Sustainable Crafts

One of my housemates read an article for a sustainability class which included an idea like this: the average sustainably-oriented person tends to obsess over largely unimpactful sustainability practices such as obsessively recycling everything or composting everything in an effort to placate themselves because they cannot do anything about the main contributors to climate change such as big oil companies, or business monopolies, which is super disheartening, but also, what else are we supposed to do?

Recycling every recyclable thing we come across is better than throwing it all away, using reusable shopping bags is better than getting new plastic bags every grocery store trip, composting and reducing your own waste is better than not. Anyways, I digress.

This is my way of obsessing over largely impactful sustainability practices in an attempt to placate myself.

I have always loved arts and crafts of all kinds, being able to make something with my own two hands seemed so incredible to me! As a kid I would go to various “art classes” which usually just consisted of various friends’ moms watching us and feeding us goldfish crackers as we made a mess of their living room with paints and construction paper and glue. These “classes” dwindled in frequency as we moved on from elementary school and started having homework to do and more time spent on sports or extracurriculars.

In high school, the only time I was ever able to express my creativity was for a class project that required a poster or some visually appealing aspect. It wasn’t until quarantine that I was able to rediscover my love of arts and crafts, as I was suddenly forced to sit at home with all the time in the world to do nothing but be creative. And this is not to say that I was extremely productive during quarantine, some days it was hard enough just to motivate myself to get up and put on a different set of pajamas because what did I have to do today? Who was even going to see me except for my dad?

But with some of my immense amounts of free time, I was able to start creating again.

My most recent project has been sewing. I have big dreams of sewing my own clothes but I’m starting off by upcycling clothes I already have but don’t wear that often, but with this new project, and others, I’ve found that I’m stressing myself out about the waste I’m creating that comes along with creating art or clothes. When I sew a new pair of pants, or even upcycle an old shirt into a ‘new’ shirt, I have various fabric scraps leftover. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about the amount of waste the clothing and retail industry creates and how the majority of donated clothes end up in the landfill (this tidbit really messed me up, I thought at least if I donated old clothes that’d be better than just throwing them out, but the best thing to do is to just buy less).

Even when I am painting, there is a small part of me that gets stressed out, because what am I going to do with this canvas in the future? Leave it on my wall until its too old and faded to look nice? What if I get sick of it or it doesn’t fit the aesthetic I have going later on? Silly questions, I know, but I still find myself thinking about the sheer amount of Stuff we have on this planet, and here I am just adding to it.

So, although I haven’t figured out what to do about my various canvases and other art projects, I have figured out what to do with my excess fabric scraps. There are loads of projects you can make with scraps. For one, I have made reusable cotton rounds out of some of my scraps. If you use makeup wipes or cleanse your face with a cotton round or use anything similar, this may be a super easy way to upgrade that part of your waste. I’ve been using reusable cotton rounds for about a year now, they’re super useful and you can just throw them into the wash in their mesh bag when you use them all, and then they are brand new again and ready to be used! Even better, they’re super easy to make yourself with small bits of leftover fabric.

With the bigger pieces of scrap fabric, you can make various patchwork items of clothing, which are actually super trendy right now! I’ve already made a patchwork t-shirt out of some bigger scraps I had lying around, but I have plans to one day make patchwork pants with various bits of denim and linen fabric I’ll save from other projects. The reusable cotton rounds don’t take much sewing skill, they are great for beginners, but the patchwork projects may take a little bit more skill as there is more planning and measuring involved, but anyone can do these projects if you put your mind to it.

I don’t know if I am the only one stressing myself out about creating, but these are a few ways to appease that silly little voice in the back of your head. And of course, keep recycling and composting when feasible. 🙂

-Jackie Rittenhouse ’23, Whitewater Kayaking Instructor.