Artist Studio EcoGuide

A compendium of practical tips for making artist studios more eco-friendly.

A compendium of practical tips for making artist studios more eco-friendly.


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A crowdsourced document that shares ways that the craft

community can lessen its impact on the natural world.








Introduction 9

List of Contributors 11

Green Building Materials 13

Green Building Approaches 13

Power/Energy/Lighting 16

Heating & Air Conditioning 16

Landscaping 17

Packing & Shipping 20

Technology 21

Recycled & Upcycled Materials in Practice 23

Water 26

Waste Disposal 27

Transportation, Lifestyle & General 30

Activism & Policy 31

Invest in the Environment 31

Textiles/Fiber 35

Plastics 36

Inks & Dyes 36

Glass 37

Paper 37

Ceramics 39

Metal 42

Wood 42




The first of its kind, the Artist Studio EcoGuide is a crowdsourced document that enlists

the involvement of the craft community and artists overall to be mindful and effective in

all actions that impact the natural world. The EcoGuide is intended as a tool that offers

pragmatic and meaningful solutions for the logistical operations and design of art spaces.

This accessible resource, for all artists, across media, provides adoptable ideas for improving

the eco-footprint of art making.

Over this past year, we have sought the input of artists from across the U.S. This guide

presumes that individual efforts matter and can lead to systemic change if enough

individuals participate. As innovative thinkers and creative problem solvers, artists are

uniquely positioned to lead by example, inspiring us all to carefully consider the carbon

footprint of our daily lives. Our goal was to collect and corral information about what

sustainability efforts are being made currently and to provide a channel to pass those ideas

along to others. Many of the ideas presented in this publication also have the potential to

be applied to other settings and spaces beyond the arts.

It should be noted that the Artist Studio EcoGuide is a starting point. The intention was

to launch this project to support a cross-disciplinary conversation that is long overdue,

very new, and also constantly developing. In addition to offering implementable steps and

ideas, this tool raises questions that will take time to address. It sheds light on areas where

we need to seek new approaches, more research, and further consideration. In some

cases, no definite green solution exists just yet, but efforts are underway to find those.

The EcoGuide will continue and evolve as we dive more deeply into the subject of

eco-responsibility in the arts.

The EcoGuide is an outcome of the Craft in America Center’s exhibition Making Waves: Ocean Ecology

& Craft, and part of Craft in America’s initiative Craft in Action, which uses art to build awareness and

activate for social good.






Liz Ackert

Ivan Asin

Nancy Billings

Andrea Bonfils

Charissa Brock

Peter Chartrand

Christopher Edwards

Janelle Feng

Linda Gass

Wendy Gers

Pallavi Ghandi

Juanita Girardin

Trudee Hill

Timothy Horn

Cindy Houston

Jonah Jacobs

Surabhi Jain

Jim Kelly

Miriam Loory Krombach

Patricia Larenas

Anthony Leiserowitz

Zwia Lipkin

Theresa Lovering-Brown

CJ Mammarella

Kelly Marshall

Michelle Cali Mattingly

Blue McRight

Alex Miller

Captain Charles Moore

The Moore Family Folk Art

Gay H Morton

Troy Murrah

Zach Ozma

Paper Craft Miracles

Simon Penny

Douglas Phillips

Domi Piturro

Claudia Reese

Lesley Roberts

Lisa Beth Robinson

Mariann Sauvion

Cindy Searles

Nancy Selvin

Joan Takayama-Ogawa

Laura Tanzer

Marc Trujillo

Warren Wagner

Donna Sharrock Webb

Janna Willoughby-Lohr

Calista Wu






Use sustainable/green building materials such as reclaimed wood, cement

fiberboard, and natural building insulation (recycled denim post-industrial waste,

natural wool and/or cellulose fibers).

Switch to engineered framing instead of traditional lumber.

Switch to solar water heater systems.

Use LED lighting – lighting is key for most studios and now almost every type is

available. LEDs can bring a building’s energy usage down significantly and they

are free of mercury and are recyclable once they die out.

Buy non-toxic and Zero VOC paints and solvents.

