SUSTAINABLE LIVING

Eco-friendly Art Supplies & Green Tips for Artists

Art is a great contribution to the world: it inspires us and improves us. However, working with oils, acrylics, resins, and other art-related chemicals can often do serious damage to the environment. It is important to remember that protecting our planet is just as important as bringing beauty to it. Here are some helpful tips and art supplies to keep your art practices as environmentally friendly as possible.

Choosing grounds, supports, and media made entirely or partially from recycled materials is a great way to make environmentally friendly art without sacrificing any of the quality. Everything from the table that holds your supplies, the canvas, paper or board you work on, to the paints or pencils you use come in environmentally friendly forms. Recycled materials reduce the waste being created and limit the natural resources being destroyed.

  1. READ THE WARNING LABELS: Toxic Supplies – By knowing what materials are toxic and by limiting their use, you can help improve the overall environmental impact of your studio.
  2. Limit Your Waste: Buy Conservatively – Buying too much of any material is the leading cause of waste creation. Once you’ve decided on what material you are purchasing, make sure you buy conservatively. Plan ahead and get just enough material to complete the project.
  3. If you can’t preserve or reuse your leftover paint for whatever reason, make sure you properly dispose of it. Improperly disposed supplies can get into the water supply, into the soil and ingested by nearby plants and animals. Not following proper disposal methods could poison your garden or yard, your pets, and even yourself.
  4. RECYCLING BOXES, BAGS, CONTAINERS – So you’ve used up all of your paints and are left with an empty jar or tube. What do you do next? Paper products, glass, and metal cans are recyclable as part of regular recycling collection. Check labels on all plastic material to see what is recyclable.

 Glue 

Le Petite Matisse Craft Glue from Etsy

$4 per (1) 4 oz. – $8 per (1) 8 oz.

  • Handmade using water, organic gluten free flour, organic distilled vinegar, organic sugar, citric acid and potassium sorbate
  • Perfect for projects younger kids or toddlers might be helping with or will handle once completed
  • Made in the USA

Muti-purpose adhesive & sealant (good super glue substitute) from Eco-Bond

$5.99 

  • Zero VOC
  • Non-petroleum based
  • 100% Non-Toxic and Solvent free
  • Made in the USA

 Scissors 

Westcott KleenEarth® Recycled 8″ Shears from Amazon

$7.10 per (1) pair

  • Composed of 70% Recycled Plastic: 30% Post Consumer Stainless Steel

 Chalk Markers

MoodClue White Liquid Chalk Markers (also available in colors!) from Eco-Friendly Crafts

$7.95 per set of (2) or $9.95 per set of (4)

  • Non-toxic and eco-friendly
  • Dust-free and odorless

 Dry Erase Markers

AusPen Refillable Whiteboard Markers and Ink from AusPen

Prices vary

  • Made from 100% recycled aluminum and are recycled
  • Refillable AND replaceable nibs
  • Ink is non-toxic and harsh chemical-free

 Crayons

Eco-Kids Eco-Crayons from Eco-Friendly Crafts (*note: Eco-Friendly Crafts offers a wide variety of eco-friendly crayon options in a variety of shapes and colors!)

$7.99 for a pack of 10

  • Made from Bees wax, carnuba wax, soy wax, and mineral pigments.
  • Made in the USA

 Sturdy Tape 

Biodegradeable Kraft Paper Tape from EcoEnclose

$8.25 per (1) 60 yd. roll

  • Renewable and biodegradable plant-derived adhesive & backing
  • Awesome for large-scale cardboard construction projects
  • Made in the USA
  • Full dislcosure, this is our packaging supplier, and we can attest they’re great to work with and are doing lots of cool stuff to change their industry!

SPRAY FIXATVIE FOR CHALKS AND PASTELS

Make your own from skim milk!

$0 (or, well…whatever the milk costs…) 😉 

  • Using skim milk in a fine mist spray bottle, gently spray artwork in a side-to-side motion, from a far enough distance that you don’t get wet splotches. Repeat light applications as necessary (usually 1-3 layers).
  • Not only does this work immediately upon drying, it stands the test of time well. The active ingredient is casein (a milk protein) – it’s non-toxic and considered extremely archival.

