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Reevaluating Sustainability in Artistic Practices: Can art be sustainable?

Updated: Apr 2

In a previous blog titled How To Be More Sustainable as an Artist I shared a tip advocating for the use of fountain pens with refillable ink cartridges instead of plastic fineliner pens. However, my good intentions were met with the reality of leaky pens, prompting a reevaluation of the quest for sustainability in art - can it be sustainable at all?


Contents


A happy pygmy goat flies through the air trailing a cape of leaves and flowers
The pygmy goat of happiness - who flies when anyone does even one thing to be more sustainable

Media Matters: Assessing Your Artistic Choices


The first consideration is your chosen medium. Different art forms offer various sustainability options. For instance, working digitally on an iPad* or with traditional, biodegradable pencils is inherently more eco-friendly. However, challenges arise when dealing with something like larger, oil-based paintings that involve less sustainable materials.


Whatever your media preference, I believe that there are numerous avenues for artists to embrace sustainability. If your chosen medium doesn't align with conventional eco-friendly practices, it's time to think outside the box.


Thinking Outside the Box: A holistic approach to sustainability


By this I mean: we have to think about the rest of our practice and actions outside of the materials. Combining the use of an iPad with a 100% renewable energy tariff, carbon offsetting, and a minimal collection of art supplies showcases the potential for a holistic approach to sustainability. Consider switching to renewable energy, minimising your use of single-use plastic, or investing in second-hand equipment.


If you'd like to read a bit more about carbon offsetting and how I use it, head to my blog here.


A clear blue sky with wintery trees set against it. The viewpoint is as if you're looking up through the trees. Birds fly through the sky above
This world is beautiful - make just one change for sustainability and that's one step for the better

Sustainable Packaging: A Crucial Consideration


Lastly, when selling your artwork, scrutinise every aspect of your process. Evaluate your packaging – opt for eco-friendly alternatives like triangular cardboard tubes instead of plastic-ended ones. Choose recycled materials for your cards and utilise recyclable and recycled packaging. Consider the fairness and locality of the companies you engage with, right down to your banking choices. Donating a portion of profits to charity can also contribute to a more sustainable artistic practice.


If you're interested in moving to more sustainable products and shipping, I highly recommend eco-craft.co.uk, who do the biggest range I've found of sustainable packaging, local to the UK.


Conclusion: Embracing Sustainable Art Practices


In conclusion, the question of whether art can be sustainable is met with a resounding "yes." However, there's still progress to be made, especially in reevaluating the materials and mediums we use. Share your sustainability suggestions, from recycled paper pads to the best refillable drawing pens, in the comments below.


As always, thank you for reading,

Nx


*(While my preference for sustainable practices aligns with the way I work, it's crucial to acknowledge that personal choices, such as using an iPad, also come with environmental implications. Charging devices and the production of electronic components contribute to energy consumption, not to mention the environmental and human costs associated with mining materials like cobalt, needed to produce those electronic devices.)



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