As a life-long environmentalist, I am pleased to see that businesses can take a stand in favor of the environment and I will take this opportunity to discuss some of what we at Copperworks/Mio Metals do with regard to our impact on the environment.
In our shop, we work with softer metals such as copper, brass and zinc on machines that are operated by arms and legs not large amounts of electricity. Really. We use something called a stomp shear – named for the source of power – to cut our sheets and something called a hand brake to form the bends. Our decorative edges are created with hand operated machinery and skill not some large press with large power consumption.
Joining metal – Welding is a common term when people think of joining two pieces of metal together and this is typically the method used in steel work. Today’s welders are typically reaching for something called a TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welder that is plugged into a 220 volt outlet to melt metal and fuse it together. This is a very high heat, and therefore very high energy, technique.
We don’t weld. Sure, we can, but we don’t. We solder our seams which is a process of using a metal alloy with a lower melting point than the two pieces to be joined and attaching that molten metal to the seam. When the solder cools and hardens it can be sanded smooth. This is a low-heat, therefore lower energy, method of joining metal. In fact, the melting point of the solder is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit – equivalent to cooking a pizza.
Not only that, but we don’t plug our soldering irons in to the electrical grid – they are heated by natural gas and do not rely on coal burning power plants. As such, the gas and electric bills at Mio Metals are almost equal to those that I receive for my small three bedroom house (average family of four, one dog, and the occasional spider on the window frame).
Our wood substrates are FSC certified to help support sustainable forestry. If I could find an equivalent material with a lower impact on the environment, I would use it.
Well, yes, the metal refining process is not a low-impact one. Between the mining, refining and transport of the raw materials, there is a considerable amount of energy being consumed. My goal is to manage my part of the process as efficiently as possible and minimize our carbon footprint. I buy from local suppliers. I recycle everything in our shop from wood and metal scrap to office paper. I work with freight transporters that use a mix of rail and truck. I encourage all of my customers to recycle the metal when they are finished with it – something that isn’t so easy with granite or resin based product.
The craftspeople in my shop are my first concern. Keep in mind, most of our equipment is human-powered so we control most of our pinch points, and when we do plug in a grinder or use a drill, I have an endless supply of safety equipment for their use. I personally invited OSHA to visit our shop and conduct an audit of our working conditions. In 2007, I removed all of the lead-based solder from our operation and we no longer work with lead sheet for roofing.
I welcome ideas, questions or concerns regarding our operations and I invite you to connect with me through our Facebook page.
Now, go plant a tree.