The act of making art is inherently wasteful. When you spend hours on an intricate painting or pour your soul into a song, there’s going to be trash left behind. In fact, the very nature of making art means you’ll probably end up with more garbage than if you hadn’t tried in the first place. Even so, that doesn’t mean you can’t operate as a zero waste artist!
In order to make art without creating any waste (which is also just good practice for being a responsible human), it helps to have zero waste art supplies on hand. Many traditional art supply manufacturers produce eco-friendly versions of their popular goods – they just tend to cost quite a bit more as a result. However, there are tons of affordable and sustainable options out there if you know where to look!
Choose your materials wisely
First and foremost, if you want to reduce your waste as an artist, start by choosing your materials wisely. There’s a common misconception that zero waste living requires a completely new set of materials across the board, but that is simply not true! In fact, many of the items we use every day are extremely sustainable, durable, and easy to replace. This doesn’t mean that you have to give up painting or using sketchbooks entirely – just swap out the items you can for more sustainable alternatives. For example:
- Use watercolors instead of oil paints.
- Use paper instead of canvas (or vice versa).
- Use recycled paper instead of new notebook paper.
- Use recycled paper instead of new drawing paper.
- Use recycled cotton clothing or fabric scraps as fabric for your art.
- Use recycled newsprint instead of new sketch paper.
Print on demand
Printing is one of the most wasteful aspects of modern art. In fact, it’s estimated that the average artist will use approximately 6,500 gallons of water, 150 pounds of paper, and 5 pounds of chemicals just during the process of creating their art.
Paper is the primary culprit here. According to the EPA, a single paper and ink manufacture facility releases 3.2 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the environment each year. That’s more than all of the nation’s industries combined! To make matters worse, many artists also choose to print on white paper, which requires 6 times more water than printing on recycled paper. Luckily, there are a ton of eco-friendly print services available online many of which charge a lower rate than their standard counterparts!
DIY art supplies are an excellent way to reduce your overall art supply consumption. Not only that, but they’re also a fantastic way to utilize recycled materials and make something one-of-a-kind! You can DIY anything from paper, paint, and crayons to handmade furniture, upcycled clothing, and handmade room decorations. For example, you can make watercolors by combining food coloring with unpopped popcorn kernels (which you can also eat once you’re done). You can make crayons out of unbroken candles, crayola-style crayons out of unbroken crayons, and colored pencils out of unbroken colored pencils. You can also make colored pencils out of unbroken crayons and glue (just break the crayons).
Use recycled materials
If you can’t DIY your way out of it, consider replacing your art supplies with recycled materials. There are tons of all-purpose craft materials that are both sustainable and easy to find. Many materials are even recycled on the production end!
For example, the paper pulp used to make regular printer paper is usually recycled paper, while the cardboard used to make wooden pencils is often recycled cardboard. You can also find all kinds of specialized recycled art supplies. You can even find recycled art supplies designed specifically for children – which is great for anyone who wants to introduce their kids to zero waste art! –
- Colored pencils – These pencils are specially designed to be used by kids, but they can also be used by adults.
- Markers – Markers are a fun, easy way to make art – especially on blackboards.
- Paint – You can find eco-friendly paint in every color, including black and white.
- Brushes – You can buy eco-friendly brushes made out of synthetic fibers. – Watercolors – Watercolors are one of the easiest media to eco-fy.
- Paper – You can find recycled paper in almost any type and size, including sketchpads, pads, and even cardboard.
- Journals – Journals are a great way to track your progress as an artist and document your creative process.
- Craft supplies – There are tons of all-purpose craft supplies that are recycled and sustainable.
- Art supplies for kids – There are even art supplies specially designed for children and teens.
By-now supplies: Collage, embroidery, and quilting
If you can’t find eco-friendly alternatives to your art supplies, you can always go old school and make an effort to use up what you already have. This includes making art out of collage and embroidery, which are both fantastic ways to reuse old materials – and create truly unique art in the process!
For example, you can cut up fabric and photos to create beautiful pieces of collage art. You can also piece together scraps of fabric to create patchwork art.
You can even use old fabrics to create a quilt! You can also make your own paint out of old paint brushes (or even crayon shavings!) and recycle old containers to make new art supplies out of them. There are tons of creative ways to make eco-friendly art with recycled materials!
Art should be a creative and self-expressive process, but unfortunately, it often results in a lot of waste. This is especially true if you use commercial art supplies, which are often packaged in materials that are harmful to the environment. Fortunately, it is possible to make art in a way that does not harm the environment. By using eco-friendly art materials, you can reduce the amount of waste that your art produces. With these tips, you can make art without harming the environment and help keep our planet healthy and safe for future generations.
Larissa is the author of this blog and a vegan, digital nomad, and fully devoted to sustainability and zero-waste lifestyle.
I love to share my passions with others, so if you have any questions about what I do or just want to exchange experiences, feel free to message me!