Sustainable art: How artists can practice sustainability

Sustainable art focuses on eco-friendly practices, using materials like recycled paper and non-toxic paints to minimize environmental harm. It blends creativity with conservation, aiming to make art that's as kind to the planet as it is inspiring.

In the dense Borneo jungle, I held my sketchbook like a shield. The air weighed heavy with wet earth and leaves. A hornbill, curious and bold, sat above me. Its beak was the yellow of ripe bananas.

My pen danced on the page, each stroke a small victory. I stopped, looked at the sketchbook's spine. Recycled paper. A minor detail, yet it felt like stars falling into place.

There it was—my passion for drawing the wild and my pledge to keep it alive, sharing the same space, like two animals at a watering hole. It was good.

Why the Earth Needs Your Art To Be Green

Years in the field, sketchbook always close. Tigers in Ranthambore, elephants in Sri Lanka.

I've drawn them all.

But a choice stands before me, before us. Our art can be a quiet observer of the world's splendor, or it can fight to keep that splendor alive.

Sustainability. It's not just chatter for us artists; it's a duty. The pencils we use, the digital trails we leave, even the fate of our botched sketches—they all mark the earth we draw from.

In these words, we'll dig into the bones of greening your art. We'll speak of earth-friendly materials, of shrinking the carbon footprint your computer casts, and of artists who walk the green path ahead of us. It's a journey worth taking, for the planet that fills our pages deserves nothing less.

The Shift to Digital: A Double-Edged Sword

My art begins in a sketchbook, always has.

The feel of paper, the slide of ink or graphite—it's a kind of magic. But freelancing led me to new hunting grounds: the digital world.

Efficiency called me there. The quickness, the ease of changes, the instant meeting of a client's whims. Yet, this shift carries a cost, one not just counted in dollars.

Studies say that by 2040, the ICT sector—our PCs, laptops, and yes, our treasured digital tablets—will claim 14% of the world's carbon footprint. That's over half of what all the cars, planes, and ships combined spew into the air.

And the metals in these gadgets? Cobalt, lithium—they're torn from the earth through mining that drinks power and spits out pollution.

So, we stand at a crossroads. Our tools, both old and new, leave marks not just on paper or screen, but on the very world that inspires us. Choose wisely.

Material Choices: The Price We Don't See

Old-school art supplies, they've got their own sins. Take paper. If it's not born from recycling or a sustainable forest, we're axing trees just to doodle. And the chemicals in some paints and markers? Best not to think too hard on that.

But stack this against the digital world, and the balance doesn't favor our shiny tablets and pens. Making these gadgets pumps out 580 million tons of CO2 each year.

And don't forget the software's home—data centers. They're gluttons for electricity, gobbling nearly 1% of the world's supply and belching out 0.3% of global CO2.

So here we stand, one foot in the past, one in the future. Both grounds are shaky. Traditional or digital, each choice leaves its scar on the earth. We're artists; we make choices every day. This one matters. Choose with care.

Global Concerns: The Butterfly Effect in Action

An ecosystem is a delicate thing. One small shift, and ripples spread. Our art is no different.

Each line we draw, each material we pick, each tap on our digital canvas—it's like a butterfly in the Amazon, insignificant alone but capable of whipping up storms.

Multiply our actions by the world's artists, and we're either fueling the fire or dousing it. It's not just the big suits and the men in power. It's us, the artists.

We've got a part in this global story. Each choice is a sentence, each action a paragraph. And the tale it tells could either be a tragedy or a turning point. Choose well.

Personal Gain: More Than Just Good Vibes

Now, let's talk about what's in it for us, aside from the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing something good.

First off, sustainable art practices can actually save us money in the long run.

Think about it: using both sides of a sketchbook page or investing in high-quality, refillable pens means fewer trips to the art store.

And let's not forget the growing market for eco-friendly art.

More and more clients are looking for artists who can create beautiful work without harming the planet.

But it goes deeper than that.

When I'm out there in the wild, sketchbook in hand, I feel a connection to the world around me. Making my art practice more sustainable strengthens that bond.

It's like I'm not just taking inspiration from nature; I'm giving back, forming a symbiotic relationship with my muse.

Artists Leading the Way: Pioneers in the Green Art Movement

While I've been on my own journey to make my art more sustainable, I've also been inspired by other artists who are doing incredible things in this space.

Take Choi Jeong Hwa, for example. This guy turns recycled materials into large-scale installations that make you rethink consumerism.

Then there's Hiroyuki Nishimura, who carves unique sculptures out of wood that's considered ‘worthless' for other purposes.

Also, Marina DeBris, who transforms ocean waste into high-end fashion. These artists are not just creating art; they're making statements, loud and clear, about the need for sustainability.

My Own Journey: Sketches and Realizations

Most of my work starts in a sketchbook.

But as I ventured into freelancing, the digital realm became a necessary part of my toolkit. This shift made me ponder the environmental cost of my choices.

I've started to incorporate more eco-friendly materials into my traditional art—like that recycled paper sketchbook I mentioned earlier.

