Eco-Friendly and Functional: Creating Meaningful Art with Repurposed Materials
If you're a parent or a crafter who loves to make unique items for your home, then you're no stranger to arts and crafts projects. While it is a meaningful experience for children (and adults) to create something that can be hung on the wall or saved as a sweet memory, many of these projects end up being thrown away or, in a better case scenario, recycled. But what if there was a way to make art that was both decorative and functional? When it's art time at your house, first take a pause. Before grabbing a piece of paper and just drawing, look at your everyday needs and think. Think not only of what you (and your little helpers) can create, but also think about something that will last. Equally important, consider repurposing items you already have, instead of rushing out to buy new materials. You have usable, needed objects in every corner of your home, like utensil holders, planters, drawer dividers, napkin holders, organizational storage bins, and more.
When it comes to materials, there are countless items that you can repurpose for your projects. Items that are no longer in use can be given new life! Some items can serve as the basis for your projects, such as Amazon boxes, cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, plastic food containers (even when trying to avoid those), glass jars, and empty canned food tins. Other items can be used for the decorative aspect of your projects such as dried foods like beans, corn, lentils, rice, and pasta. Another eco-friendly option for collecting art materials, is going on a nature walk with your kids or yourself to scavenge for leaves, short sticks, pebbles, and seeds. You can also save paper scraps, fabric scraps, used paper bags, magazines, and newspapers daily. All of these items can make excellent raw materials for unique, functional art projects that otherwise would have been thrown away.
There are a few basic art materials and tools that are necessary for the cutting and assembly of the repurposed items. For example, tape, scissors, paints, glue, craft paper… To make conscious purchases of the specific products you need, try to choose eco-friendly art supplies that are non-toxic and made from recycled materials. Onyx and Green Glue Sticks are plant-based, non-toxic, and made from recycled materials. Onyx and Green Scissors are sustainable. Onyx and Green Colored Pencils are made from recycled newspaper. Tru-Ray Construction Paper by Pacon is Acid-Free and contains 50% recycled fiber, and Natural Earth Paints are made with natural earth pigments and organic corn starch. There's also ECOAND Brown Kraft Paper Tape, which is super strong and an excellent alternative to regular plastic tape.
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Here are a couple of functional art projects you can bring to life:
ONE: COLORFUL BUILDING BLOCKS
A fun and playful creation is making colorful building blocks for the kids with the kids. You can make them out of cardboard, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, bottle caps, paper rolls, scrap wood, and more. First, you cut and tape/glue them to create basic shapes like cubes, cones, and cylinders. Next, you can either paint them with earth paints or use scrap paper/scrap fabrics to glue them onto the shapes with Onyx and Green Glue Stick and create colorful collages. Then, you can store these lovely blocks in a repurposed box that you can decorate and design to your liking with saved materials or eco-friendly paints. Then, when it is playtime, combining imaginary play and building, you can take out your handmade blocks and construct the desired scenery to play in. A city with buildings, roads, and cars. A castle with a tall fort shaped with triangles and cones, or even a forest with trees, stones, and a pond. However you decide to assemble the blocks, they will last and serve your little ones in so many different options in an open-ended game.
TWO: STORAGE BINS
Another functional art project you can make is creating storage bins for organizing toys or plush animals. For example, take a used Amazon box or another carton box, cover it with scrap fabrics, old newspapers, or magazines, and decorate it with eco-friendly paint and then use it as a bin. An additional way to decorate it, is to collect natural materials like wooden sticks and glue them following a neat pattern to the outside of the boxes. This last option can give a natural, warm look to the room. By the end of it, you create a one-of-a-kind, practical, chic container.
If you're a plant lover or simply looking to bring a touch of greenery into your home, an eco-friendly arts and crafts project for you to consider is making a planter. If you did not yet switch to eco laundry strips or pods, instead of putting the large plastic laundry detergent container in the recycling bin, you could wash it thoroughly, cut it and use it to make a cute planter. Remember to make drainage holes at the bottom of the planter. You can make it into your favorite animal or simply paint it to add style to any lonely corner in your home.
Not only will kids enjoy doing these kinds of functional art projects with you, but it can also be a valuable educational lesson. Teaching them about hard work, caring for our planet, saving resources, reusing, repurposing, and even saving money. Teaching them how to create something with their own hands fosters confidence and self-reliance. And, of course, taking pride in their handmade creations and being able to enjoy them endless times. Using them or enjoying looking at them up on display.
However you choose to create some art, you can find creative ways to reduce waste and help our planet just a little more when combining these options in your life for the long term. It can also bring a sense of pride and brightness to your life at home.
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Inbar Shiryon is an artist and an educator. She draws inspiration from her everyday life and surroundings. Inbar also works with children in art and languages. She aspires to cultivate a sustainable way of living and to bring awareness of conscious choices to others by sharing information and leading by example.