handmade can save the world

We as artists are influential. We create beautiful, interesting, unique and functional things for people to buy, use and love. And we can make a huge impact on the Earth by making smarter choices when it comes to our art, supplies, materials, processes and even how we share our art.

This Earth Day, I challenge you to make changes in the ways you make. It's not as hard as you think to help save the Earth with your art! Most of the tips not only save the Earth but save you money. What art business can't use some extra money?

Stuffed monster made entirely from upcycled fabrics by Lu & Ed
Some ideas to make your art more eco:

  • Upcycle materials - you can buy textile discards from thrift stores such as pajamas, sheets, pillow cases, sweaters, tee shirts, blankets, curtains, skirts, and dresses to get yardage of fabric to sew with. You can buy jewelry, purses, hair accessories, and more to remove the hardware from and upcycled the components to create new and interesting products. You can buy knit blankets to unravel to use in fiber arts, and wool sweaters to felt. There are SO many possibilities, they just require a little imagination!
  • Recycle - packaging. You can reuse food boxes instead of buying packaging that is produced in a high energy plant - even boxes made from 100% recycled materials are still produced in a plant that produces energy waste and pollution. It's better for the Earth to just reuse boxes - ask your friends for boxes to ship in, too! This keeps them out of landfills and you can add a note asking people to recycle the boxes or even send them back to you for a coupon! If you ship in bubble mailers you can also ask your friends to save these to be reused as well! I once reused a box from an order, and then the person I sent it to sent it back to me, then I sent it back out and it was returned to me, and then I sent it out again! That one box was used six times before it was recycled. 
  • Recycle - paper. If you buy handmade or from boutiques you probably get a ton of tissue paper. Reuse it in your orders or to make tissue poms to decorate your craft show booth with! If you receive thank you cards, reuse them by cutting the front panel off and writing your message on the back of them - this cuts down on paper waste by giving a card a second life and reduces pollution from the production of paper since you aren't buying as many new thank you cards. You can also use the front of a card for hang tags or price tags at shows! Instead of buying bubble wrap or packing peanuts to package orders, use junk mail and fliers. You can shred them up to cushion breakables and reduce landfill waste and pollution that comes from factories producing packaging supplies. 
  • Swap! Rather than discard unused or unwanted supplies, set up a swap circle with other artists. For instance, I get my fur bits from other monsters makers and fabric yardage from friends. I send buttons and beads to my friends who make jewelry, and fabric bits to my friends who make small fabric items, quilts or rag wreathes. This keeps unused craft supplies out of landfills and helps you get your hands on materials you can't find in your area, making your work even more unique!
  • Save scraps - instead of throwing away tiny fabric, yarn, felt, or thread bits, save them and dice them into little bits to use as stuffing! 
  • Keep plastic out of landfills - try to avoid buying products in clear plastic packaging. It is not recyclable and it doesn't ever truly break down and it releases toxic chemical into the environment. If you cannot avoid buying products in clear plastic packaging, reuse it - Turn it into snazzy packing for your products! Cut the top off, insert your product, and fold a piece of paper or cardboard in half and staple it shut to hold in your pretties. You can use a stamp or doodle on the paper to pretty up your packaging. You can also reuse zip-lock bags this way as well! 
  • Create during the day - work during the day whenever possible to avoid using excess electricity to light your work space. When you do need to use lights, make sure your over head and accent lighting fixtures have compact CFL bulbs which use much less energy. I like the daylight bulbs in studio, they provide a great light for crafting that doesn't distort colors. Plus CFL bulbs save you money!
  • Unplug - everything! When not in use unplug your lamps, sewing machine, iron, computer, glue gun, tools - everything! At the end of the day in your studio nothing needs to be plugged in to leech excess energy. Bonus, you'll save on your power bill! 
  • Recycle plastic containers for storage - don't throw away your spice shakers, pasta jars, or coffee tins! You can fill pasta jars and spice containers with beads, buttons, thread spools, zippers, hardware, and more! Remove labels from coffee tins and fill with fabric bits (you can even sort them by color!),  roll your fabric yardage and sort it by colors, prints, shades and so on and put rows of coffee tins along shelves - easily see what you have on hand and decorate your studio! You can also use coffee tins to sort yarn, hold tools, papers (a tin for each month of the year?) and more!
  • Thrift like a pro - Have a craft show coming up? Instead of going all out and buying a new folding table, table cloths, chairs, displays, and all that jazz, take a day to go junking. My display is 100% thrifted: an old shutter I painted in my brands colors($2), a table I've had 7 years that I put a thrifted sheet over as a table cloth ($2), a candle holder I use to hang Mon-stors on ($3), a bookcase that was gifted to me, and a suitcase ($4). My entire display cost $11 and did not contribute one bit to factory pollution or energy waste that comes with buying furniture new. Get creative! (Upcoming posts with ideas for thrift store craft show displays coming soon!)
  • Promote like an eco-warrior - Buy promotional materials that are printed on recycled, biodegradable paper! Or even better, make your own. Buy a stamp with all your info on it and recycle paper, card stock and cardboard. Not only will it save you money in the long run but it will add a personal touch to your products! 
  • Stamp it - instead of ordering address labels, order a stamp! Again, it will save you a lot of money and reduces factory printing pollution and waste! 
  • Don't print a shipping invoice to put in with orders - instead, send an email! Save paper that you know they are just going to throw away. If not sending one makes you uncomfortable, send an email asking if they WANT a printed receipt. If they don't, don't waste the paper! 
  • Bag it - instead of having plastic or paper bags at craft shows, recycle tee shirts into totes - it literally takes about five minutes, and you can offer them for free or as an add on for $1-$3 - and you are keep textile discards from filling landfills! Ask friends and family for tee shirts they no longer use or do a tee shirt drive! You can also ask big corporations for their textile discards to keep them out of landfills!
Are you an eco-warrior? How many of the above suggestions do you already do? Do you have more suggestions for how handmade can save the world? Leave a comment! Together, the handmade community can save the world! 


  1. Great ideas! I just recently got a stamp, and I reuse packing materials all the time. I use gift tissue paper inside that my friends & family save for me after bday & holiday gifts. Happy Earth Day!

  2. great ideas. other ways to save -- buy in bulk (with other artists if possible) to save packaging and costs. car pool to shows that you are doing together and always pack your own water (in a reusable, of course) and healthy snacks! :)