 Paints, Stains and Glazes


Tempera Paint for paper projects

Chroma Green Series from Dick Blick Art Supplies

$2.32 per (1) pint and $13.08 per (1) gallon (via the website – in-store prices may vary)

  • 100% detergent-free and non-toxic
  • Uses 25% less energy to produce and packaging is made of recycled products

Paints for small wood or craft projects

Milkpaint from The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company

Prices vary – $4.00 per (1) 1 oz. sample (multiple options), $12.95 per (1) pint, $19.95 per (1) quart, $49.95 per (1) gallon

*Additional purchasing options, coupons and rebates are available.*

  • All-natural, environmentally safe, non-toxic and is the First USDA Certified Biobased Paint
  • Comes in a powder form, so small batches can be mixed (and you can mix your own colors!)
  • Made in the USA
  • Work with local vendors in almost all states – check their list here before you purchase online to save delivery cost (extra green!)

Natural Wood Stains

Bio Poly Natural from Earthpaint

Prices start at $16.89 per (1) pint and $74 per (1) gallon (vary by color)

  • Made from natural pine resin, special linseed oil and pure beeswax
  • No polyurethane and zero petrochemicals
  • Available in pints for small projects and comes in 40+ colors

Natural Wood Wax

Zero VOC Wax from The Real Milk Paint Co.

$16.99 per (1) 8 oz. container, $26.99 per (1) 16 oz. container

  • Made from Walnut oil (head’s up for those with allergy concerns!), bee’s wax, carnauba wax, and drier.
  • Non-VOC
  • Made in the USA (Hohenwald, Tennessee) and available at many local retailers in almost all 50 states

Epoxy (Mod podge alternative)

EcoEpoxy from EarthSafe Finishes

$29.95 per (1) 8 oz. kit, $59.95 per (1) 32 oz. kit

  • Waterbased,  VOC Free and  BPA Free
  • Made in the USA

Spray Paint

The best option is probably a Non-VOC paint with an airless sprayer system. We love this option from Preval…

Preval Sprayer System from Preval

$9.99 per (1) reusable can + paint reservoir on their site (there are less expensive options elsewhere on the web and at box stores). 

  • Refillable Spray System allows you to use your own ecofriendly paints – and save extra for later!
  • Uses a small amount of ecofirendly propellant
  • Both the aluminum aerosol power unit and the glass jar can be recycled
  • A grip handle attachment is available for those who have arthritis or find spraying painful

….BUT if you’d rather buy the paint ready to go, a good alternative would be to try

Plutonium Spray Paint from Plutonium Paint

Prices vary with quantity, but start at $12.95 per (1) can with a 3-can minimum order via their website

  • Plutonium™ reduces the carbon footprint of aerosol spray by 50%, by using a 70% pigment load and 30% propellant, making it more eco-friendly than leading brands.
  • No CFCs + mold and mildew resistant.
  • Their cans are made from tin-free steel and use materials that eliminate almost all carbon emissions, copper, or water use during production.
  • Work with local vendors in almost all 50 states (check their list here) but are also available on Amazon, at Dick Blick and other major stores.
  • Made in the USA (Detroit, MI)

Gesso

Eco Gesso Kit from Natural Earth Paint

32.95 for 1 kit (makes 50 fl. oz. of gesso – enough to prime 10-15 medium-sized canvases)

  • 100% non-toxic and vegan
  • Made with French marble dust, limestone powder, titanium dioxide pigment and plant-based binders, this gesso is superb quality.
  • Can be mixed as needed
  • Made in the USA

 Paper, laminates & Printing Ink


Construction Paper

Tru-Ray Construction Paper from Pacon

$2.98 per (1) package (50 sheets) via Dick Blick’s website

  • Contains 50% recycled fiber content
  • Acid-Free
  • Sustainably sourced
  • Made in the USA

copy Paper & Natural-Colored Cardstock

Tree-Free Printing Paper and Banana Paper Cardstock from EcoPaper

$79 per (1) carton of copier paper (5,000 sheets) or $10.99 per (1) ream of banana paper 

  • Made from 100% Sugar Cane waste/tree-free agricultural bio-products coupled with 100% post consumer content
  • Fully biodegradable and recyclable
  • Made through a sustainable, eco-friendly manufacturing process
  • Chlorine free, non-bleached

