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How to craft the world into a more sustainable place

Published January 6, 2016, by Stina Axelson

To most people “upcycling” is as simple as turning trash into treasure but the key to “real upcycling” is to think of the final product’s complete life cycle. If the materials used are in no way reusable, recyclable or repairable then use it!

Is it responsible to upcycle and repurpose or is it just adding to the landfills?

It probably isn´’t news to you that mass consumption has dramatically increased in the past years. Our economic growth is depending on continued marketing of new products and the path from the sales floor to the landfill has become shorter. We put over millions of tonnes of trash into landfills each year. What can artists, makers, and crafters do to avoid adding to the landfills and instead contribute to a more sustainable environment? A good start is to have an understanding of the product lifecycle.

Do you want to be an environmental crafter?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself

Do I really need more supplies?

First of all, most crafters have loads of material in their stash, use that to start with. Reducing consumption and consuming less new raw materials can result in a reduction of energy usage, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions etc.

What would grandma do?

We can learn a lot about upcycling from the past. Before trash pick-up was available nearly everyone upcycled in one way or another. Old dresses were fashioned into aprons and rags were made into rugs. If you do find something laying around your house that you might want to throw in the trash, consider possible uses. The more you reuse, the fewer resources are needed to create, transport, and dispose of new items.

Can it be recycled?

We recycle by selling our layaway objects and garments at a lower price, export in bulk and sell in developing countries or chemically recycle into raw materials. Most of the time energy and water is used to change the physical properties of the waste material. Recycling helps the planet because it keeps your trash out of landfills but it will eventually end up there.

If I need more supplies, what’s the most environmentally friendly way to get to the store?

The pollution from your transportation when visiting the store for shopping is a significant part of the total carbon footprint if you must stock up on craft supplies, visit the store travel by bike, or walk there.

Can I increase the value of this item?

If you at the end of an items lifespan give it a new start by moving it up the supply chain and increasing the value in worth and quality, that’s upcycling. For example turning a bed sheet into a dress and making use of what you have.


What if you decided to cut up those cardboard boxes and glue them together or give your DVD´s a second life by using them as a mosaic, how bad is that? Being an environmentalist it would probably be better to recycle, however, water and chemicals are used in the process. Instead, you consumed less new raw material and maybe you even succeeded in creating a masterpiece that increased in value as a true upcycler.

What would you say is the best advice if you want to be a sustainable crafter?

Feel free to add your thoughts and comments!

Love Stina

Stina Axelson

Stina Axelson

Always making and creating and fun to hang out with. She finds it hard to follow instructions and keeps a box of treasured papers.

Comments

    Davit Nava

    Great post! I like very much what you mentioned about re-thinking, recycling and reusing. Answering to the question you mentioned above “What can artists, makers and crafters do to avoid adding to the landfills and instead contribute to a more sustainable environment?”
    I can share briefly with you what I, as an environmental artist, do to contribute to the environment instead of adding more pollutants to our planet.
    I create sustainable art by reusing and recycling. Post-use plastic bags, newspaper, used clothing and other materials that would end up in the garbage are my main resource of raw materials. I especially like to sculpt my pieces with post-use plastic bags that otherwise end up, quite often, in the ocean swallowed by whales or sea turtles killing them. Should you be interested in reading more about my work on building a healthier relationship between society and nature through art, please visit my website or don’t hesitate to contact me 🙂

    Stina Axelson

    Hello Davit,

    thank you for getting in touch! we are so excited to hear from you! We had a workshop today on upcycling and discussed the matter, and Im still very confused. If I alter the state of the plastic bag, lets say with glue that would mean that you cant recycle the plastic, right? But if I would keep the plastic as its original state so it can be recycled at a later point, that would be better? I will read on your website, and maybe we could do a short interview about you and your work?

    By the way, your style and work is stunning, well done!

    Best Regards Stina & The Craft Lab Team

    Davit Nava

    Hi Stina,
    Hope you are doing great!
    I was just remembering about this post and the interview you mentioned some months ago…
    I’m still interested and available at your convenience 😉
    By the way, congrats for your amazing work!
    Best regards,
    Davit Nava

    Stina Axelson

    Hi Davit,

    yes we should do an interview! Check your email 🙂

    Speak soon!

    //Stina

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