Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A Green Studio

Today is Earth Day. In honour of the day, I decided to see what I could do to help the environment. I already reduce, recycle and reuse what I can in the rest of my life, but am I doing the best I can with my art supplies?
I checked some websites and found that I am not doing everything that I can. Some art supplies are made of hazardous materials-lead, cobalt cadmium and mercury. Cleaning solvents are also hazardous. These materials are not only hazardous to the environment but also to us.
So how can I help the environment while I continue to paint? Here are some suggestions that I found.
1. Know what you are buying. Read the labels. Hazardous art supplies must be labelled as such. Health concerns are also on the labels. Check the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). I found this site at
The Artists Depot, which lists 141 MSDS. Another good site is http://www.ilpi.com/msds/
2. Use water based paints. They contain fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and don’t need chemical solvents for cleanup. Choose paint colours made from organic pigments such as madder (red) and indigo (blue). My paints are all water based, including my oils so I’m OK with that part. I will try to choose paints made from organic pigments.
3. If using solvents to clean up, pour a small amount into a container for use. After finishing, let the residue settle and then pour it into another container straining out the residue. Let the residue dry and then toss in the garbage. You can recycle the turpentine or mineral spirits this way and reduce the amount being disposed of. It is also cost effective as the turps and/or mineral spirits will last longer. I use mineral spirits with my oil pastels and have been using this method of disposal for many years. My reasons for doing this were to save money not the environment but it seems I’m smarter than I thought I was.
4. Use rags as opposed to paper towels. The exception to this would be with oils. If using oils, clean up with paper towels. Do not wash rags in home washers or at commercial Laundromats. The waste from the rags is not contained and is washed down the drain. This one surprised me-I thought by using rags it was better. I will replace the rags I use for my oils with paper towels (made out of recycled paper).
Some interesting sites.
http://siri.uvm.edu/library/artist_waste
www.thegreenparent.blogspot.com
http://www.pp.okstate.edu/ehs/hazmat/Hazmat-1.htm
http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/greentips/305-the-dangers-of-modern-art.html
http://www.emagazine.com/view/?3172
http://doitgreen.org/article/arts/supplies

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