5 Ways to Make Crafting More Sustainable and Ecofriendly

Many of us are concerned about climate change or the polluting of the environment. It is a big problem and one of the biggest contributors to pollution is fashion, and by association the home craft industry. Think for a minute how the fashion and craft industries do business. They do the bulk of their manufacturing in third world countries with few, if any, environmental (or worker safety) laws using chemicals and synthetic materials that pollute the water and land. If you want to learn more there is a great article by Glynis Sweeny on Altenet entitled 'It's the Second Dirtiest Thing in the World- And You're Wearing It'.

So what can we do, as home crafters, to lessen our impact on the environment when we pick up our needles or head to the sewing machine? I'm glad you asked. Here are five ideas for greening your crafting.

Reuse and Re-purpose

This is arguably the easiest and cheapest way to green your crafting and many of us already do it. Reusing and repurposing can run the gambit from saving fabric scraps to use in another project later to upcycling a thrifted skirt or making a dress out of old bed sheets. Some people even go so far as to unravel Goodwill sweaters and use the yarn to knit something else. 

Before and After Upcycled dress from A Pair and A Spare

Before and After Upcycled dress from A Pair and A Spare

Your creativity and vision is the only limit to what you can do when you reuse and repurpose craft materials. But sometimes you can't find the right thing to alter or you have a specific design in mind for which you need to buy raw materials. That is where number 2 on the list comes in. 

Buy Sustainable Products

Depending on what you need this could be easy or very difficult. I have never seen substantially made organic pipe cleaners but if you want a more ecofriendly alternative for a holiday skirt then there are options out there.  As the demand for ecofriendly products increase so too do the options and availability. As an on-line retailer of sustainable fabrics Wavoki Crafts tries to stock the most environmentally friendly products that we can which include hemp and hemp blend fabrics and organic cotton prints. 

At the moment it is really hard to find the holy grail of ecofriendly crafting which would probably be undyed wool sheered by hand from a sheep raised on an organic farm using climate beneficial grazing practices and then small batch manufactured in a local mill using solar power. Work is being done on this type of production but we aren't there yet. Until then, going for the most sustainable option, such as hemp, organic cotton and linen, is the best thing you can do. 

Organic cotton prints, hemp, hemp and silk blend.

Organic cotton prints, hemp, hemp and silk blend.

Buy Local

Do you shop at farmer's markets? Do you take pride in buying beer brewed in your home state or city? Do you want to support the hard working people in your community? Then buy local fibers- particularly yarn.

This is much easier for some places such as the lovely state of Washington where I reside. We are blessed with sheep, alpaca and even goats aplenty.  Currently in the Wavoki Shop is a white wool yarn from Ellensburg, WA.  But if you live in a state without a fiber industry then look for products at least made in the USA. 

How is this good for the environment? The main reason is that if the wool or other natural fiber is produced and manufactured in the US then it uses less fossil fuels than the yarn that was, say, produced in Peru, dyed in China and spun in India then sold in the US. And if you buy from a local shop or online retailer specializing in sustainable fibers (sorry, shameless plug but it is what we do) then you are also helping your local economy. 

As for fabric, the US does not really have textile manufacturing at the moment. (There are a few places that make industrial fabrics but nothing you want to sew a skirt from.) Slowly though, this seems to be changing. There is a textile mill opening up in California and some companies experimenting with recycled textiles but for the a little while longer we still have to source fabric from other countries. 

Think Before You Craft

Does your cousin really want a neon green bobble topped hat? Probably not. We can cut down on a lot of waste simply by not making or buying things we don't need. This will be different for everyone. But just taking a moment to consider your next project before jumping right in can help you choose crafts that will actually be useful and loved. 

An ex-coworker of mine once told me that she only knitted intricate patterns on small needles. These projects took her a long time to complete and therefore she completed fewer projects each year. However, because she wasn't going to the yarn store every week for a new project she could afford to spend more on the yarn that she did buy and get a higher quality product (and probably a more sustainable or local one). 

Maximize your crafting to make quality items that you, and your friends and family, need and truly want. In the end this will give you more satisfaction and reduce the number of ugly hats in the world. 

Mend What You Already Own

Mending is a lost art. We use to have to darn our socks out of necessity because they were expensive or hard to get. The other day my husband laughed at me when I mentioned darning a sock. He didn't even know what the word meant and couldn't fathom why anyone would do that. 

More than just darning your socks, mending includes fixing that busted zipper rather than trashing the whole skirt, sewing buttons back on or adding a cool patch to your pants so you can wear them a little bit longer. The goal is to extend the life of the item so that you can save money and/or don't have to consume so many industrially produced goods. 

Our world is being overrun with out of style blouses from Forever 21, holey Walmart socks and synthetic yarn scarfs that no one will ever wear. If you have made or bought a quality product then it is worth fixing minor issues to extend its useful life. Take my pair of gloves as an example. 

It took less than 30 minutes to mend the thumbs of both of my gloves. I have now had these gloves for about 7 years and will probably keep them around for a few more years. Sure, I could have easily gone out and bought a new pair but that would have cost upwards of $30 and the headache of trying to find just the right replacement. This fix used items I already had and just a little bit of time. 

Not everything can be mended. There might not be a sustainable or local option for the items you need and your attempts at upcycling might make something far uglier than you started with but KEEP AT IT! Every time we choose to be more conscious of our impact on the planet we can make better and better decisions. And as the demand for sustainable crafting supply increases so too do the options and availability. 

Do you have any ecofriendly crafting tips or project ideas? Leave a comment below so we can all increase our knowledge and awareness. 

Happy EcoCrafting!