Whether you’re a professional artist, a hobbyist or just like to make crafts with your kids every now and then, if you’re environmentally conscious you’ve probably wondered how you can make your creative activities greener. Arts and crafts can definitely be a bit hard on the environment if you’re not careful – there are a lot of toxic ingredients in those paints, glue, varnishes and other materials, not to mention all of the trash you end up throwing away.
With the holiday season coming up, a lot of people are gearing up to create hand-made cards, gifts, ornaments and other crafty things, so it’s a great time to brush up on some eco-friendly arts & crafts tips!
Use recycled, non-toxic and sustainable materials. This one is probably pretty obvious. Stick with recycled paper and pencils and other environmentally responsible materials like hemp sketchbooks, non-toxic adhesives and bamboo paintbrushes. Look for the ACMI-approved seal on paints, which indicates that they’re non-toxic.
Upcycle ‘junk’ into works of art. Next time you start a project, think about the supplies you need and whether you can find them around the house, at the thrift store, on Freecycle, etc. Try making your own artist canvas by applying gesso to an old cotton or linen sheet. Refinishing thrift-store frames can be a budget-friendly option as well. There are a million and one opportunities to upcycle ‘junk’ into jewelry, décor and other items.
Make your own paintbrushes. Leslie of The Öko Box eco boutique demonstrates how on her blog, using a twig, human hair and a rubber band. She also experiments with plant-based pigments, turning a bunch of poke berries growing in her yard into a lovely fuschia liquid that she used to paint a picture and even dye an old shower curtain.
Don’t throw away scraps of paper and fabric. Most types of paper and natural fabrics like cotton, silk, linen and wool can be composted. Encourage kids to use scraps of construction paper by creating ‘stained glass-style’ art with them. Larger, higher quality scraps of fabric can be re-used in quilts or made into wall art as shown on Apartment Therapy’s green sister site, Re-Nest. The rest can be given new life as stuffing for toys or pillows.
Wash oil paints from your hands and brushes with an eco-friendly, phosphate-free dish soap instead of solvents. Dish soap won’t harm your paintbrushes, and it dissolves oil paints better than harsh, often-toxic solvents like turpentine. Some artists also use vegetable oils to clean and maintain their brushes.