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Using Sustainable Materials in Your Art

Using Sustainable Materials in Your Art main article image
Posted on September 16, 2022 by Miles Oliver

There’s nothing better than spending your days knitting a new sweater or sketching a self-portrait. But, if you’re an eco-conscious artist, you might feel a pang of guilt every time you throw away a spent tube of paint or place a new order for materials. 

There’s no escaping the reality that most artistic practices require non-renewable materials. However, with a few small changes, you can turn your hobby into a sustainable pastime that combats climate change and helps the planet. 

Foraging for Materials

Many of the materials you need for your art have to be bought from shops. However, with a little creativity, you might find alternative ways to source your materials by foraging for supplies in a sustainable way. 

If you enjoy crafting, you can take a leaf out of Bridgette Beth Collins’ book. Beth Collins uses materials that she gathers from her local “sidewalks, meadows, and woods.” She also makes use of her garden to top up her artistic supplies. 

Before you start peeling bark off trees and taking rocks home from the beach, remember that your foraging practice needs to be sustainable, too. Even if you’re circumventing industrial production lines and shipping, you still need to be aware of how you are sourcing your materials to avoid ecological damage. 

If you want to add some adventure to the mix, you might enjoy metal detecting on the beach. Metal detecting on the beach will actually clean up the local ecosystem, as you’ll be removing metals from the seaside. 

If you’re metal detecting at a saltwater beach, you’ll need to use a Pulse Induction detector. If you’re foraging in the freshwater areas, you’ll likely want to use a Very Low Frequency (VLF) detector instead. Detecting on the beach can be a ton of fun and helps protect the environment by making use of people’s litter. 

Reusing Left Overs

Foraging for materials can be a lot of fun. However, you don’t always need to head out into the great outdoors for new material. Sometimes, your own leftovers can be the best source of materials. 

Plarning is a form of art that will help your recycling efforts. Plarning uses plastic bags as its primary material. You can make all kinds of crafted goods and art from plastic bags. Common examples include bed rolls, purses, collages, and embroidery. 

If you find yourself throwing away more bottle caps and paint tubes than you’d like, you may want to consider creating more upcycled art. Upcycled art focuses on using the materials you have left over to create new works. Folks like Yuken Teruya and Martha Haversham use “waste” to produce new paintings, sculptures, and collages that find a new home in art galleries rather than dumps. 

Sustainable Shopping

Sometimes you have no way to avoid buying new materials. You shouldn’t feel bad about buying yarn, paint, or canvases that support your artistic practice. However, you can make your practice more sustainable by sourcing materials that are sustainably produced and packaged. 

For example, if you love spending your free time knitting, you can make the practice more sustainable by sourcing the right materials. Sustainable yarns usually cost a little more and use fibers from sheep or alpacas. Try to avoid yarns that use a lot of acrylic, polyester, and nylon as these yarns are probably commercially produced and use a lot of fossil fuel to create the finished product. 

When looking for sustainable materials, be vigilant and dig deeper into the claims that companies make about their product. Unfortunately, many businesses now engage in “greenwashing” and trump-up claims about their product. Avoid misleading claims and do your best to find products that support the environment and work for your budget. 

Promoting Environmental Awareness 

Art can change the way we think about the world around us. Even your own homemade creations can have a big impact on folks who see them. So, when you create a sustainably sourced piece of art, be sure to show it off and help folks learn from your creation. 

Art is a particularly good way to teach kids about environmental awareness. By creating art that follows the 3Rs (reduce, reuse recycle) you show children that anything is possible with an eco-friendly approach. 

If you want to maximize your impact, consider hosting a few art-making classes and encourage participants to bring their own recycled materials. By pooling your resources, you can help folks create amazing art out of bottle caps, plastic bags, leftover paints, and small balls of yarn. 


Using sustainable materials in your art can be a lot of fun. You have to get creative when foraging for supplies and will learn to make the best use of leftover supplies. If you have a flair for community projects, consider hosting art-making events that promote environmental awareness and ensure that everyone has access to the materials they need.

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Using Sustainable Materials in Your Art

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