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Seven tips to make your art practice more sustainable

1. Step into your power!

When we as artists step up to the plate and feel empowered to make change, we can move mountains! We are the creators of the world, so we are best placed to inspire change. We are the visionaries, the bright sparks, and we need to be the change makers. Let's wield our power for good. Let's take on the troubles we face with the attitude that we CAN do something about it and we WILL!

2. Use what you already have

Delve into your stash of art materials and rediscover things you already have. Make it a priority to try and find solutions within your existing tools rather than defaulting to buying new things. There have been so many times I have duplicated purchases, simply because I forgot that I already had the same item at home! There's a lot of opportunity to creatively repurpose things within our existing hoard rather than buying gazillions of separate purpose-built tools. You will save yourself a fortune too!

3. Think carefully about new purchases

The biggest crime we can make to the environment as consumers is to waste the things we buy. So nip waste in the bud- at the point of purchase! Feel into the reasons for buying. Do I really need this? Will I use it? Do I have a particular project in mind or am I just buying to stash? Can this purchase wait a week or two so I make sure I really want it? Am I just buying to cheer myself up? Can I really afford this? Can I use something else I already have at home instead? 

4. Become curious about your art materials

As conscious consumers we often look at the ingredients list on the packaged food we buy. But do we really know what's in the art materials we buy? Become curious about where they have come from. How are these pigments produced? Do you care that bone black is made from real bones?! Do you care about the working conditions of cobalt miners in the DRC? Start to wonder whether there are better choices to make when you're in the art shop. 

5. Use recycled materials

This isn't for everyone, but some artists make a whole career out of using recycled materials. You could start closer to home by recycling your own waste materials- for example, by using both sides of your paper when you're doing practice work, and reusing your tools as many times as possible before they have to be discarded. Use as few disposable items in your practice as possible. You may inherit materials from other artists who no longer want or use them- a great way to stop things going to landfill. Maybe you could swap and share materials with friends? 

6. Be mindful of how you dispose of your waste

There are some really positive choices we can make in the way we dispose of our materials. If you have leftover paint, for example, use up as much as possible from your pallette before you throw it away. You can get pallettes that keep acrylic paints wet for longer- which means that you can use up the paint over many days, weeks or even months before it becomes unusable. Or you can simply spritz with water and cover to keep it wet between sessions. You may like to paint your leftovers into an art journal or sketchbook- these quick marks made by trying to get all the paint off your brushes can make great starting points for journal pages. Think carefully before you wash paint down the drain. Let the (acrylic) painty water evaporate and leave the paint scraps to be peeled off into the bin instead of washing them down the drain. Micro-plastics in our waterways can be harmful to aquatic life. You can also try to put as much as possible in your local authority recycling scheme rather than simply into the general waste which generally goes to landfill or gets incinerated.

7. Find your tribe

As the saying goes, many hands make light work. We need our community around us to support and lift us up. When we see that we're not alone, it gives us momentum. Find your fellow sustainability-conscious artists. You may like to join my Facebook Group

(originally published on 5th October 2018)

Rose WildsmithComment