Locate and purchase locally-sourced materials to reduce transport

carbon emissions.

Look locally for resources to minimize the effects of shipping.

Use non-toxic cleaners.


There are eco-friendly design solutions for whether you are building your studio

from the ground up or adapting your current space.

Adopt passive solar heating and cooling in your building.

A passive solar building uses the sun, glass, and the orientation of the structure

to heat and cool.

The design of the building can accomplish the majority of its own heating

and cooling.

Consider the orientation of the building in relation to the sun to maximize natural

heating and cooling.

Use glass strategically and use overhangs to shade the summer sun.

Concrete floors and walls take advantage of the thermal mass effect, which occurs

when concrete walls and floors absorb daytime heat and release it at night.

Maximize natural daylight to reduce energy for artificial lighting during the day.

Add window blinds to control overheating.

Use solar panels for power - there are portable ones as well.

Hire an architect who is knowledgeable about sustainability. There are also design

build firms that can help. Look locally to find architects and builders who have

direct experience with your region and location.







All electricity can be solar power. This can generate enough energy to power

various tools, equipment, and all essentials.

If you have a small physical workshop space consider installing a small set of Solar

Modules. One set of solar modules with a battery could power all needs for an

artist’s studio.

Change all the lights in your shop to LEDs to minimize energy consumption.

Unplug appliances when not using them, consider how many lights you actually

need on, and use energy efficient equipment.

A photovoltaic panel can be used anywhere, not only in bright sunny regions,

they generate enough power no matter where you are.

Save more energy by increasing natural daylighting from skylights, windows,

and clerestories.

Explore putting in wind turbines also to make more electricity.


Heat the studio with an air source heat pump. Air source heat pumps are efficient

both in the winter and summer (seasonal coefficient of performance).

Avoid air conditioning and improve cross ventilation by utilizing passive ventilation

elements such as operable skylights and windows.

Lowe’s 75% light colored Shade Cloth and other brands of shading material

along with black out curtains can significantly help cool spaces and cut down on

energy use.


Offset your footprint through gardens and eco-friendly landscaping.

Replace grass lawns with raised beds and decomposed granite walkways. Use

hardscaping when it’s more effective since it uses less water and energy for maintenance

than grassy lawns.

Plant a variety of flora and fauna because biodiversity is productive.

Depending on your region, stick with local, native, and drought tolerant plants.

Remove a tree. Build a tree. Build a tree using recycled lumber.

Switch to a broom and sweep, forget the gas guzzling leaf blower.

Grow your own food on a large or small scale.

Small-scale victory gardens planted in buckets and planters

Large-scale community gardens in public spaces or front yards

Plant only native or well adapted plants and consider the xeriscape plan.

Use berms and swales to direct rainwater to where you could use it. Dig a cairn

and fill it with rocks, put a 4” PVC pipe into it, and T it into an underground

water delivery system for a group of plants. Build berms to slow down the water

runoff using all trimmings, leaves, dead plant removal...it all eventually composts

into good dirt and you will have a great berm.

When building a berm or terracing up a hill, line the front of whatever you are

using to hold that berm (logs, stones, or a terrace wall) with clay scraps. They

will soak up any runoff and return it slowly to the land. The plants will find that

source and thrive.






Pack efficiently. Don’t use more packing materials than needed or boxes that are

larger than necessary. Think of the cost saving on shipping work with smaller

dimensions and weight, let alone the carbon emissions for transport.

Stop using styrofoam peanuts to pack and use brown kraft paper. Try to reuse as

much packing materials as possible.

Instead of using polyurethane foam or polystyrene peanuts to pack fragile work,

switch to using biodegradable corn starch peanuts. The loose peanuts can be a

nightmare because they end up everywhere. To overcome this, sew together bags

of muslin, and fill these with peanuts. They can be tailored to accommodate the

work to ensure the work is safely contained with the crate.

Use cardboard rolls (from toilet paper or paper towel rolls) for packing material.

They provide excellent cushion, are extremely light weight, can be reused over

and over again, and they’re basically free.

Use waste wool to replace plastic bubble wrap.

