There are hundreds of websites devoted to going green in your everyday life, and many of them write special Earth Day posts, inspiring their readers to take new steps towards sustainability. Treehugger has a great primer if you’ve never come across this type of post.
This particular list is a little different. Since our specialty is art of the eco-friendly variety, we decided to share some of creative ways to go green as you make beautiful works of art. All of these ideas are designed to keep materials out of the waste stream in a useful, aesthetically-pleasing way—in other words, upcycling!
1. Mix the old with the new: Turning recycled junk into fabulous art is a great idea in theory, but it’s important to make sure you don’t end up with something that looks like recycled junk. Try mixing some recycled supplies with some high-quality art materials. You can transform an old plastic food container into a stylish pencil holder or vase if you cover it with beautiful, handmade paper or bright, eco-friendly paint. Bottle caps, old wrapping paper, postcards and photographs can also be paired with new art supplies to make something unique.
2. Nature makes life more beautiful—return the favor! Whether you have acres of land or a little studio apartment with a tiny potted plant on the window sill, your life is enriched by the beauty of the natural world. Have you ever thought of bringing your artistic abilities into nature? You can collect stones to make garden paths in unique designs (try Craigslist or Freecycle for free sources) or use fallen branches and tree trunks to make rustic fences and benches. If your garden is limited to potted plants, try making your own decorative plant labels—cut up sturdy plastic containers or lids, then paint them (including the plant type if you choose).
3. Clothes that keep on giving: When a beloved item of clothing gets a little holey, it’s easy to turn the pattern, color and material you love into something new. Like to knit? Cut a long piece of clothing (like pajama pants) into one thin, continuous strip of fabric “yarn,” and give your next scarf or hat a totally unique texture. Almost any shirt or skirt can be turned into a pillowcase or tote bag with some scissors and simple sewing skills.
4. Jewelry with a (re)purpose: You don’t have to throw out jewelry that’s gone out of style. Lay out all the pieces you no longer wear, and pretend you’re at a bead store. Poach individual beads and clasps from your collection, and use them to make new jewelry. You can also transform them into ornaments, mixed-media art materials or hip clothing embellishments (think J.Crew, but much cheaper).
5. Don’t forget your friends: If you have any artistic or crafty friends, host an art party or craft supply swap. Chances are you have supplies that you’re just not interested in using anymore. Maybe you have a friend who’s dying to try them! Either ask people to simply swap items at the event, or make it into a hands-on art party, with everyone sharing their materials, know-how and inspiration.