While natural fibres and texture are key to The Dharma Door aesthetic, there is another reason why they are so important to our designs. Working with natural, biodegradable materials that are grown within the regions where our products are made, is an essential part of minimising our environmental footprint. Crafted by talented artisans using slow, handcrafted production methods - instead of machine and factory production - our collection includes age-old weaving and natural dyeing skills that are passed down through generations.
Below, we dive deeper into some of the key sustainability elements that are a constant throughout our collections and form the base of how we operate as a business.
There’s an honesty and integrity about natural materials that can’t be replicated. The nature of the fibres that we choose to work with - jute, hemp, seagrass, palm leaves, grasses and banana fibre - means no two strands are the same, making each and every piece individual in their own beautiful way. We appreciate the variation of the natural tones and textures and believe this perfectly imperfect ‘wabi sabi’ appearance is what adds interest and brings our baskets, wall hangings and rugs to life.
Importantly, all of our natural materials are biodegradable and grown pesticide-free by small-scale farmers within or near the artisans communities. This helps to maintain work and incomes within local farming communities and limits the need to transport raw materials long distances.
Some of the Fair Trade organisations that we partner with also educate the artisans communities about how to farm in more sustainable ways and without chemicals. This is important for their health and helps to avoid buying expensive food or raw materials from further afield.
Each piece in our collection is crafted entirely by hand - from start to finish - and bears the unique mark of its maker. Artisans practice age-old techniques that have been passed down through generations so they are naturally adept at the techniques they use to craft our pieces. Raw materials are processed using simple manual techniques like boiling water, threshing, stripping, splicing, twisting and plaiting. Our Artisan partners then use these materials to weave our products by hand in their homes, on their verandahs or in small purpose-built community weaving spaces.
We greatly respect the artisans who craft our pieces and understand that to produce beautiful pieces to the level of quality that we require takes time, attention to detail and skill. Every design element is chosen for its visual appeal and practical application, while also consciously creating as many work opportunities as we can for marginalised women every step of the way. That’s why slow production is an innate part of The Dharma Door values - from stitching with a needle and thread; to weaving by hand or on a wooden loom; sewing at treadle machines; making macrame handles; and stamping our leather labels by hand. And by choosing handcrafted - instead of machines and factories - for the production of our pieces, we are actively minimising our carbon footprint.
Derived from all natural ingredients, our artisan partners practice a time-honoured approach of using dyes sourced from nature to create the earthy hues of charcoal, brown and bronze in our collection. Where the skill of natural dyeing isn't available, we prefer to keep our designs natural. Alternatively, and on rare occasions, we’ll make sure our artisan partners are using the safest and most sustainable option available to them to dye our products, including the use of azo-free dyes, protective equipment and special dye vats that are not released into waterways. This ensures our range is healthy for you, the environment and the talented women to craft our products.
We are passionate about not polluting the waterways where our artisan partners make our products, so they and their families can work and live in a healthy, sustainable environment. Located in small villages, they use small dams, creeks and rivers for washing, bathing and fishing and we are very aware of the potential impact that harmful dyes could have on their community. This is one of our guiding principles and one of the main reasons why we choose to keep our collection natural or naturally-dyed.
Our sustainability values start with how we approach our product designs. Designing practical, high quality, timeless pieces that are natural and aesthetically pleasing means they can be used for many years and in different decor styles. For us, focusing on longevity over trends is one the keys to maintaining our sustainability commitment.
Quality has always been a priority for us and is directly linked to our sustainability commitment. From our selection of raw materials like the superior-quality blonde jute that is used throughout our collection, to the techniques that our artisan partners practice and the quality-checking processes that we have in place. Our goal is for our pieces to be able to be used and enjoyed in homes on a daily basis for many years, whether it’s a jute basket for toy storage or laundry, a textural rug for comfort underfoot or the aesthetic and acoustic benefits of one of our wall hangings.
Packaging and shipping are well considered as part our efforts to reduce our environmental impact . Our hang tags are crafted from cardboard and attached with hemp string that is made by one of our artisan groups. For product packaging, we ask our artisan partners to switch out plastic for recycled paper bags wherever practical. When bringing products to Australia, we choose sea freight over air freight with the aim of reducing our carbon footprint.
In Australia, we partner with a third-party logistics company and we request that they use recycled cardboard cartons or the compostable satchels that we provide to them.
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