Each year as we revel in these longest days of summer we like to share an update with you about some of Halcyon Yarn’s non-yarn environmental and social initiatives. Especially after the months of challenges and ongoing hardships faced by many it feels important to celebrate the power we each have to make our little corners of the world a little better, and also to reflect on how we can continue to improve. We believe business can – and must – be a vehicle for creating a better future. We appreciate that it’s your purchases that help make these initiatives possible, and we welcome your ideas for how we can continue to be a better company. Thank you for being a part of our journey and our sunshine!
Halcyon Yarn’s building at 12 School St. in Bath, Maine is nearly 120 years old, yet despite it’s age it features some of the most up-to-date and energy efficient technology available including climate control via heat pumps for almost the entire building. We’re proud to be home to the first commercial solar panel array in town. We’ve been generating power for over 1/3 of our heat and electrical needs from the sun since 2015.
Since it’s installation our system has prevented nearly 16 tons of CO2 emissions each year! Our grid-tied system was installed by ReVision Energy, an employee-owned Maine B Corp that continues to grow and is now bringing solar power to New Hampshire and Massachusetts as well. A wonderful partner, ReVision provided us with this great sign to help visualize just what kind of energy production we’re looking at!
For the numbers folks… The charts below show actual vs. projected production for 2020 (left) and for June 2021 (right). Now and then we’ll go low on a cloudy day or if the system has to reset for a short period, but overall you can see that even up here in New England the sun is on our side!
Reducing Single-Use Plastic & Minimizing Shipping Impact
One of the most frustrating things about retail is that we can’t often control the materials our vendors use in shipping goods to us and many orders arrive in single-use new plastic bags. Although we already recycle all of the paper/cardboard, plastic, glass, and metal waste that we can via our local single stream recycling program, as well as all e-waste. Unfortunately, in most communities (including ours) single use plastics are not recyclable and the volume of this material really adds up! We’ve been talking with vendors as well as other retailers about how to correct this. While these conversations will be ongoing, right now we’re taking two important steps to handle this plastic waste. First, we have a system for reusing them in our storage, and fulfillment processes. Once they are no longer usable we pack and store them in batches to be recycled through TerraCycle. In the coming year we will expand access to this service for our partners in the Work Loft, a collaborative business center we are developing in the same School St building, opening in 2022. More on that another time! ;-)
Here in Maine a new statewide law has just gone into effect completely prohibiting the use of single-use bags at points-of-sale and requiring that retailers charge 5¢ per bag for each new bag that your goods are packed in (including reusable and paper). We’ll be putting the funds collected towards our plastic recycling initiative and when you pick up at the store you’ll see this on your receipt automatically to reflect the (recycled paper) bag that your curbside order is packed in.
We’re auditing all of our shipping, packaging, and display materials to eliminate plastic wherever we can. We’re using up the plastic materials we have on hand and replacing them (bags, box filler, envelopes, and acrylic packing tape) with recycled/recyclable paper alternatives.
Shipping can be one of the most energy and materials intensive parts of a business. We strive to use the least amount of materials possible, but still ensure that your materials arrive safely. You’ll also notice that when your packages arrives via UPS, we’ve chosen to have a carbon offset applied.
Commitment to Community and Social Justice
How businesses conduct themselves ethically (or not) is more in the news than ever, especially following a year that has shined a bright light on the many unjust practices ingrained in our systems. Whether you’re just starting to consider the types of businesses you support or have long-chosen where to shop based on a company’s social practices I am really proud to assure you that this has always been a central aspect of how we do what we do.
Our company practices have always included flexible scheduling and paid leave so that staff can take care of their own and their family’s health and childcare needs without fear of economic loss or other penalty. (Click here to read more about how we supported employee health and safety during the pandemic.) Halcyon Yarn has always provided fully employer-paid health insurance, HSA, and dental insurance, as well as group life and retirement account matching to our staff. We have been a pro-actively equal opportunity employer and we believe diversity is a necessity and a strength in every business and community.
Beyond our internal practices we also contribute volunteer time in our community to the following programs; Main Street Bath, our local downtown association which supports the many independent businesses in Bath and strives to create community and improve historic preservation in our small town, the City of Bath Community Development Committee, the Good Food for Bath network, which was formed to help address increased food insecurity during the pandemic, and the Maine Small Business Coalition, which met regularly with our state and national legislators throughout the pandemic to advocate for small businesses and their workforce as well as related environmental and social equity issues.
Last summer as Black Lives Matter and other political protests heightened the public dialogue around structural injustice I wrote that Halcyon Yarn would continue to look for ways to support social justice initiatives. While it may not be daily news the way it was this time last year this is not something that has “gone away,” and we will continue to make anti-racism, social equity, and environmental protection a part of our daily work. This past year in our work on the Community Development Committee we created two new subcommittees; Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and Agriculture. In both groups we are working to leverage the resources of our public, private, and non-profit partners to improve food access, protect and improve the health and sustainability of our natural and built environments, to expand housing access, and to increase support, protection, and access for marginalized people including our New Mainer immigrant population. Committees and policies don’t often make for catchy stories, but I am proud to participate in a community that is committed to making these values and the ongoing work of improvement a part of the fabric of our local government and institutions.
Over the past year Halcyon Yarn has provided financial and material support to the following organizations: Main Street Bath, Chocolate Church Arts Center, Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, Maine Crafts Association, Aucocisco School, Maine Trans Net, Cultivating Community, Black Owned Maine, Color of Change, Sunrise Rotary, Midcoast Youth Center & Skatepark, and Maine’s First Ship.
We couldn’t do it without you!
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about how we operate ad what we believe in. We want you to feel good shopping with us, knowing that you’re helping support a small family-run business that works hard to do the right thing – and will continue to make improvements that matter. It’s an imperfect, sometimes expensive, and often challenging process, but we’re committed to being part of the solution. We welcome your feedback and your help as we work to make a positive impact. We are so grateful for your continued support, it is your purchases that make it possible for us to continuing serving the fiber arts community with more than just great products and services. When you shop with us you’re empowering improvements – there’s more good work to be done and we truly couldn’t do it without you!