This is a blog about practical ways you can help reduce waste and help saving the planet!

When I first started at Paint for Fun, I loved the mess. I still do. I love the way people who haven’t painted in years embraced the tactile nature of paint and brushes.
At the end of each class, the mess was tidied. Plastic plates and paper towels were bundled into a big black garbage bag and thrown away. Never to be seen again. I honestly didn’t give it a second thought, it was just part of the job, you know?

Eventually, we started teaching watercolour. This delicate art form needed proper palettes, ones with walls to hold the water.
Ding! Lightbulb moment. Something shifted.
Can we use reusable all the time?
Will it work for acrylic?
Washing the paint palettes after class takes more time – yes.
And it uses water – yes.
BUT, it means we no longer buy new, single use plastic plates that go directly to landfill. Plastic that takes hundreds of years to break down.

So we made the change. My beloved mess could still exist without creating unnecessary rubbish.
The next thing to go was the paper towels. We now use microfibre towels that get washed between classes.

These changes might not seem like much, and maybe they don’t change the world, but these things are visible commitments to sustainability and that’s the hidden lesson at Paint for Fun. Make art that is sustainable and become conscious of your impact, like we did.

So what can you do?!

My personal creative practise has always had a focus on sustainability, recycle art projects being one of my main pursuits. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you are working on, change is always possible and sometimes all it takes is a conversation. There are plenty of things you can do, and every little bit helps.

Plastic waste. Plastic is everywhere in our world and we need to be aware of it. How can we reduce the need for new plastic? Here are a few ideas.

Out and About:

  • A reusable cup for coffee is an easy place to start for most people. When you provide a cup, this sends a message to the business that you value sustainability. I know of a few cafes that even give a discount to customers who bring their own cup – suggest this in your regular cafes, you never know where the conversation may lead.

  • After cups, consider single-use plastic containers. Take-away food is so common these days but is it really that hard to bring a reusable lunchbox from home? Once again, good businesses will be receptive to your choices, will welcome the discussion and happily use the container you provide. And keeping cutlery in your bag is easy, personally I find it so much nicer to eat from a metal fork than a piece of plastic.

 

When packing lunch from home, you might usually use glad wrap, beeswax wraps are a reusable alternative and they often come in fun patterns. Also, there is no reason why you can’t reuse a bread bag, or wrap your sandwich in baking paper.

  • Bottled water is such a ridiculous waste! Producing plastic uses oil and produces carbon dioxide. Not only that, the production of the plastic uses a lot of water. It takes 3 litres of water to produce 1 litre of bottled water, and if that bottle ends up in the ocean it takes 450 years to break down. In a country where clean, drinkable water comes from the tap, bottled water is an environmental crime. Get a drink bottle and take it everywhere!
  • Get a mooncup. Period (get it? 🙂 I bought one a few years ago and have not touched a tampon or pad since. Not only is this great for the environment, but it also saves you money.

Shopping:

  • When you go to the grocery store, take a reusable bag! I’m going to shamelessly plug my own product here, “Beanybag” is launching this month. “Beanybag” is a project that turns hessian waste from the coffee industry into strong, durable grocery bags. The waste is collected from local coffee roasteries, the product is handmade here in Melbourne and provides education as well as a practical solution.

  • There are also a lot of reusable produce bags popping up, made from netting or lightweight materials, use them for all your loose veggies. Or if you end up using plastic, reuse that plastic. 
  • When you are in the supermarket, look out for free-range and fair-trade. Take your own jars to bulk food stores and wherever possible avoid packaging. It’s getting so crazy, some things come double or triple wrapped in ugly ugly PLASTIC.

 

  • In terms of buying ‘things’ sustainability can be a bit harder, but not impossible. Firstly, do you need it? If you are replacing an item, consider mending it. Even if you are not a DIY person, there is an amazing initiative called the repair cafe, once a month community members volunteer time, tools and skills to help you fix it.
  • If you do need it, the first places to look are op-shops, garage sales, gumtree and Buy-swap-sell pages on facebook. These days even a social media shout-out can get you what you need from a friend who has spare, depends what it is, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Sometimes a new one is what you want though, and that’s ok. There are ethical options for shoppers, it just takes a bit of research. Find out how something is made, what it is made from and where the profits go.

At home:

  • Learn to compost. My family has always had a compost and not only does it reduce waste going to landfill it also improves the soil in your garden. Not everyone has a garden, I understand that, but there are also bokashi bins and community gardens.
  • Choose eco friendly options and biodegradable products for toiletries and cleaning. There are many refillable options available too.
  • Recycled toilet paper! If you’ve somehow missed the memo, google ‘who gives a crap’ These guys sell toilet paper that is good for the world. And while I’m on it, recycled printer paper for your home and office, there are many, readily available recycled papers out there and another hot tip – print double sided and reuse paper that only has one side filled.
  • Get crafty! One of my most successful projects is a wallet made out of a Bonsoy milk carton. It is a simple, effective idea that gets people thinking. Everyday waste can be a great craft material. Cereal boxes can be book covers, milk bottles can be jewellery boxes, fold junk mail and weave baskets. In art there are no rules, one class that I teach uses old bits of cardboard instead of a paintbrush to create twiggy tree branches. You could use a bottle lid to stamp a pattern of circles, flick paint with an old toothbrush… the possibilities are endless.

Just Google: “art from garbage” and you’ll find About 168,000,000 results!

All these personal choices might not seem like much, but don’t forget the ripple effect. As soon as you make sustainability a daily choice, it becomes visible to those around you. And EVERYONE needs to get on board!

Written by Chloe Gunn, our legend art teachers and an expert on sustainable art-making

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