Trying to live an eco-friendly existence is a big part of my life, but it’s not always easy. There are of course, those few simple things we can all do to start being a little more eco-conscious. Switching electronics off at the plug, boycotting plastic bags and buying locally are all simple choices we can make to help reduce our environmental impact on the planet.
Now, as I find myself starting on a new path of life, I wonder what I can do to become a more eco-friendly artist. I am at a dilemma of wanting to create art using pencil and paper, both of which have a significant environmental impact in their production, and living an eco-friendly lifestyle. While it’s still a work in progress, I have come up with several ways to balance the scale in creating art and being green.
Choose green – When it comes time to restock your art supplies, consider the environmental impact that product has and whether there is a more eco-friendly alternative.
For drawing and watercolour paper, Fabriano has a FSC 100% recycled paper alternative and Strathmore offers paper manufactured with 100% certified renewable energy.
Artists Network has a good list of some eco-friendly art products. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to source these in Australia at present, with many of these products only sold in the US. The transport carbon footprint should therefore be considered.
I like to keep a list of supplies I need that I add to as each runs out and try to wait until I can make a larger order. That way, it reduces the transport footprint and means I can purchase art products that have a reduced environmental impact during their manufacture.
Reuse old jars - Looking for somewhere to store all those pencils or paintbrushes? If you have any jars lying around the house that are missing lids or aren’t going to be used for jam-storing, then why not give them a new purpose in life.
I personally love to use jars to store my pencils. Having them sitting on my desk like this means I can easily access them, they don’t take up as much room and, best of all, I can organise them by colour!
Next time you come across a plastic container or a cardboard box, take a moment and try to think of a way that it can be reused or re-purposed. Cardboard boxes are great for turning into storage boxes or even a new desk organiser.
Use recycled packaging – Again this is about choosing the ‘green’ alternative. When posting orders try to reuse any parcels, plastic covering and bubble wrap that you may have collected.
When purchasing other post supplies, look for the eco-friendly option. I use a biodegradable cellophane bag, recycled tissue paper, hemp twine, recycled backing board and rigid mailers for packaging my artwork to post.
Business cards and invoices that you may include with your order can also be printed on recycled paper.
Take it outside – Bring potted plants into the studio to act as natural air purifiers. Several studies have shown that certain plants can remove Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the air around them.
Better yet, whenever the opportunity arises, take your work outside!
Buy vintage – Buying something secondhand is a great way to reduce waste, reduce the use of energy and water resources in manufacturing and is often less expensive than buying new.
Take a look around secondhand stores or ‘buy and sell’ online sites for secondhand furniture for the studio.
Likewise, when looking for art reference books, check secondhand bookstores and online, such as through Abebooks.
Use those scraps of paper – Instead of throwing away paper, collect it up and cut it into smaller pieces. These scraps of paper can be used to rest your hand on when sketching to prevent smudging and keep your hand from contacting the paper.
You can also use folded pieces of paper or pieces of cardboard to clip your work to a drawing board, which will prevent the clips from denting the artwork.
If you’ve got enough scraps of paper, you can also bind them together to make a notebook or sketchbook.
Walk instead – If you need to take a trip to the local post office, art shop or secondhand store, why not walk instead of taking the car?
If you don’t need to travel too far and are able, reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by your car and walk or cycle instead.
Upcycle – Upcycling can be so much fun and an art form in itself! Secondhand furniture can be upcycled to create a table specific to your artistic needs.
If you use pencils in your art, collect the pencil stubs that can be sharpened no more and create a piece of 3D art.
These creations on Pinterest are sure to inspire!
A positive way to help support environmental work can be directly through your artwork. Research organisations and groups that address an environmental problem that you are interested in and identify whether you can support them through donating a portion of sales, donating artwork for fundraising activities or volunteering with them.
Hopefully these tips have given you enough inspiration and ideas to become a little more eco-friendly in your art practices and help you to make more eco-conscious decisions to reduce your environmental impact.
I’d love to hear your experiences in striving to be a more eco-friendly artist and if you have any more tips and ideas to share!