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.
9 CommentsLeave a Reply
Great article. I don’t think eco-conscious crafters often think about where their natural materials come from. It always good to check into the history of the product and follow it’s path into your hands as much as possible. Thanks for the post!
Cerise : )
Wow that is true. I never thought about the fact that although wooden toys are better than plastic they still might not be environmentally friendly. Recycling materials is certainly the most environmentally friendly route. I am currently saving up my used aluminum cans to make a neat wind chime for my backyard.
Thanks for the post!
This hadn’t occurred to me until about a year ago when I first started following this blog. I refrained from buying any natural gem stones and new wood for that reason – I didn’t know where they came from.
I’ve been much more into polymer clay things. Because I have a huuge stash of clay that I’ve been given as gifts, I’m working away at those rather than buying new wood and gems for jewelry pieces.
Thanks for the reminder and inspiration to get back to seeking environmentally friendly supplies! Clay gets old after a while when my hands get so dried out!
Great article! I like to know where all of my supplies come from, but you’re right sometimes it is hard to find out. The wood that I use is salvaged from burn piles picked out by me and I make sure to put that in my descriptions. It’s important to let people know that you care!
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