I started my business over 4 years ago with the belief that beautiful art can be made from the used. I focus on upcycling, which means that I am a BIG advocate of finding materials that are already in the consumer stream, as opposed to always buying new. Aside from buying designated eco friendly materials, there are other ways that you can consciously choose to be more eco friendly. Here are 10 of my favorite tips and tricks to be more eco conscious:
- Craigslist. I find soooo many great art supply lots, canvases, furniture, materials, sewing machines – you name it on – on this website. I’ve even written a blog post about my love affair with craigslist.
- Thrift stores. I have designated thrift stores for buying certain materials. For example, Salvation Army has been good for buying neckties and t-shirts, Unique is great for yarn and fabric, Savers is where I find cotton belts and Goodwill is where I look for office supplies and art stamps. A lot of the accessories that I make are usually the result of what I happen to find at the thrift store, and I often feel like I am on a treasure hunt when I walk through the doors. What will I find? What will it become?!?! There have been times when I know a particular item for sale at a thrift store is more expensive than if I were to buy it new, but I buy it anyways. Why? Because I prefer to buy used.
- Packing & book paper. I save all the packing paper that comes in shipments to my home. I have used the brown packing paper to make wall flowers, and the off-white sheets of paper to create art in the classroom. Another source of paper is used books. A friend of mine makes purses out of the covers of vintage books, and I asked if I could have the inside paper. I know this is a huge score on my part, but there’s no reason why you can’t buy used books for the paper. It can be difficult for some people to destroy a book, but I don’t look at it as destruction, but rather as giving the book a new life. There are a surplus of books in the world, and each one will not be read. I have used the book paper in mixed media artwork and for wall wreaths.
- Styrofoam. I recently learned this trick from Tracy Verdugo’s new book. If you save the styrofoam that comes in food packages or take-out containers, you can use them to create your own stamps. Lightly draw a design on top of the foam, and once you’re happy with it, retrace over the lines using enough pressure to cause indentation. Add paint and stamp away!
- Donations. Let your family and friends know that you are looking for donations. Many people are happy to lighten their load of belongings, and are even happier to give their items to someone that they know. I even added a “Donations Wish List” on the wall behind my checkout counter to let people know what I am looking for. When I receive donations, I will try to find a use within my classroom. If I do not think I will be able to utilize the items, I ask my other artists if they would like them, and if not, I take the items to a donation center myself.
- Cardboard. From shipping boxes to cereal boxes, these can be used for so many projects. I’ve used packing boxes as a canvas, embellishments on artwork, and for creating stamps. Cereal boxes have become my business cards, price tags, and journal covers.
- Ebay. I have found lots of used paint online. The artist quality brands of paint really add up in cost, so buying used is not only an eco-conscious option, but a nice option when on a budget.
- Furniture Stores. You know all those beautiful swatches of fabric that furniture stores have? Well, once the season is finished, a lot of those stores simply throw them away! GASP!!! Ask if you can have them, and you may be pleasantly surprised. I often find myself running my hands over the fabric samples in awe. They are so beautiful and textured, and make great hats and purses!
- Antique stores. This option may not be the cheapest, but you can certainly find some real gems. Case in point – these cubbies!!
- Facebook. There are becoming more and more groups on Facebook that you can join, many of which are used for selling items. I am part of a couple of online garage sales that are based around geographic locations. While this online platform seems to be the most competitive in regards to claiming an item first, I have found that the timing has been just right for items that I’ve needed at that point in time. It was through one of the online garage sale pages that I found my table of kindness.
Once you start using materials readily available in your every day environment within your work, you will start seeing the world through new eyes! I can attest to there being a slippery slope between being resourceful vs. being a hoarder, but that is a boundary that you will have to draw yourself. I’ve sat on materials for a while, knowing that their uses will present themselves eventually, yet I also go through stages where I need to clear my space! Plus, you never know how your actions may influence others. I’ve had friends say to me that they were going to throw something away, but thought about what I would do, and ended up saving it for another purpose. I think that’s so great!! If we all get into this habit, we can cut down on all the garbage and junk that is accumulated! Just think what a better world we could leave for our kids.