So much packaging, such as those famous Amazon boxes and bubble mailers can

all be reused. Turn these items inside-out and reuse them for your own mailings.

This reduces paper and plastic waste as well as the cost of shipping new materials.

Recycle mailers and mailing envelopes for shipping.

If you have small pets like rats or guinea pigs, almost all your packing material can

double as cage fodder.

Use compostable materials for packaging and shipping or corrugated cardboard

and packing paper.

In terms of printed materials and packaging such as boxes and mailers, even the

most eco-friendly (water-based or soy-based) inks available today utilize pigments

made with oil or petroleum. Algae Ink utilizes algae cells for pigments, making it

safer and cleaner, and more compatible with the recycling and composting process.The

majority of paper-based packages are considered compostable, despite

the fact that inks used to print on them utilize fossil-fuel derived pigments.

Oxo-degradable bubble wrap is marketed as a green alternative to bubble wrap.

However, the chemical additives which promote the breakdown of the plastic only

turn the plastic into tiny microplastic particles. This may be worse than plastic,

which stays together and can be kept separated from the soil or water.

One of the upsides to bubble wrap is that it is lightweight, which helps reduce

emissions in the vehicles that transport your shipments. So the ideal alternative to

bubble wrap should be lightweight, biodegradable or compostable.

Check your suppliers’ websites for their green initiatives. If they send you packaging

materials that are not biodegradable, ask them to switch. You’d be amazed

how much companies listen to their customer’s thoughts.

Select carbon neutral for your shipping options whenever it is available.


For schools/studios: Avoid constantly changing/updating the hardware computers

(for animators/digital artists) until absolutely needed.

Seek proper electronic recycling facilities within your municipality and find out if

your recycling is exported overseas.






A good source of free materials is from local manufacturers like kitchen/cabinet

makers, counter top factories and steel fabricators. Oftentimes they will have an

off-cuts bin. Depending on the business, the size of their material waste will vary

and pieces they deem as waste will often be quite adequate for small/medium art

projects. It’s a win for minimizing landfill waste and improving eco-footprint by

using the material to its fullest extent.

Other sources for supplies: scrap yards, rummage and garage sales, thrift stores.

Check Craigslist.

Keep materials out of the landfill by using them. Build sculptures out of old glassware

and wire that can be purchased in resale shops.

Jewelry designers, in order to reduce the waste caused by fast fashion, shop for

materials at thrift stores or receive donations from friends. Try to only use

post-consumer items to make work.

Reuse plastic dinner plates to mix acrylic paint instead of throwing away

paper pallets.

Just because something is broken doesn’t mean it can’t have another life

somewhere else.

Take a moment to look at your ‘failed’ work that you would normally toss and

see it instead as a piece with a different calling.

Think more critically about recycling. If students’ projects are going to end up

in the trash, then recycling is only being used as a slogan, and the problem is not

really being solved.

Find useful basic tools at rummage and garage sales. Look for tools-of-a-craft or

trade that can be cleaned of rust, etc. and used again. Do the research, know

older brand tools. This is especially valuable for beginners who are outfitting their

studios which can be very costly.

Create alliances or systems within our communities for gaining access to raw materials

and exchanging reusable or scrap materials that might help us develop our

own art and ensure sustainability.

Make new art from scraps. There are so many little ways you can create revenue

by repurposing materials before throwing them away.

Reduce and Reuse before Recycling! New uses for old things are all around you!

You just have to get creative.







Be aware of your water consumption during work. Conserve.

Use a safe grey water system.

If you have a small studio in a dry climate, collect rainwater. Save clean municipal

water for drinking and household needs. Art making generally doesn’t need

potable water.

Try large rainwater collection tanks or drums attached to gutters. All water for the

pottery plus garden can come from this source.

Access water wisely from various sources; a solar powered well, roof catchment,

and gathering from an arroyo.

Heat water with a solar hot water system.

Check out a subterranean rain water capture system.

When the time comes to wash tools off, rather than blasting the water and leaving

it on during the whole process try simply wetting a sponge and cleaning them off

with that.

