Sustainable Creativity

“Sustainable” is a term used a lot these days, from sustainable agriculture, building materials, to products such as clothing. But what does sustainable mean for creativity and those that love do-it-yourself and arts and crafts?

Upcycling has been around for a long time now, thrift stores and hand-me-downs even longer. But for many of us, we don’t think of these options first when it comes to arts and crafts supplies. Instead we think of Joann’s Fabrics, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Amazon, etc. And often we either can’t afford the supplies and equipment we wish we had or else we have so much invested and so many supplies that our cupboards or even whole rooms are overflowing. But recently the idea of a more sustainable and even almost minimalist way of being a creative spirit has started appealing to me more and more.

Old paper mache box, given new lease on life after being primed and painted with acrylic. Now serves as my stationary box.

Old paper mache box, given new lease on life after being primed and painted with acrylic. Now serves as my stationary box.

I am finding a new freedom and rekindled love of arts and crafts, as I view all my hobbies from Tatting, and DIY projects to painting and gardening, through the perspective of how can I be more sustainable, and less of a mass production consumer? How can I save money, save space, and simplify life, while enjoying being creative? How can I even challenge my creativity more? How can I be more sustainable?

Instead of shopping at the average arts and crafts stores, now I am branching out and looking for supplies in less obvious places. Places that reduce the impact on the environment, help support locals or the local community, and often cost less.

My first choice when it comes to shopping is to go to a local resale/thrift shop. Almost everywhere I have lived has had a small thrift shop run by local volunteers, often retired men and woman, and typically all proceeds from sales go straight back into the community. Some of my favorite shops have been called things like: Angel’s Guild, Thrifty Grandma’s, Save Thrift Store, and the Peninsula Guild #1.

Second choice would be large chain thrift shops, that also benefit the community, such as: Goodwill (Website ), Value Village ( Website ), Habitat for Humanity Website , St Vincent De Paul Thrift Stores Seattle Website .

One thing I do tend to buy new is artist paints, such as acrylics, and watercolors. But if I am painting a room, furniture, or upcycling an item, I will buy my non-artist paints from Home Depot or Lowes, etc., from the “miss mixed” section (most paint retailers have this discounted area). The paint prices for gallon, quart, and pint sizes is drastically reduced, and buying these paints (if you are able to find a color that you like) save the paint from becoming a waste product.

I also make use of the Offerup app, the Facebook MarketPlace, and Facebook local Groups buy, sell, trade, and free items (most towns and counties have them) for creative supplies. Very rarely I will look on Craigslist and for supplies, but they can also be viable options. Yard sales are also a fun, affordable, way to purchase supplies, especially if you enjoy the thrill of the treasure hunt.

Other great sources for supplies at either a low price or even free, are regional stores and events, some of my favorites in the Pacific Northwest are listed below.

Free treasures from Zero Landfill event

Free treasures from Zero Landfill event

In Seattle, WA

In Eugene, OR

In Boise, ID

Last but not least, when it comes to tools and equipment for our hobbies, cost and storage can be prohibitive. A few options, especially for new hobbies that you are trying out, is to have a rotating craft day with friends. Each time you gather, you could try another craft, a craft that you or a friend already own supplies and tools for, or you can share the cost of new supplies. Another option, great for tools, power tools, etc, is to look in your area for a Tool Library. Tool libraries check out tools and often offer instruction on use, for a variety of equipment. This is a great way to try out a new tool or to have access to tools that you would not use often enough to justify purchase and/or storage. A few examples of tool libraries in the Seattle area are King County Tool Library , West Seattle Tool Library , and Washington State Recycling Association Tool Library .