What We Make

5 Ways to be an Eco-Friendly Crafter, Maker, and Artist

Written by: Hannah Kimmel

Here at the Making Life, we LOVE nature. We love taking care of our planet. We love providing a healthy environment for our kids. It’s important to us to live responsibly with the planet and resources we have. But, I’m just going to put this out there. I’m NOT the most eco-friendly maker in the world. I don’t use all-natural materials.
I still use plastic and artificial fibers.

Let’s put it this way. I buy a lot of craft supplies at JoAnn’s and Michael’s.

Maybe I should call this, “The Practical Guide to Being a Green Maker — Sometimes.” Or, “Being a Part-Time Eco-Friendly Maker.” Or maybe, “A Guide to Saving the Planet While Still Using Acrylic Fibers.”

Anyway, you get the point. I’m not perfect.

Still, I DO care about the planet, and lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about what that looks like as a maker. Can I make choices in my creation that is a little more earth-friendly? And the answer is absolutely yes!

So here are a few tips from our family to yours about how YOU can be eco-friendly a little more while crafting, making, and creating.

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1. Use up the Craft Stash

I’m guilty of it, and if you’re a crafter, you’re probably guilty of it too!

Crafters are prone to being craft hoarders. It’s in our blood. We’d rather buy a few yards of fabric than a new set of shoes. You know you could totally make yourself a new dress with that fabric. Or… it could sit in a bin in your basement for years with good intentions. (Maybe that’s just me).

A couple of years ago I was buying craft supplies like mad. I think I had miniature dreams that I would turn my creations into a side-hustle. I did make a little money from crocheting, but ultimately I spent more buying craft supplies at the local box stores.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE having supplies on hand for when the creative bug strikes. I love my craft room and I love that I have what I need on hand.

But, I realized at some point that I really REALLY didn’t need to buy any more yarn.

Unless I have a specific request for something, there’s really no need to purchase new yarn. It’s SO tempting to walk down the colorful aisles and dream of projects. It gives me a little thrill to get something new. However, I realized it was becoming wasteful.

There’s a good chance that I just won’t be able to use up my yarn supply for a long long time.

That’s why I started making stash buster projects like my bulky yarn blanket. It looks like Joseph’s coat of many colors, but it’s soft, squishy, and warm. It cost me no additional $$ and it saved unused craft supplies from going to the dump.


2. Collect Reclaimed or Used Wood Materials

This tip is specifically about sourcing wood, but the principle can apply to anything.

Look for materials for your craft that aren’t new if possible. You can do this by going to yard sales, flea markets, and auctions. Sometimes you can also get supplies from friends who have abandoned a craft or have an oversupply.

If you’re interested in woodworking, there are a lot of eco-friendly choices for materials.

Get a Wood Mill

While it’s easy to go to the local lumber store, there are a lot of other ways to find wood for your furniture and other projects.

One way to do this is to purchase a chainsaw mill. If you’re not looking to buy an expensive chainsaw mill, you can do what we did and get a Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill. This type of wood mill is portable and only needs a chainsaw to operate.

You can find trees that have already fallen down or use your chainsaw to cut down ones that are dead or dying. Cutting your own slabs of wood is a game-changer.

Just remember that you can’t use your slabs right away. They need time to dry before you can use them for projects.

To learn more about the Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill, check out our blog post and video.

Use Reclaimed Wood

Sourcing wood from barns, factories, old buildings, and old furniture is a very green way to woodwork. Plus using reclaimed wood is extremely popular.

If you’re wondering what reclaimed wood is, it’s anything left over when it’s former need is no longer necessary. So if your local farmer is dismantling a wooden shed, that dried out wood can be used for loads of other projects.

Doing this can give new life to old wood, preserve history, and give you materials to make some really cool projects.

Buy Wood at an Auction

Auctions are a great place for makers to collect supplies and equipment.

It seems that at every local auction we’ve been to there’s a garage that has an older gentleman’s collection of tools. Some auctions have a massive amount of tools, and others only a handful, but they all seem to have at least a modest supply.

Another thing many auctions tend to have is a nice selection of wood. This wood is usually stacked nicely somewhere in a dry barn, garage, or shed. It’s well dried and ready to ready to use, and you can get it for a fraction of the cost of a local home improvement store.

Use Scrap Wood

Don’t throw out those smaller pieces of wood leftover from bigger projects. Here’s a scrap wood project we did making a mountain range coat rack:


3. Craft With Things That Are Going to be Thrown Away Anyway

I don’t know about you and your house, but we don’t keep everything our kids make. With four kids we get a LOT of papers and projects from school, church, life. I don’t know where it all comes from. We probably take in orphan papers from other kids. Our car is littered with papers, they’re on our countertops, they’re hidden in drawers. Bottom line, we throw out a lot. We just can’t keep it all!

That’s why I love using refuse materials to do projects with them. Last Christmas we made wrapping paper from paper grocery bags, and more recently we made cardboard houses and castles with the kids.

There are LOADS of things you can make out of recycled materials, and the best news is you can toss it into the recycling bin when you’re done. Guilt-free. If it’s not recyclable, you got extra use out of it before it went into the landfill.

4. Use Recycled Materials for an Eco-Friendly Alternative

We’ve often lived in older homes, and often in older homes, you find an older person’s workspace in a garage or basement. I’m not trying to generalize too much, but I think many people who had lived through the depression era knew the importance of using whatever materials they had on hand.

I think that’s why it’s common to find reused glass jars of screws, nails, and other odds and ends in garage and basement work areas. These jars are usually attached to a low ceiling or under a workbench so you could unscrew the jar, get out what you need, and screw it back to the lid.

That’s genius.

Today, people do amazing things with leftover jars and cans. They paint, decorate, and embellish them. They really create art with them.

But if you’re just looking for some quick and practical uses from your *almost* trash items, you don’t have to make it pretty.

When I paint a picture, it’s nice to use leftover glass jars, cans, or plastic lids for water to rinse my brushes. That keeps paint off the glasses we use to drink out of.

Kids are messy when they make projects. That’s why it’s convenient to use leftover cardboard to put under their work. If they’re painting, using makers, or just plain messy, it’s a great way to keep your tables clean.

I also use cardboard to mix paints for my pictures.

5. Upcycle Items

As I mentioned before in another blog post, we’ve really been enjoying Flea Market Flip on HGTV. If you enjoy making furniture and have an eye for design, there are some really amazing things you can do with upcycling.

People take decorations or furniture that are tired, worn out, or breaking down, and they create new functional and beautiful pieces.

It’s fun, but it can also be profitable.

Many of the people on the show are able to sell the items for much more than they’ve put into them. They’ve made a profit and kept something from ending up in the landfill.

This is an upcycle project we did using an old oak school desk.

Here’s the before:

And here’s the after:

You can learn how we did it in our guide to Upcycling a Vintage School Desk.


Are You Ready to be an Eco-Friendly Maker and Save the Planet?

Yes, it’s true. These tips on their own might not be able to save the whole planet. But I think being more mindful of the way we live our daily lives really can and will make a difference.

We teach our kids to recycle and to not be wasteful. Since crafting, building, and making is such a big part of our life, we want to make sure that we’re doing it in a responsible way.

What are some of your favorite ways to craft, build, or make responsibly? How are you an eco-friendly maker, crafter, builder, or artisan?



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