Multi-Colored Cardstock, lux papers & Envelopes

Paper collections from French Papers

Prices vary

  • Offer organic, recycled, post-consumer waste, acid free, lignin free, soy ink compatible, and FSC ® certified paper collections
  • Produced in mills powered by fully renewable hydroelectric generators
  • Made in the USA

Sticker and Label Sheets

Compostable  or 100% Recycled PCW Sticker Sheets from Pure Labels

Prices vary, but start at $9.95 per (1) box – 25 sheets

  • All-Natural and Unbleached with naturally occurring fibers and tone
  • Compostable and Biodegradable
  • Inkjet and laser compatible
  • Made in the USA

Self-Laminating Sheets

The only good alternative I’ve found for this is just to skip the lamination altogether and use a reusable plastic sleeve instead. Although there is at least 1 biodegradable option for lamination machines, I couldn’t find anything similar for those who just want a few of the DIY sheets.

SELF-ADHESIVE VINYL

PVC-Free Self Adhesive Vinyl from Eco-Friendly Crafts

Prices vary depending on sheet/roll size, but start at $1 for (1) 12″ x 22″ sheet and go up to $6 for a 24″ x 1 yd. roll

  • All-Natural and Unbleached with naturally occurring fibers and tone
  • Compostable and Biodegradable
  • Inkjet and laser compatible
  • Made in the USA

Home Printing Supplies

Ink Cartridges and Toners from InkPal

Prices Vary

  • Available for almost every major brand of home printer
  • Less expensive than most name brand inks
  • Cartridges are made from 100% recycled components
  • Use eco-friendly soy inks and toners
  • Made in the USA

 Craft Foam, Felt & Fabric


Foam Craft Sheets 

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any great USA (or elsewhere)-made options, the thing about foam is that it’s one of the LEAST eco-friendly products. Typically, it contains the worst kind of plastic and, by nature, isn’t made to be biodegradable. If you find any good substitute that fits what I’m looking for below, please be sure to add it in the comments below!

  • Non-PVC, BPA-free, Formahide-free (note: acceptable formahide levels vary country to country, so “free” may not really mean zero).
  • Biodegradable

Felt

Organic Plant-Dyed Wool Felt from A Child’s Dream

$14.50 per (1) 18×18 sheet

  • Bioland Organic Certified
  • Plant-Dyed

PremiumEco-Fi Felt from Eco-Friendly Crafts

Prices vary, but average $1 per 12″ x 9″ sheets

  • 100% Post-Consumer Waste (made from recycled plastic bottles)
  • Thicker and more durable than the Classic Eco-Fi felt (also offered by Eco-Friendly Crafts)
  • Made in the USA

Yarns, Twine, Rope, Flannels

Specific collections from Organic Cotton Plus

Prices vary 

Ribbon

Eco-Friendly Cotton Ribbon from Etsy

$5.75 per (1) yard

  • Reusable
  • 100% cotton
  • Non-toxic dyes

 Wood


Balsa Wood

Any product from Taskboard (Balsa-wood alternative)

Prices Vary

  •  Forested from a sustainable source
  • Biodegradable
  • Made in the USA

Any product from Balsa Central

Prices Vary

  • Low Production CO2 Footprint
  • Plantation-Grown, Sustainably and ethically-sourced
  • Biodegradable

Plywood

Look for FSC-Certified Wood – The Home Depot has been carrying FSC-Certified since 1994, but almost all of the big box stores sell it now. If it’s not clearly marked, ask someone to direct you to the proper choices. Don’t forget to check with a local supplier first though if you have some around your area!


 Etcetera


Picture Frames

Ecocare Frames from Bainbridge Nielsen

Prices vary, but start at $16.99 for an 11″ x 14″ frame

  • Made from sustainable wood alternatives and reclaimed plantation woods, which do not contribute to deforestation
  • All elements are either recyclable or biodegradable
  • The frame finish is waterbased and free of chemicals and solvents
  • Frames sized 8″ × 10″ and larger include an acid-free mat

Glitter!

Biodegradable Glitter from Universal Soul

Prices vary, but average between $9.99 for (1) 6g bottle

  • Completely biodegradable
  • Packaged in reusable & recyclable glass jars
  • Vegan/cruelty-free & ocean-safe
  • Made in the USA

Feel free to leave any questions, additions or suggestions in the comments below!

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