Rural areas with high water tables are at the lowest risk of water use having an

effect on neighbors and overall supply. However, if you live in a state with a high

water table, reducing water is still important. No matter where you live, being conservative

with water usage saves energy and can help alleviate water infrastructure

needs and updates which are costly to the environment.

Get an outdoor sink to catch clay debris when washing tools, emptying buckets

etc. The first bucket which gets filled with clay is itself plumbed with a PVC pipe

at the top of the barrel into another drum so that only the cleanest water goes into

the second barrel. That barrel has a PVC pipe that carries the water out to plants.

Rainwater can be funnelled into an underground pump tank which pumps the

water up to water tanks.

Use rainwater to fill pools, for landscaping and in the rainy season when they are

overflowing, switch the house from city water to rainwater. Get a 4 stage water

purification system so the water is drinkable. However rainwater is fairly acidic so

don’t use it for drinking, just household use.

Make your studio a dry studio, which means that there isn’t a handy dandy sink

nearby. If you want water, you have to go outside the studio, through the gate, and

into the back service yard to use the sink there. That’s right: plan your water use. It

really gets down to four simple steps. Plan. Reduce. Reclaim. Reuse.

For throwing, partially fill a 3-gallon bucket, carry it to the studio, and use it as the

water source. There’s a very real physical and psychological reality check when

one must carry the water one needs.

From that initial bucket of clean water, dip out what you need into smaller buckets

and containers to provide water for throwing slip and other miscellaneous tasks,

to wash tools and bats, for rinsing out towels, and for general cleanup. Have a

bucket of clean water and two buckets with filters on top for reclaimed water. Clay

particles settle between usages so it works out pretty well.


Dispose of mordants responsibly.

Do not pour toxic materials down drains, which will end up in the ocean and

water systems.

Create a compost heap.

Compost vegetables and all raw unaltered plant scraps.

Have waste sorting stations (compost, recycling, paper, garbage) with clear signages

that comply with the waste collection company’s criteria, and have this implemented

consistently throughout popular studio spaces. This is super helpful for

shared spaces, art centers, colleges and school studios.

Recycle camera batteries, ink cartridges, and all e-waste at proper facilities in your

city or area.

If you’re a woodworker, send wood scraps and dust collection system residue to

the local composting center via the yard waste containers the city uses.

Learn what chemicals and materials should be disposed of as hazardous waste

and kept from going down the drain or seeping into soil. Hazardous materials

must be disposed of in waste drums to ensure they will not seep into the water

supply of your community.






Reduce your mileage. This applies to production, distribution, and transport of

your work and an overall total way of life.

If you can, lease or purchase an electric car.

Transportation is the biggest source of planet-warming emissions. One of the

most powerful individual actions people can take against climate change is to

change the way they get around. Use public transportation whenever possible.

When washing fabrics whether for art materials or rags for clean up, wash at lower

temperatures and air dry rather than tumble.

Be aware of the amount of paper that you throw away, which can be recycled or

even used for other things, like taking notes on, or, if the backs are clean, doing

demonstrations. You can even use them as envelope inserts for your mortgage

payments instead of printing out an insert.

Load the dishwasher to capacity and run at a lower temperature.

Periodically check and see what’s new in materials and tools in your field. Artists/

crafters are always coming out with cleaner and safer ways for all of us to continue

doing what we love.

Think about your total way of life, consider plant based diets and consuming

earth-friendly foods as much as possible.

Make the switch to real towels for drying off hands. If paper towels must be used

in your studio, try obscuring access to them, to make them harder to reach. Place

an actual plant in front of your paper towel dispensers for a very literal reminder

of where they are coming from.

An effective way to communicate important messages is by posting reminders with

eye-catching colors/text. There should be notes by the sink reminding users to

be water wise and stickers on the paper towel dispenser reminding users that they

come from trees.

Flying and driving less is not enough. Teleconferencing is not enough.

Stop sending out postcards and only use your email list, website and announcement

on social media.

Figure out your carbon footprint:




Use your voice, voice concerns with your local, state and federal representatives.

Support policy change!

Ban plastics. Support the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act:


Advocate for environmental protections.

