online Store.

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