Eco-friendly artisan: Mark Mayers holds a pendant on display with his bracelet collection.

In 2014 a green industry report said that 71% of Americans consider the environment a factor when shopping. The report was released the same year that the Westchase District Farmers Market launched.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers selling at markets minimize the amount of waste and pollution they create. Farmers Market Manager John Carey agrees.

“Anyone who shops at the market is indeed going green,” said Carey. “Local farmers deliver fresh food that doesn’t travel a thousand miles, involve a big supply chain like 18-wheeler trucks, rail or air cargo freight. It’s not only the food we sell that makes our market a place of sustainability every week. We also have non-food vendors who embody this practice.”

Recycling into retail

Mark Mayers is in the business of making sustainable jewelry. As consumers have become more aware of the environmental impact of products they buy over the past decade, Mayers stepped in with his craftsman shop – Earth Friendly Designs. He found the farmers market to be an ideal starting point to sell his crafts. Mayers says his customers see his items as good for the environment. He emphasizes how even a small jewelry business like his can minimize waste.

“I didn’t have a lot of money to start buying supplies,” said Mayers. “I’ve always been a recycler, so my first thought was what better way to start selling than to use recycled materials. So here I am after 12 years of recycling. And I feel gratified when I make a product that’s been recycled.”

Bringing new life to old things

By using recycled metals, Mayers’ jewelry doesn’t involve mining which has an impact on land and water. He sources metals he finds that are no longer needed at construction sites, thanks to his brother-in-law who is an electrician. He acquires gems and stones from a friend who works as a mine safety instructor. Mayers also attends trade shows in search of gems that fit his ideas for new pieces. Blending is key. For instance, he’ll typically handcraft materials that blends copper with wire to make woven rings.

Mayers takes an intimate artisan approach to each of his pieces. You could call him a metalsmith. “I like turning something old into something new and exciting,” said Mayers. “It gives me an opportunity to really make beautiful things.” Mayers’ product line includes pendants, bracelets, necklaces and rings.

One piece can take anywhere from one to two hours to make, or up to 14 hours. “Take a wire wrapped pendant for example,” said Mayers. “I get inspired by looking at the stone. Sometimes it takes hours to really get a good idea. I try to see an image that would look amazing around the stone, so I just take my time and make beautiful pendants.”

Romancing the stone

Carey likes having an eco-friendly jewelry artisan at the market. “Recycling metals into jewelry may not be an obvious way to help the environment,” said Carey. “But his use of reclaimed and recycled gems involves no new energy or mining and the pieces he makes are breathtaking.”

Mayers’ designs are attention-grabbing. His display draws curious shoppers. Making a collection is a longer process that can take him up to a month. “When customers tell me about the wonderful impression one of my pieces made on a loved one, it makes all the time I put into it worth it,” said Mayers.

“Westchase District Farmers Market is centrally located and has a fun atmosphere,” said Mayers. “The customers and vendors are wonderful. It’s rewarding for me to hear shoppers say my pieces are beautiful.”