Crafting a Green…Scrapbook?

This is a guest post by Becky Haas, an amateur crafter/environmentalist who also tries to make a living as a professional musician. You can also find her at the craft blog Sew and So.

sarae at Flickr, under a Creative Commons licenseI’ve caught myself contemplating this quite a bit lately–whether it is actually possible for a craft that relies so heavily on paper to be done in a way that’s eco-friendly.

It seems that scrapbooking has a few extra challenges that makes it difficult to find supplies that are made from recycled materials. For one, the paper used as the base of the page has to be sturdy enough that it can handle having photos and other potentially bulkier items adhered to it–generally cardstock weight. This eliminates most, if not all, homemade and handmade papers. because they tend to be more fragile and tear easily. But the bigger challenge I’ve found in finding basic supplies is that most scrapbookers want stuff that is acid- and lignin-free.

According to Scrapbooking 101.net, the big deal with acid (which is used as part of the paper-manufacturing process) is that over time, it can cause photos and paper to disintegrate.  And lignin, a component found naturally in the wood fibers that most paper is made from, can make paper discolor and turn brittle.

Since the whole idea behind scrapbooking is to preserve memories, it makes sense that the people who do it would want to try and make sure that their pages won’t fall apart before their currently non-existent great-grandchildren are around to gawk at their embarrassing prom pictures. The downside for the eco-conscious crafter, though, is that this creates an entire industry more concerned with making sure their products will be around for years to come than their environmental impact on the world that they’re hoping to pass these memories on to.

Digital scrapbooking is an option, of course, for those who really want to avoid all the paper useage. Layouts can be created on the computer using photo-editing software, and printed on whatever recycled paper you want. Or just left on your computer, if you prefer.

This method isn’t without its problems, though. While soy- and vegetable-based inks are becoming more popular for business use, they aren’t readily available for home use in place of petroleum-based inks. Not to mention the energy used to power the computer. And for people who enjoy the tactile experience of creating something with their hands over the click of a mouse, there’s still a need for supplies.

Fortunately, it’s getting increasingly easier to find more eco-friendly options. For example, a company called Piggy Tales has begun printing its paper on recycled paper with soy-based inks. The Scrapbook Pantry also has a section for paper printed on recycled, 30% post-consumer paper with soy-based inks.

One of the most encouraging moves is by one of the major suppliers, K & Company, who have a line they’ve put out recently called “ReMake”. According to the website, “All Remake products are printed using soy-based inks and created using sustainable manufacturing practices and recycled 100% post-consumer waste. Plus, our paper packaging is made with 100% PCW and is reusable by our printed designs that you cut out to embellish your projects. Even the clear protective bags are made from corn-based materials. We’ve redesigned the basics to be even better so that we can all remember responsibility.” Hopefully more craft paper manufacturers will take a cue from these companies and work towards producing papers that are both scrapbook- and earth-friendly.

Another option, particularly for younger scrapbooker-wannabes who aren’t really into the cutesy products designed more for moms with young kids than, say, a childless single 20-something, is to use recycled goods to decorate pages. For instance, rather than buy those overpriced packs of ribbon and fiber from the craft stores, why not take the scraps too small for knit or crochet projects off the hands of your yarn-crafty friends? Parts from that broken watch you were going to throw out can become cheap embellishments to go with some pictures of that steampunk-themed Halloween party you have coming up.

Other ideas are to use the parts from broken pieces of jewelry, or more everyday things like bottlecaps, pages from thrift-store books, those leftover scraps of fabric from your last sewing project…the possibilities are endless. (For more ideas, or examples with pictures, check out these articles from Scrapfriends, Scrapbooks Etc., Scrapbooking.com, and The Worsted Witch.  And if you’re concerned about the acid content, just be aware that reused paper products may contain it.)

There’s a whole lot of other basic supplies that I haven’t found much information about yet, as far as their environmental impact goes– namely adhesives and page protectors (since we all know how bad clear vinyl can be). I’d love to hear any thoughts on finding eco-friendly versions of these, or any alternative products!

Image credit: sarea at Flickr, under a Creative Commons license

Written by Becky H

Becky began her foray into the worlds of both crafting and recycling as a kid, using fabric scraps from her mom's sewing projects to play Project Runway with her Barbie as model (the only thing that doll was ever good for.) By day, night, and sometimes weekend, she tries to scrape out a living as a musician. When she's not doing that, she has a serious case of crafting ADD, constantly bouncing between sewing and scrapbooking (with the occasional bout of jewelrymaking or whatever else catches her fancy thrown in for good measure). And she absolutely loves incorporating recycled materials into her projects--gives her a better chance of finding a place to hike, and a chance of actually being able to fill her gas tank to get there.

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