Craftivism bunting strung

Published on February 8th, 2012 | by Becky Striepe

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What does green crafting mean to you?

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recycled book page bunting

I’ve had a few conversations recently about eco-friendly crafts and supplies that have made it really clear to me that green crafting is not a black and white thing. Like so many other things, there’s definitely a continuum with green crafting, and lately I’ve started to wonder how “green” a project needs to be for it to be an eco craft.

This is something I touched on on my personal site when I got into what upcycling really means, but upcycling and green crafting aren’t always the same. For me, I think green crafting includes projects that do one or more of these things:

  • Uses organic or upcycled materials and low-impact alternatives, like zero-VOC paints and low-VOC adhesives.
  • Diverts waste from the landfill.
  • Replaces something disposable with something reusable.

But what about projects that do follow these rules, but also contain other components? Maybe you’re making a snack bag, but the cotton you use isn’t organic. Is that still a green craft? What about using reclaimed materials to create an art piece that also includes new paper?

What makes a craft green?

I have sort of a weird double-standard here. In my own craft room, I’m kind of a stickler most of the time, and I’ve been known to totally scrap an idea if I feel like it’s going to require using materials that aren’t eco-friendly, but when it comes to other folks’ crafts, I tend to see it differently. Let’s not get into what that probably says about me, but let’s talk about those two viewpoints instead.

What does green crafting mean to you? Do you have the same standards for your own crafts as for other green crafts you come across? I want to hear from you guys!

Julie made a comment recently, in response to a comment that making buttons out of shrunken, reclaimed plastic was not green, because of off-gassing:

Depends on your outlook. In my ethic, in which there’s room for everyone who tries to make a difference, re-using something instead of discarding it and purchasing something new that has been manufactured and shipped to my location is always a good choice, even if it may off-gas a take-out container’s worth of gases.

I think this is a great example of the continuum I’m talking about. For the original commenter, off gassing is an issue that outweighs diverting landfill waste, but for Julie the positives of this craft outweighed the impact from shrinking the plastic.

Pretty much every craft project is going to have an impact. If you’re using organic cotton fabric and thread to make reusable lunch bags, you’re still using electricity (probably from coal) when you run that sewing machine, right? Using reclaimed paper and eco glue to do a scrap-booking project? That glue still has an impact, and it comes in a single use plastic container.

I guess what I’m saying here is that it’s complicated, and I thought you guys might like to go down this rabbit hole with me and discuss! What does green crafting mean to you?



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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • http://twitter.com/lalalandmamma Maria

    For me green crafting, is reusing anything and everything. I love to deconstruct clothing to make things. I buy almost everything in my home second hand. The re-use can go on and on and on. While the simple act of purchasing something new has so much more of an impact than re-use ever will.

    Re-use it is the greenest choice of all.

  • Maina

    Hey,
    At the moment I live in Trivandrum, a pretty small town (in context to Indian town sizes anyway) in southern India, dealing with major pollutions issues (just like the rest of the country). I’m from Sweden, a country quite well known for it’s cleanliness and it’s environmental “think”, so when I moved here and realized that we didn’t even have a proper place to throw our food wastes, I started googling what I could do with those damned plastic cups (never realized how much plastic we use until I didn’t have anywhere to throw it!), all those plastic bags I picked up before finally finding a more environmental replacement, those glass bottles, those metal tins, an so on. That’s how I found this page. Although I can’t do some of the stuff that are blogged about here (I’ve starred those pages I love so I can start crafting once I get back home instead! ;) ), I have gotten a much better idea of how I can reuse the things that are piling up around me. That’s what green crafting is to me. Using what one has, to make something that can be used again, to make it usable and/or appreciated for it’s value again, so that our carbon footprint can be minimized as much as possible.

