This year I’ve signed up to #plasticfreejuly. Whilst I’ve been on the plastic free / zero waste bandwagon for a while, it’s often great to have something brought to the fore for a while. It encourages people who are already concerned about the subject to revue and adjust our habits and have a look at new developments and ideas to use going ahead. A dedicated month like this can shine a spotlight on a subject like plastic usage and serve to educate and open the minds of people who may not have thought about the subject much to the problems involved with plastic waste and what can they can do to change.
You can sign up online to “Plastic Free July” online and all the socials and receive tips and inspiration along the way. I’ve struggled with joining Plastic Free and Zero Waste online communities in the past due to high levels of judgement (something I’ve blogged about before). I’ve seen people leave these communities discouraged and would hate to think that they abandon all their good intentions because they have been criticised for not doing it “perfectly”. I believe that great steps can still be made towards a better environment by many people making small changes.
I will disclose here immediately that we do not have a Zero Waste or Plastic Free household. I can proudly say we are definitely Minimal Plastic and Low Waste. I choose to make compromises based largely on budget, utility and availability and you can rest assured I’m very mindful of my choices.
Less Plastic and Less Waste for Crafters
One look around the craft section at your local discount store and you’ll see plastic packaging and plastic craft products galore for kids and adults alike. Luckily there are lots of ways to reduce your plastic use here. Don't forget you don't have to avoid plastic completely. Certainly, you don't want to buy new stuff if avoidable, and single use plastic is the worst! However, you can recycle and reuse plastic materials already out there and stop them heading to landfill.
Beware of craft fads.
It's easy to get seduced by the latest crafting fads and be tempted to buy all the gadgets, equipment and "stuff" that come with it before you even know whether you'll even enjoy it or not. Before adopting a new craft, consider a few things. Will you realistically do it (do you have the time, space, energy, money)? Can you try the craft at a class, watch a demo or borrow equipment to have a go first before committing to purchasing a lot of stuff? Does it really require the kit or as many items as the clever marketing people suggest? What is the minimum amount of equipment to try it out/get going? Can I borrow, rent or buy equipment or materials second hand? Is it a craft requiring a lot of resources that might not be a good choice for my ethos? Is it sustainable, or can I make better choices when purchasing equipment and supplies that makes it more so?
Recycle, recycle, recycle.
All sorts of craft can come for salvaged materials. Paper and cardboard waste, packaging waste, old greeting cards, postcards, postage stamps, magazines, fabric scraps, old costume jewellery, buttons, lids - use your imagination. Need to search beyond your own home? Raid friend’s and family’s potential supplies or even call into your local op shop/thrift store. Op shops can be a treasure trove for crafters - as well as many items for up cycling or repurposing there are often supplies for many crafts abandoned by their original purchasers. Give them a new life.
Take a look outside for potential craft options. Dried leaves, sticks, nuts, seeds, rocks, bark, stones and more can be utilised for many different projects.
Opt out of plastic/poly twine and string.
There is plenty of cotton, wool, jute, hemp and natural options for string and twine or you may even find strappy plants in the garden that can be split into strings.
Confetti and sequins.
Aquire a single hole punch (they come in different shapes and sizes) and recycle to make your own. Old card, paper, wrapping, packaging, ribbon, leaves etc can all be used. The leftover punched materials can also be very decorative.
Make your own play dough.
It’s really easy to make your own play dough with very ordinary ingredients, packaging free and with no nasty ingredients.
Paper and Card.
Consider recycling paper and card for crafts where you can. I keep my kid's half used scrapbooks and exercise books at the end of the school year, the backing board from my art paper pads and the inner part that I cut out from matt board when I'm framing and mounting paintings, for instance. If you are purchasing new paper or card, remember to look for recycled and recyclable options with minimal packaging.
Have fun with homemade dyes and paints.
There are obviously lots of commercially made options, but have you ever played with home made dyes and pigments? Soaking/boiling things like onion skins or different leaves can create amazing dyes. You can also dye and paint with tea and coffee. Non-toxic paints for kids are easy to make with things like salt, flour, water and food colourings.Check out a few recipes here.
Stamps can be made from all kinds of objects. Keep an eye out for things with interesting shapes and textures. Use them as is, or glue them to a small block of wood or short length of fat dowel. You can also carve your own - a great use for an old stained eraser or even a humble potato. Click here for a few ideas.
For paper crafts and for projects like paper mache which need a lot of glue, you can make your own simple glue with store cupboard ingredients. Some projects may require a specific glue - just pick the option with the least packaging that you will use the least amount of.
Crafting can easily be made high or low waste. By making some mindful choices and being a little creative you can have plenty of fun making marvellous things with minimal environmental impact.