Going Green: Eco-Friendly Tattoo Studios and Vegan Inks

Sleeve tattoos

No, you didn’t read that wrong. Green tattoo studios and vegan inks really are a thing!

One of the biggest questions we get asked in the tattoo industry is — ‘will it be safe?’ People need to know that a studio follows the best practices for hygiene and safety. After all, when getting ink etched into your skin, you want to make sure you’re getting good quality stuff that won’t cause a reaction or be something you regret later on because it was done at a shady back alley shop that used no protection and provided no after-care products or services!

No Ragrets
Don’t be a Scotty!

 

With top companies like Virgin entering the tattoo game with their first-of-its-kind at-sea vegan tattoo studio called ‘Squid Ink’, the industry is seeing a sharp shift towards making environmentally-friendly choices. But what does that mean for tattoo artists worldwide?

But Wait…Isn’t Veganism About Food?

For many, veganism has to do with what we consume. But consumption is not just the food and drink we consume. It extends to the products we use – as well as what we put ON our bodies. For many people looking to go green, this choice goes beyond personal health and safety. Modern times have seen a rise in the number of people that are looking for environmentally sustainable alternatives to — well, pretty much everything! — so it shouldn’t be surprising that the tattoo industry is also beginning to shift how it works. Artists and enthusiasts are both reconsidering their part in the grand scheme of ‘protecting the only habitable planet we have’, and this has led to some interesting new developments in how the tattoo industry functions.

In addition to health and safety concerns, ethical consumption is now a big part of how people make choices. Being vegan, for many, also means adopting cruelty-free practices — which is more than just not eating meat! Veganism is a lifestyle that means consuming no animal products at all, from vegan food to shopping for clothes and household supplies from ethical brands, to eco-friendly cars and appliances — and more recently, even the ink used in tattoos!

Tiny Stormtrooper
A tiny vegan Stormtrooper? The dark side doesn’t seem too bad now…

 

Now you’re probably thinking ‘this all sounds great, but can tattooing be truly environmentally-friendly and ethical?’ The short answer is — yes. The long answer? It might take a few more years till we’re all there.

Revolutionizing the tattoo industry
Koneko Studio in Dallas is ready to start a movement and change the tattoo industry

 

Tattooing and E-waste

The tattoo industry is a big contributor to e-waste, especially as older tools and materials are discarded in favour of newer, upgraded ones. Tattooing also includes a lot of single-use materials, which increases the waste produced during a session. Moreover, many tattoo studios are smaller establishments with limited budgets and funding. The art of tattooing is a huge investment on the part of an artist, and going green can be an even bigger investment for someone starting out. This makes going fully green an inaccessible option for many.

Vegan tattoo studio in Amsterdam
Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation project, runs a vegan tattoo studio in Amsterdam

 

Nonetheless, going green is a worthy endeavour, since going green usually cuts your costs in the long run — and we don’t just mean for your customers! While the environment reaps huge benefits when companies go green and customers are likely to get a more hygienic tattoo session that uses a safe, high-quality ink, Ink Book Software notes that tattoo studios also find that their bottom-line improves when they make eco-friendly choices and their employees are healthier and more productive.

Frankenstein's Bride
Frankenstein’s Bride blackwork tattoo by Judd Bowman of the vegan Black Diamond Tattoo Studio, Southern California

 

Going Green on a Smaller Scale

So how does a small studio or an artist starting out go green without going under and losing a lot money? Well, going green does not have to mean going ALL the way green — which would include eco-friendly equipment, passive ventilation, a green roof, maybe even solar panels! An ideal scenario and a dream for many, but not an option for small or new studios. What studios CAN focus on instead are the actual materials they use during a tattoo session – such as the gloves, wipes, and aftercare products.

World Famous Tattoo Ink
Vegan ink — the modern tattoo artist’s eco-friendly companion!

 

Why Go Vegan?

Earlier tattoo pigments, as The Mercury News reports would often contain harmful ingredients such as ‘industrial organic pigments, including azo and polycyclic compounds, sandalwood and brazilwood, as well as aluminum, cadmium, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, silica, sulphur, titanium dioxide and barium sulphate’, all of which could cause skin reactions as they are known to be toxic — which means that is definitely not something we want seeping through our skin!

Tattoo safety and care
How safe is tattoo ink?

All this information would already be enough to put off anyone that might be trying to go green, but in addition to that, some black inks are made of charred animal bone and the carrier solution from glycerin, a derivative of animal fat. Not entirely unhealthy, but not really cruelty-free either!

 

Tattooing and Sustainability

An even bigger issue comes when looking at the equipment and products used in studios. As The Vegan Society points out, tattoo sessions use single-use plastic, stencil papers made from lanolin (which is derived from sheep’s wool), and disposable razors, while aftercare products include soaps containing glycerin and beeswax balms. Again, not entirely unhealthy, but still not the eco-friendliest of choices.

Plastic wrap used on freshly inked tattoos
Tattoo aftercare uses plastic to protect your new ink

 

Going Green: A New Way of Inking

There’s a light at the end of this tunnel, though! Green studios and higher-grade, vegan inks.

Koneko Studios in Dallas works with vegan inks
Linda Bishop, tattoo artist and founder of the vegan Koneko Studio in Dallas

 

Studios are now choosing to use equipment and products that are healthier alternatives to traditional ones. Ethical, cruelty-free consumption that is sustainable and healthier for both the customer and the environment has become increasingly important for studios all over the world. So much so, there’s a whole site called Vegan Tattoo Studios dedicated to helping you find vegan studios near you!

Sleeve tattoos
Have you found your nearest vegan tattoo artist?

 

What’s Different About a Green Studio?

Green studios focus on everything from ethically sourced products, eco-friendly studio spaces, and healthier working environments. They also encourage healthy greener practices such as minimizing waste, reusing and recycling, and opting for greener alternatives for travelling to and from work. Other options for studios include saving water and electricity, going paperless, and using renewable alternatives.

Sustainable alternatives for studio materials
Going green can start with the simplest things — like switching to multi-use and non-plastic cups!

 

Green Tattoo Removal

Even tattoo removal services are being upgraded with more eco-friendly processes, as The Guardian reports — ‘The old way used tetrafluoroethane — a far more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2  [carbon dioxide] — while the new substitutes liquid CO2’. The removal process is usually painful, time-consuming, and expensive — but hey, at least it can be environmentally-friendly!

Eco-friendly Laser Tattoo Removal
Laser tattoo removal at Disappearing Ink, Pittsburgh PA

 

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Do you run a tattoo studio that has adopted green practices? Tell us about your journey in the comments below!

Join our growing community of inksters! Head on over to m.jhaiho.com and book your tattoo appointment today! Also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on the latest in the tattoo industry, get inkspired, and share your own ink stories!

Thanks for stopping by! Happy inking!

2 comments

    • Hi there! Unfortunately, vegan ink has not found its way into the Indian market just yet. There are many skilled tattoo artists in Bangalore, though! If you’d like some recommendations, please get in touch with us at +91 88844 64604.

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