How to Create an Eco-Friendly Art Studio

Paige Simianer | October 9, 2016 (Updated April 20, 2022)

How often do you think about how much energy or waste your art studio accumulates?

It can be a hard question to face, but it’s one that we need to ask ourselves from time to time. With so much at stake, it’s extremely important for artists to do their part. As we celebrate the earth that we live on, we need to reflect on more ways we can better take care of it! 

Art can unfortunately bring some severe environmental impacts along with it. Traditional art practices and materials can be detrimental to our planet (not to mention toxic to us). The good news is that sustainable options are on the rise and you CAN make a difference. 

We’ve come up with a list overflowing with ways for concious creatives to reduce the carbon footprint of their studio, minimize their negative impact on the planet, and be more eco-friendly in general. Here are some things to think about:

1. Turn It Off

Let’s start with an easy one: turning off your electronics. It’s amazing how much energy you can save in the studio by completing this simple task.

Get in the habit of turning off the lights when you aren’t in the room or the coffee maker when it’s not in use. Is it a bright, beautiful day outside? Try creating art in the natural light. Or, if you must turn on the lights, switch out your old bulbs with a more energy efficient brand.

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We know you’ve heard this one before, but again, it can make or break the carbon footprint of your studio. So follow these rules to become a recycling pro:

  • Stash a recycling bin nearby that you can automatically dump old sketches, used paper towels, boxes, and other cardboard and plastic into.

  • Paint over old canvases for new projects.

  • Sharpen dull pencils, chalks, xacto knife blades, and other supplies before tossing them.

  • Use both sides of paper to cut your consumption in half.

  • Save palettes of unused paint in the fridge to use again at a later point.

  • Keep packaging materials like bubble wrap to reuse for your own shipping.

  • Store records of your art online with Artwork Archive so you don’t waste paper.

3. Use Recycled Materials 

If your art practice calls for unique materials, consider sourcing them from local disposal sites! These types of facilities contain discarded wood, fabric, furniture and tons of other materials that just might spark inspiration. You can save some major $$ as a bonus too. 

There are also many eco-friendly art materials to choose from these days. Whether you're working with paper or canvas, opt for organic, recycled and nontoxic options where you can, such as hemp, flax, bamboo or cotton. Legion Paper developed a classification system to best represent key environmental factors. They've developed five categories to help identify their paper products which meet your expectations for environmental responsibility: Alternative Energy, Chlorine-Free, Handmade Papers, Mill Certification and Tree-Free.

Before you stock up on your materials next, take time to do some research. Maybe it's time to switch suppliers! 

Here are a few suppliers that offer sustainable alternatives: 

  • Blick’s eco-friendly product list.
  • Natural Earth Paint, a small family business that creates paint using pigments from nature, us recycled packaging, biodegradable bags, and glass bottles, operate in a solar-powered facility.
  • Utrecht offer cadmium-free paint options: made with organic blends, but with the same opacity, feel and weight as traditional products. 
  • M. Graham & Co. use walnut oil as a binder in almost all of its paints, eliminating the need for solvents when cleaning brushes.
  • Winsor & Newton use a rainwater collection system as a sustainable water source at their brush-making plant.

Take a look at this article by Francesca Willow to find even more ways to be a sustainable and eco-friendly artist!


4. Stop Buying Plastic Bottles

While this could fall under our point about recycling, we believe it deserves it’s own point. Why? Because plastic water bottles take over 1,000 years to biodegrade and if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes. It is estimated that over 80% of all single-use water bottles in the U.S. simply become trash.

While staying hydrated is an important way to stay healthy as an artist, it is much better for the environment (and your wallet) to invest in a reusable water bottle, a filtered water pitcher, and some drinking glasses for studio visitors.

Pro tip: Upcycle jars/containers from old food items and give them a purpose in your studio! Done with that salsa? Wash that jar and use if to store your paint brushes!


5. Consider Eco-Friendly Packaging

A large portion of packaging is not recycled and, as we know, plastic material takes years to break down.  Opt instead to use biodegradable packaging when shipping your artwork. Since biodegradable packaging materials are made from recycled materials instead of chemicals and plastics, they are better for the environment. Since the packaging is eco-friendly, it reduces the amount of wasted materials and consumption of resources.

If you're shipping smaller art prints or items, consider purchasing your packaging from an eco-concious company like . Their mailer bags are recyclable and when they happen to escape collection and end up as litter, they will start breaking down and become carbon dioxide, water and biomass, leaving no toxic residues or any microplastics! (They also have tons of awesome designs to choose from). 


6. Trash Toxins Properly

It may seem harmless, but washing brushes right in the sink puts pigment and toxins straight down the drain and into the environment. Instead, rinse paint-filled brushes in solvent or water in a separate container before heading to the sink. The pigment will eventually settle to the bottom of your container; then you can reuse the clean solvent and dump the water as normal.

The next step is to dispose of the old pigments and paint thinners. In her article “12 Practices for Artists to Go Green,” artist Diana Moses Botkin explains that if your pigments contain lead, heavy metals, or other toxins, then the trash simply won’t do. These types of materials  must be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. Even old rags and paint tubes with these toxins are considered hazardous.

While your  best bet is to choose safe materials from the start, learning about how to properly dispose of the harmful ones is crucial if you choose to use these types of paints. Check out our quick guide to detoxing your art studio to learn more about disposing harmful substances.


7. Clean with Green

Speaking of chemicals, another way to cut back on your use of toxins is to use environment-friendly products when cleaning up your work space. Nowadays these “green” cleaners are easy to come by, so you can keep the studio and your carbon footprint in tip-top shape.


8. Don’t Drive As Much

If your studio requires a drive there and back, consider an alternative—biking, walking, public transit, or carpool. Putting less pollution in the air for even one day out of the week makes a difference.

If driving is the only viable option, consider walking to lunch or completing your other business to-do’s online. Tasks like banking, ordering supplies, and even shipping can be handled without leaving the studio.


A little effort goes a long way.

Let’s face it. All of these suggestions are easy changes to your daily routine. And, if every artist followed through, we’d make a huge dent in keeping the planet healthy. So, be mindful of your studio habits and start reducing your carbon footprint as an artist! 


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