  • http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.com craftygreenpoet

    reuse and repurposing, definitely! However something i find inexplicable is that some artists use a product (say clothes hangers) that seem to be in perfect condition and make them into eg a sculpture and call it recycled art. Surely the environmentally aware thing would be to donate the clothes hangers to people who could use them and avoid more coat hangers being produced? So for me there’s something about the repurposing being genuine, using something that has come to the end of its useful life and making it into something else. Not just about making A into B.

    • http://dystopianmyopia.tumblr.com Brenna

      When I take on crafting something, I first try to make sure that what I’m repurposing has no purpose left as per its original function. IE: polywrap that wrapped up the food at my job, but is now torn and brittle can be braided into a cord, and used as a base to make a basket, using strips of plastic that wrapped the flats of the soda shipment. Like craftygreenpoet said, what’s the point in taking a perfectly functional hanger, and sticking it into a sculpture and calling it upcycled? Similarly, exactly what is eco-friendly about buying up several skeins of acrylic yarn to wrap that hanger up, similarly calling it ‘upcycled’? It’s a great idea if you’ve got leftovers from another project and its one hanger that is going to be outside of your closet… but still kinda wasteful and silly to me.

      Also – those worried for the impact of their electricity use ought to look into solar and wind energy alternatives. And I wouldn’t worry so much about the impact of your sewing machine, and worry more about the impact of your hot water, heating, light usage, and would you believe your cable box? 24.7 max watts that sucker uses, and that’s when its turned off…! http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/myths/appliances.html http://www.energysavers.gov/tips/appliances.cfm

  • http://ninthstreetnotions.com Amanda

    To me, the biggest aspect of green crafting is reusing and repurposing. In my mind, using what’s already there has a big impact. And creating things that keep you from buying throwaway items (like reusable snack bags) has an impact on the future. Which is, after all, why one should be into green and eco-friendly crafting.

  • http://www.purrfectplay.com Pam Wheelock

    I love the creativity and discovery that goes into “seeing” new ways to use common objects or materials!

  • http://Wishcraftworkshop.com Candice

    It IS complicated and I’m thinking about it always. Which is probably the point– being mindful. Sourcing thoughtfully. Only repurposing when a thing’s useful life has reached its end or when it displaces the manufacture/purchase of something new. Like the greening of any of our habits, it’s a process that with practice gets better and better. And like with bettering other habits, the gradual shift is sometimes more effective because it enables each little change to take hold rather than becoming a daunting challenge.

  • http://simpleorganic.net Nicole

    I love repurposing. Giving new life to something unwanted or discarded seems like a super green way to craft. I don’t worry too much about off-gassing, or even using electricity when I sew, personally. The act of creating always seems like a better option for the environment than buying new!

  • http://www.daydreemz.weebly.com Sher

    Ironically I just wrote about this today but in a little different light. Personally, I am always thinking of how something can be re-purposed. Lately, I have researched the carbon prints of products I’m using when I craft or sew and feel confident our manufacturers (many) are researching the same. I would have to say anything you can re-purpose, whether part or whole, or is it environmentally friendly can be Green Crafting. I liked some of the replies, where even thinking of it is helpful.

  • http://YouGottaHaveArt.org Laurie Rivlin Caspert

    I hear ya, Becky! I am amidst the ‘struggle’ as we speak. I am an art teacher (private art classes for kids, but more about me another time), I love what I do (especially my “ARTrageous Recyclables”) and wanted to come up with a way to reach more children. SO… i bought an old school bus, renovated it, and turned it in to a traveling art studio ~ The FunArt Bus, our mobile EcoCraft Art Studio. Our goal is to spread the love of ART and the Environment. 100% green? Unfortunately no! BUT… by showing them how they can turn a wide assortment of “trash” they find around their house into their new-found treasures is definitely FUN and exciting. And, we do feel that teaching them to become aware at a young age can help build lifelong habits. Encouraging them to live a “greener” lifestyle? We hope! Raising awareness? For sure! Can this make a major difference in the future of our earth? Yes! Wondering what you think…?

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