Artists have the power to communicate in compelling and engaging ways.

Teach students, emerging artists, young people, colleagues and collaborators and

anyone in your network how to make environmental changes through art.

Use art as a way of thinking rather than as a means for producing objects. This

allows art to be a contributor toward sustainable lifestyle practices, and not a mere

visual vehicle for conveying ideas. Art can be an integral part of how we can think

creatively about our environment.


Offset transportation and production carbon emissions by donating to local tree

planting non-profits.

Invest in green stocks and de-invest in extractive industries.

While it’s not a perfect solution, consider purchasing carbon offsets. When you

purchase an offset, it supports projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases

(typically in the form of renewable energy projects, energy efficiency projects,

and forestry projects). The Offset Guide (www.offsetguide.org) has a good overview

of the process. Buy offsets through Gold Standard www.goldstandard.org).

Donate to non-profits that are working to preserve biodiversity, plant trees and

help save our planet.







Accumulate fabric and materials over time, use them and purchase less. Buying

new always uses precious resources of the earth.

Save and use your fabric and thread scraps.

Use GOTS certified textiles (Global Organic Textile Standard) from reputable

sources for wearable art.

Use natural fibers/fabric. This includes linen, cotton, silk, hemp, wool, and other

bast fibers-yucca, agave, and nettle.

Avoid plastic fibers/ fabric: polyester and its myriad variations, acrylic, nylon etc.

Avoid chemically manipulated plant grown materials which use chemicals

harmful to the earth: rayon, bamboo, cupro. Milk based fibers are currently too

chemically manipulated to be natural.

When finishing cloth use earth-friendly unscented soap. Avoid any fabric softeners,

or synthetic finishing agents.

Avoid toxic glues and starches.

Use natural fiber thread. Avoid polyester thread.

Reuse/recycle and buy second hand. Often unique fabrics can be sourced in

donated and thrift store clothing. Often weavers sell their unused yarn.

Recycling already existing fibers of any type is better than buying new.

Source locally.

Educate your collectors. Design your work to span decades of use without

losing style.

Use natural materials: natural latex, burlap or hemp fiber.

Use wool. Old moth-eaten sweaters work perfectly if you wash and felt them.

Use yarn thrums for other projects and give extras to after school art centers

for kids.

Send plastic cones from yarn back to the manufacturer to re-use.

Work only with rescued fabrics, as there’s already so much cloth in the world! Try

to reach a zero-waste goal, and come up with creative ideas even for small pieces.






Avoid plastics including styrofoam that we use in the form of peanuts and

sheets for packing. It takes years to break down and accounts for 30 percent

of landfill contents.

Say no to throw-aways of any kind—straws, lids, utensils, cups.

Buy “naked” produce (unwrapped) and products.

Stop using plastic bags.

Shop at farmers markets and stores that use less packaging materials.

Avoid using synthetic fabrics, which add microplastics to the water system.

Buy or create reusable items made from materials that won’t harm

the environment.

Reuse plastic takeout containers for storing things.

Milk cartons are a recycling nightmare (paper infused with plastic) but in the

studio they have a myriad of uses. They’re tough, watertight, and they last a long

time. You can cut them with scissors or a utility knife. With the triangular top cut

off, you can mix paint or other liquids in them. Being square, they pack in boxes

and shelves efficiently. You can convert them into a set of drawers for small parts,

nails, nuts and bolts. Cut one side off, making a deep drawer, leaving the pinched

top horizontal at the front to make a handle and a surface for labelling.


Use scrap glass from a stain glass shop for accent bits.

Every increase in combustion efficiency or reduction in fuel use results in

lower levels of emissions.

Learn about biodiesel, biogas, reusing engine oil, and other renewable fuels

as alternatives.

Use old plaster molds to support fresh glass fusing molds in the kiln.

Work with waste glass. Reclaim window and bottle glass.


Be careful about the papers you buy. Use types with recycled content and tree

alternatives such as cotton or bamboo.

Keep pigment waste (watercolor, etc) out of our waterways by absorbing waste

water onto used paper to toss in solid garbage.

