Did you know that March is National Craft Month? There are many crafty projects out there, but as stewards of the environment, there are fewer projects that are sustainable crafts. Instead of creating projects that you’ll just throw out after displaying for a short time, try to go for some projects that will not only get your creative juices flowing, but also make a positive impact on the planet!

This is part 2 of my previous “Eco-friendly” art projects. You can find more eco-friendly art projects, and even info about how to incorporate Zero-waste techniques and materials into your projects below!

Upcycled Cotton Balls:

Cotton rounds and cotton balls are not biodegradable, and they actually contain a good amount of pesticides and toxins. If you wear makeup or nail polish often, you may hate to use up so much cotton products to remove it. Fortunately, this craft has you creating your own rounds from upcycled fabrics.

  1. Find fabric you like or an old towel. Do you have a towel covered in hair dye stains, or one that holes in it? Use those! Some other fabrics to use for this are flannel, hemp, or fleece, as they will be softer on your face.
  2. Cut a circle in your fabric about 2” in diameter. However, if you would like to make it bigger or smaller, that’s fine.
  3. Repeat step 2. Use your first circle as a stencil for your second circle!
  4. Grab a needle and some thread of your choice and sew both of your circles together at the edges. All done! Changing your typical cotton rounds to these reusable fabric wipes will reduce your use of single-use products, and it will even help you save some money.
  5. To wash, simply put them in the laundry with your next batch (only do laundry in full-loads to conserve water).

Plant-Based Paints:

Painting is always fun, but sometimes the paints we use aren’t the best for the environment. While we try to keep paints on our canvases or paper and out of the natural world, we still wind up creating bits of waste as we wash our brushes and the paint runs into the drain. Commercially made paints are often comprised of a pigment and the suspension that adheres the pigment to the medium. Usually, these are synthetic instead of natural. By creating our own plant-based pigments, we can create more sustainable paints (provided we harvest our plant matter properly – read more HERE).

  1. Harvest petals, leaves, and other plant parts such as Spinach leaves, Cosmos flower petals, blackberries, and Poke berries, that produce color.
  2. Muddle, or smush up the plant matter in a small dish in a 1:1 ratio (water : plant matter). You may need to adjust to get a stronger color. If the color from the plant isn’t bleeding into the water, you may need to boil the water & plants to let the color come out.
  3. Strain out plant matter and put liquid (your paint base) into a clear, sealable jar or bottle. Old, washed out acrylic pain bottles work perfectly!
  4. Add Flour or gum arabic to thicken and strengthen the pigment to your desire. For thicker paints, add more flour or gum. For water color, only add the gum to make sure you have control of the spread of color on your paper.
  5. Store your paint jar/bottle out of direct light.

All-Natural Wreath:

Instead of purchasing a wreath made out of plastic vines and flowers, create your own natural one! While you do need a willow tree or vining plant to prune for this project, it is a great activity! If you use willow (I love using my Curly Willow for this), pruning can promote growth. If you use other vining plants, try to use Oriental Bittersweet or Japanese Honeysuckle vines as you remove the invasive species from your community (just don’t spread the seeds and remove the entire plant instead of just pruning these invasive species!) Prune off the long, thin young growth and twist them all together into a circle to form the wreath base. Then decorate with flowers, pine cones, or other materials!

  1. Cut long, thin growth of your desired plant. The longer the sections the better.
  2. Twist them all together into a circle to form the wreath base.
  3. Weave in your wreath accents! Conifer cones (from pines, spruces, Dawn Redwoods, firs, and others are great!), cedar boughs, dried flowers or grasses, or holly branches with berries can make great additions.
window clings for birds event

Window Clings for Birds:

Help prevent birds from running into your windows by creating window clings! The clings help to break up the reflection that the bird sees and will deter them from thinking they can fly through or that their reflection is a competing bird while being much prettier than random strands of tin-foil, mesh coverings, or window blinds.

  1. Create an outline of a design using black puffy paint on a sheet protector.
  2. Fill the design in with color. You can use toothpicks to blend the color and fill in any gaps. Don’t let the paint be too thick, or it will take a very long time to dry!
  3. Allow the design to thoroughly dry. When it’s fully dry, gently remove and peel off of the sheet protector and place on a window! If the design isn’t dry, the cling won’t properly peel off and will feel sticky. Let it continue to dry. This may take 8-24hrs. depending on how thick the paint is.

Get Creative with Workshops in a Box!

The Art of Ecology builds visual connections between people and the natural world we’re a part of by blending the arts and environmental sciences. While we always have so much fun during the programs designed to get your creative juices flowing while also teaching you about the marvelous ecosystems around us, you may not be local or not have a schedule that lines up with when the programs are scheduled. That doesn’t mean you have to miss out though! The Art of Ecology offers a handful of programs as “Workshops in a Box”. Each box contains the materials and instructions needed to create your project and is delivered straight to you! A portion of the proceeds is donated back to wildlife conservation & habitat preservation efforts.

Lucy McGinty - 2022 Intern (co-written with Marissa Jacobs)
Lucy McGinty – 2022 Intern (co-written with Marissa Jacobs)

Lucy is an environmental studies college student, and The Art of Ecology’s new intern! Her career goal is to become an environmental microbiologist—a person who studies the microorganisms in the environment and their relationship to pollution. She is so excited to [learn more about ecology] and ways we can do better.

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