There’s a green wave rolling through the art industry, as museums and galleries in across the country have recently unveiled art exhibits that center around climate change. Over in the UK, this year’s Grantham Art Prize honored emerging artists who collaborated directly with climate and environmental researchers from Imperial College London.
Showcasing climate-related art in order to raising awareness is essential to saving the planet, but it’s also important for artists and institutions to maintain sustainable practices behind-the-scenes. For museums, resources like The Green Museum: A Primer on Environmental Practice, a handbook for sustainability, have helped lay the foundation for change. Here are just ten simple ways individual creatives can follow suit and ensure their studios are “green” too –all while maintaining their own unique design styles.
Limit your paper use.
In this day and age, there’s no excuse to be using up hundreds of sheets of paper. Use a tablet and stylus instead.
“Apps and tablets have improved to the point where I have pretty much gone paperless when it comes to making roughs as well as digitally signing contracts,” illustrator Scott Balmer tells us. “It just makes things easier to work with without having a pile of paper sitting around the desk as well as not having to print out contracts to sign and scanning them in to send back.”
If you have to use paper, turn to an environmentally-conscious supplier like Hahnemühle, who created fine art paper from sustainable materials like bamboo and cotton. If you need pens, opt for something like the Pilot’s B2P pens, which are made out of recycled water bottles.
Be conscious about where you shop.
“I also don’t purchase equipment from the companies involved in environmental scandals,” illustrator Anna Xenz tells us. Before making a purchase, look into the manufacturer.
Giki is a mobile app that allows you to scan the barcodes of thousands of household products and see how they measure up environmentally before you buy. Emily Henderson, the world-renowned designer, HGTV host, and best-selling author of STYLED has a great guide to sustainable home products, ranging from cleaning to storage.
DickBlick.com also has a ‘Go Green’ guide to help you get started. Keep an eye out for companies that use sustainable practices inside their facilities, and look into where the wood for your furniture and easels come from, too–the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies eco-friendly products, so look for their label.
It might go without saying, but shop locally wherever you can. Using locally-sourced materials will save gas and fuel, lowering your carbon footprint.
Eliminate or reduce harmful ingredients.
You can also contact your supplier for a safety data sheet to see if they use any toxic ingredients in their products. Look out for harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, cadmium and, of course, lead. The Earth Pigments Company and similar brands offer an array of non-toxic pigments.
If there’s no getting around using toxic materials, remember to dispose of them responsibly by bringing them to a designated hazardous waste facility. This goes for the chemistry used in film photography too. When looking for paints for your walls, browse zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) options.
Even water-soluble paints (watercolor, gouache, etc.) can damage the environment, so avoid rinsing brushes over the drain. If you’re unsure, check in with a nearby recycling center for detailed instructions.
Eliminate or reduce plastics.
This past summer, the Richmond Art Centre in British Columbia banned the use of glitter. It might seem like a small change, but plastics–ranging from microplastics like glitter to plastic doughs for sculpture–can wind up in the ocean, where they kill marine wildlife. Instead of plastic glitter, opt for eco-glitter, which is made from biodegradable Eucalyptus cellulose. If you bring lunch to the studio, choose reusable tupperware containers and glass water bottles.
If you’re in the market for a new studio, consider using solar or wind power. If not, there are some easier ways to use less power without remodeling. Keep your thermostat dial pre-programmed, and install some energy-efficient windows to manage temperatures during the warmer and colder months.
Check with your energy provider to see if they offer green power for an affordable fee. When you leave the studio for the day, unplug all your devices.
If you need artificial lighting in your studio, opt for energy-efficient LED bulbs instead of outdated incandescents. This swap might seem simple on the surface, but it can cut your energy consumption by about 80%.
Build a home studio.
According to reports, if one million people stayed home from work just one day per week, we’d reduce carbon emissions by three million tons. If possible, build a studio space at home–or at least bike or walk to the studio if you have to commute.
Join Climate Neutral Now.
Open to individuals and businesses alike, this UN Climate Change initiative allows you to measure, reduce, and compensate for your carbon footprint. Encourage galleries, museums, and art supply stores in your area to do the same.
Change your faucets.
In the United States, look for the WaterSense label on your water faucets. Aerators and similar faucet accessories will reduce the water flow of your sinks and save gallons of water, without affecting performance. Check all your appliances for leaks to avoid any unnecessary waste.
You don’t need all brand-new decor to create the studio of your dreams. For her part, Henderson likes at least half of her pieces to be vintage. While finding your own design style, browse vintage and antique stores and thrift shops–you’ll discover unique items and help cut down on landfill waste at the same time.
Reuse anything and everything.
Many contemporary artists use trash and other recycled materials to form the basis of their work, but even if thats not your preferred aesthetic, a “waste not, want not” ethos can also be applied to everyday items you use in the studio.
To avoid wasting paint, for example, cover your palette and keep unused paint in the fridge so it doesn’t dry up. Keep old canvases, and paint over them. When shipping and receiving artworks, hold onto the packaging for future use.
Swap out your single-use batteries for rechargeable ones. Save and reuse water, solvents, or oils for cleaning paint brushes. Before throwing materials away, check in with the local artist community to see if someone else can use them. Henderson also has another helpful guide for donating and recycling used items, appliances, and even renovation materials. You can find it here.
Illustrator Steven Millington even has a DIY approach to making sustainable pens. “I use ‘cola pens’ made from old soda cans cut up and formed into dip pens and using old matted up watercolor brushes for the handles,” he tells us. “I also occasionally use a brown paper from my sponsor’s supply, which is made from old coffee cups.”
Interested in learning more ways to make your space reflect your personal style? Check out Emily Henderson’s new Skillshare Original, Style Your Space: Creative Tips and Techniques for Interior Design.
Header/thumbnail credit: Skillshare student Yena L. for Lisk Feng’s Skillshare Original Creative Digital Illustration: Learn to Use Adobe Fresco.
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