Recycle used paper responsibly and avoid contaminating it with oil/food.

Have the paper recycling station separate from other recycling (e.g. cans/bottles

recycling) to avoid contact/contamination with liquid.

Reuse water from papermaking over and over again.


Use zero waste sewing patterns and low water dyeing methods.

Grow and forage plants for natural dyes.

Use natural dyes. Synthetic dyes are not earth-friendly no matter how much they

are greenwashed by media and artists. Natural dye should not make use of dangerous

mordants or strip natural landscapes of endangered materials.

Recycle solvents.

Switch from French silk dyes to jacquard dyes, which are made non-toxic according

to OSHA standards.

Switch from solvent based resist to water soluble so that you don’t have to dry

clean it out.

Paint with beeswax.






Fire your kiln at a lower temperature.

Use locally sourced and manufactured clays.

Adjust your glazes or stains and shift away from those that are toxic.

Try digging, collecting, and processing your own clay.

Load your kiln efficiently so that you fire less frequently. Reminder: it uses the

same amount of power to heat the kiln no matter how many pots are inside.

Edit yourself and think about your footprint. Don’t fire work unless it is

worth keeping.

Experiment with kilns that are more energy efficient. Switch to electric firing,

especially if you can procure your electricity from renewable resources.

If running an electric kiln, try installing solar panels to offset the electricity used.

Consider firing your kiln with an alternative energy source such as waste

vegetable oil (WVO).

Use wood from the scraps generated at a lumberyard or mill waste from a renewable

resource to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. If you are fortunate enough to own

wooded property or have access to a school forest, it may even be possible to harvest

trees in a manner that increases the health of the forest while providing fuel

for your kiln. This same forest could offset the emissions produced by firing kilns.

Reclaim your clay including your scraps. There is a lot of carbon invested in the

mining, transportation and production of clay.

Allow the sludge that accumulates in your rinse bucket to dry, then dispose of

it safely.

Make pavers out of reclaimed glaze and clay.

Ceramics is all about water management. A Sink Bucket System will conserve a

substantial amount of water in a studio. Place a large bucket in the sink with a few

holes drilled near the top. When washing off clay, do so into the bucket. The slurry

will collect at the bottom while the water drains out of the drilled holes at the top.

Once the bucket has filled with water, use that water to wash things rather than

running the faucet again. Alternatively, forgo the sink altogether and set up what is

known as the “4-bucket system” where four buckets of water are utilized as rinsing

stations and the scraps from the bottom can be collected and recycled.

Minimize water use in your studio. Less water, less cracking.










Silver plate serving platters, flatware and vessels from the 1950s and 60s have

dense silver plating over copper, brass and steel which can be used for cutting,

shaping and soldering for new projects and for practicing techniques.

Demonetized coins from around the world are plentiful, made with incredible

metals, and can be transformed and used for a variety of possibilities. Use them to

teach students a variety of metal techniques instead of using “new” metal.

Scrap roofing copper can be used for forming and shaping small jewelry

type objects.

Try to use scrap pieces as elements in new work as much as possible.


Send wood scraps and dust collection system residue to the local composting

center via the yard waste containers the city uses.

Lookout for materials anywhere and everywhere: curbs, construction sites,

and more.






The first of i ts kind, the Artist Studio EcoGuide is a crowdsourced

document that enlists the involvement of the craft community and

artists overall to be mindful and effective in all actions that impact

the natural world.

The EcoGuide is intended as a tool that offers pragmatic and

meaningful solutions for the logistical operations and design of art

spaces. This accessible resource, for all artists, across media, provides

adoptable ideas for improving the eco-footprint of art making.

The EcoGuide is an outcome of the Craft in America Center’s

exhibition Making Waves: Ocean Ecology & Craft, and part of

Craft in America’s initiative Craft in Action, which uses art to build

awareness and activate for social good.

Support provided by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and

additional funders.


Edited by Emily Zaiden

Project Coordinated by Joan Mace and Emilia Shaffer Del-Valle

2021 Copyright Craft in America, Inc.

All rights reserved.

ISBN# 978-0-578-97746-1


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