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Monday, November 16, 2015

Why You Need to (Occasionally) Go Factory Free

At my Etsy store, Carrot Creations, I have been starting to use the tag "factory free."  I think it's an important one, and I think those of us in the sustainable living movement need to know a little more about it so we can look for it.

"Factory free" means that an item was made by individual or cottage labor, often by hand, instead of being mass produced in a factory setting.

Now, let me say on the front end that, especially as a historian, I'm a big fan of factories.  The Industrial Revolution brought with it a tremendous change in lifestyle and the way we produce goods that has meant largely positive changes.  Suddenly, many goods that were out of reach to the common consumer were made available, and the power of human production was better harnessed.  These are positives that should not be dismissed.

But relying on factories for everything is not good, either, and the positives of the Industrial Revolution must be balanced by a place for individual and small group effort.  This is where "factory free" comes in.  If you buy a product that lists itself as "factory free" (including food), you may see some of these benefits:

  • The business that produces the item (including farms) is far more likely to be small and local to you.
  • The business is less likely to be beholden to large corporate production policies.  Often, this means that a small business will hold itself to higher standards or take time to explain their production methods to you.
  • The quality control processes are often more thorough.  A sock produced on a machine may never be inspected by human eyes; my yoga socks, on the other hand, spend 6-8 hours per pair in my hands and in view of my eyes, making it more likely I would catch a quality problem.
  • You are more likely to get the product you want, even if you want specialty attributes.  If you want an organic, free range egg, you probably want one that is not produced on a factory farm but is, in fact, factory free.
  • You are more likely to be supporting a small business, and small businesses are essential to maintaining the flexibility of our country's economy.
  • You can target your dollars to exactly the type of business and the location you feel most passionate about.  If I want to support my hopefully-future hometown of Key West, I will look for something factory free and produced locally on the island.
Factory free items will never completely replace mass produced ones, nor should they.  But for many purchases, you might consider looking for a factory free tag to learn more about exactly what your money supports.

Have you purchased anything factory free?  What do you look for?
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