My green crafting manifesto is clear about this: I craft primarily with recycled materials, and if I can’t make a recycled material work for my project, then I use primarily natural materials–cotton, hemp, wood, etc.
Generally, this makes the positives of green crafting quite clear. When I craft with recycled materials, then I know that I’m taking positive action for the environment even if what I’m crafting with was originally some sort of resource-heavy plastic–felting around dumpster-dived plastic Easter eggs to make shaker eggs or play food for my daughters, perhaps, or incorporating costume jewelry into a new piece.
The ethics of crafting even with natural materials, however, are trickier, because you have to consider not just the nature of your material, but also its provenance.
A wooden toy may be natural, but it’s harder to tell whether or not it’s environmentally friendly. I buy my daughters these wooden people turnings for their dollhouse, and wooden Easter eggs, and the occasional wood cut-out to decorate, but frankly, I have no idea of this wood’s provenance. Was it sustainably harvested from a managed forest or a tree farm, or was it clear-cut from an old-growth forest?
Is it a domestic wood, or was it imported?
Were the workers who cut it and processed it paid a living wage, or were they paid the bare minimum in cash off the books?
The nice thing if you buy your stuff from a small, independent business is that you could probably find out most of this information. The guy who owns the store where I buy my cloth diapers can tell me, or find out and then tell me, everything from where the factory is located in which the diapers were made to whether the materials are organic, unbleached, or any other weird question I want to ask him. The people at Wal-mart probably can’t do as much.
I should probably shoot off an email to the place where I buy my wood materials, actually–how much nicer to actually find out than to just sit here and wonder…
I recycle in my crafting so much, though, that it still feels weird to me to use a completely new material (other than, you know, thread or elastic) in my work. We had to have an old, old apple tree cut down in our backyard a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m kicking myself because I bet that applewood could have totally been recycled into something awesome. I could have made my own wooden people turnings!
Um… although I would need a lathe.