And on the digital side, I've been more conscious about energy usage, opting for energy-efficient devices and being mindful of my digital storage needs.

For my website, I use an eco-friendly webhost: GreenGeeks.

Sustainable Art Supplies

Eco-Friendly Crayons: Color Me Responsible

First up, we've got eco-crayons. Brands like Honey Sticks and Stockmar are stepping up their game by offering crayons free from harmful substances like formaldehyde.

Sustainable Easels: Stand Up for the Planet

When it comes to easels, the Richeson brand is a game-changer. They use lyptus wood, which is not only sustainable but also harder than oak.

Portfolios That Care

Ecosmart Dura-Tote Color portfolios from Star Products are made from 100% recyclable materials. Daler-Rowney’s Cachet Portfolios are another great choice, also made from 100% recyclable material.

Paints: The Earth-Friendly Palette

Natural Earth Paint offers pigments that are earth-derived, meaning they're not toxic to the environment. Brands like Derwent and Windsor Newton offer pan-type paints that are long-lasting and come with replaceable colors, reducing container waste.

Pencils with a Conscience

When it comes to pencils, look for the FSC Certification. Brands like Onyx + Green use recycled newspapers instead of wood. Sprout Plantable Graphite pencils can even be planted when they become stubs.

Recycled Artist Papers: Sketching a Better Future

Strathmore's Recycled Gray-Toned Sketch Pad is made from 100% recycled and 30% post-consumer fiber. Bee Paper Recycled Rough Sketch Pad is another gem, made from 100% recycled, chemical-free, and biodegradable material.

Brushes That Don't Brush Off Responsibility

Eco-friendly paint brushes can be made of bamboo, corn, or animal hair. Bamboo brushes are the most common, and they come from a plant that can regenerate quickly.

Cleaning Up Your Act

For cleaning materials, go for Simple Green. They offer eco-friendly options that are not only good for the planet but also for you.

The Bigger Picture

Alright, let's zoom out for a moment and look at the bigger canvas.

We've talked about individual choices, but what about us as a community of artists?

You see, every sketch, every digital rendering, and every eco-friendly material choice is like a single brushstroke. Alone, it might not seem like much, but collectively, we can create a masterpiece of change.

Imagine if we all started sharing our sustainable art practices on social media or even within our local art communities. The ripple effect could be huge!

We could host workshops, create eco-art challenges, or even collaborate on projects that focus on environmental themes.

The point is, when we come together as a community, our impact multiplies.

Policy and Change: The Framework of Our Canvas

Now, let's talk about the rules of the game—the policies and regulations that shape our art world.

While there aren't many laws specifically targeting art supplies, broader environmental regulations do affect us.

For instance, the European Union has the REACH regulation, which restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in products, including art materials.

In the U.S., the Toxic Substances Control Act also plays a role in regulating materials that could be harmful to the environment.

But what if we, as a community, could advocate for more?

Imagine pushing for eco-labels on art supplies, similar to the organic labels on food.

Or what about tax incentives for artists who adopt sustainable practices?

The possibilities are endless, and they start with us raising our voices (or our pencils, brushes, and tablets) to advocate for change.

Final Thoughts

So, what have we learned on this little artistic journey of ours?

First off, sustainability isn't just a buzzword; it's a responsibility that we, as artists, carry on our shoulders—or should I say, on our sketchpads and tablets.

From eco-friendly papers and crayons to sustainable easels and digital practices, there are countless ways to make our art kinder to the planet.

And let's not forget the power of community and advocacy; together, we can be the change-makers, the artists of a greener tomorrow.

Call to Action

Now, it's your turn.

Pick up that recycled sketch pad, invest in those bamboo brushes, or simply share this article with a fellow artist.

Every action counts, no matter how small.

And who knows?

Your first step could inspire someone else, and theirs could inspire another.

Before you know it, we've got ourselves a beautiful, sustainable masterpiece.

Imagine this: A world where every sketch, every painting, every digital rendering is a tribute to the planet that inspires us. A world where art doesn't just imitate life; it sustains it.

Now, that's a canvas worth painting, don't you think?

Additional Resources

Alright, let's get practical.

You're pumped about making your art more sustainable, but where do you start?

Well, you're in luck!

There are plenty of resources out there to help you make the switch. Websites like Sustain the Art and Green Art Lab Alliance are treasure troves of information.


Is sustainable art more expensive?

Not necessarily. In fact, some eco-friendly materials can be cheaper, and they often last longer. Plus, think of the long-term savings for Mother Earth!

Do I have to compromise on quality?

Absolutely not! Many artists find that eco-friendly materials offer unique textures and qualities that add a new dimension to their work.

Is digital art more sustainable than traditional art?

It's a mixed bag. While digital art eliminates the need for physical materials, the tech gadgets we use have their own environmental impact. The key is to be mindful, whichever route you choose.

Can I make my existing supplies more sustainable?

You bet! Use both sides of the paper, invest in refillable pens, and repurpose old materials. Creativity knows no bounds, especially when it comes to sustainability.