ArtiKen—deriving from the words Kenya and artisan—is a bracelet company whose goal is to employ Kenyan artisans to put their craft to practice. These bracelets are breathable, stylish and comfortable, as the company's primary consumers are runners. ArtiKen upholds several good intentions such as fair labor practices and clean water initiatives. For example, they donate 10% of their profits to water conservation initiatives in Kenya via the Water Project. The Water Project works to end the water crisis in sub-Saharan Africa by providing clean, accessible, safe water to all communities, as finding water is a daily challenge for a large population in this region. This is an important issue being tackled by ArtiKen, as access to clean water is UN sustainability development goal #6 and is not being met in many sub-Saharan African countries. One significant aspect the company is missing in regards to sustainability, however, is through the manufacturing of their products.
ArtiKen’s bracelets are made up of two materials: plastic beads and string--neither of which are sustainable. Needless to say, plastic beads greatly impact the earth. Not only is the manufacturing of plastic resource-intensive; the beads are also so small that once they end up in the ocean or other ecosystems, animals easily mistake them for food. When we hunt or fish, this plastic within animals ends up in our stomachs as well. It is an endless cycle of health hazards for all aspects of the environment. This is a pattern similar to microplastics, which are tiny pieces of polyethylene plastic added to health and beauty products. These plastics end up in oceans and disturb marine life, which eventually ends up in our seafood dishes.
The string used in the bracelets is made of nylon--a synthetic material made of oil which is energy intensive as well. No form of nylon is biodegradable, so it may sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. Fortunately, because only two materials are needed for the bracelets, ArtiKen could potentially turn to alternative materials such as recycled plastics and string made of biopolymers which are biodegradable.
In regards to packaging, ArtiKen ensures zero plastic waste by utilizing wooden packaging and dowels. This material is biodegradable and reusable, as ArtiKen envisions an environmentally conscious business model. This is a great start, so let’s hope to see this model progress by switching to more sustainable materials for bracelets.
Although the founder of ArtiKen is from the US, the company is based in Kenya and run by Kenyan artisans. The bracelets are handmade by artisans, so there is no need for large factories. In fact, the bracelets are made right in artisans’ homes! The biggest issue in the manufacturing process is not being clear about where the materials are sourced and how they are transported to the workplace. Likewise, because the bracelets are created in Kenya and shipped around the world, transportation requires heavy greenhouse gas emissions from planes and trucks. However, the company strives to create work for artisans in Kenya, so there is not much to be done in terms of localizing production.
ArtiKen bracelets are handmade by Kenyan artisans for people around the world. Unfortunately, the company is not totally transparent on their labor practices. They advertise that every purchase provides more full time jobs for these artisans that may have not had a job previously, but aside from this, there is no clear indication on fair wages or working conditions. ArtiKen is a relatively small and new company (established in 2016), which may in part explain why they omit this information from the internet. For ArtiKen’s bracelets to increase their sustainability ratings overall, they must switch to more eco-friendly materials and provide consumers with information on their manufacturing processes.