A Guide to Greener Art Supplies

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Get Crafty, without the Chemicals 

Ready to roll up your sleeves and help the kids get their creative juices flowing? The first stop is the art supplies store. If you want to conserve resources and make art that’s good for the imagination and the environment, here are some pointers for the shopping spree.

Paper: Look for 100% recycled paper, with a high percentage of that consisting of post-consumer waste. Paper that’s FSC certified contains wood that’s sustainably harvested, helping shift the market away from illegal logging, water pollution, and displacement of indigenous people. Also look for chemical-free paper that’s bleached without chlorine to help reduce pollution. A couple of good brands are Canson drawing pads, made from 100% recycled paper (found at Blick) and Eco-Kids Eco-Paper, which is actually “tree-free,” made from the discarded stalks of banana trees. You can pick up the pads at Monkey Bars in Alameda.

Paint, Markers, Pencils and Crayons: Natural paint is the way to go, and there’s plenty out there made from minerals pigments, earth-based clay, and even milk, without the use of chemical dyes or petrochemicals. The same goes for markers; look for those with plant or mineral dyes, that don’t contain harsh additives. Crayons of the non-toxic variety can be made from bee’s wax or soy, and colored pencils can be made from recycled newspaper, like fun, scented Smencils.

Clay: Non-toxic clays are so safe that some of the packages will even claim they’re edible. While that doesn’t mean you’ll be spoonfeeding it to the baby, you’ll realize how easy it is to have chemical-free clay when you make play dough, putty, and even slime  at home using basic ingredients in your cupboard like flour, salt, and baking soda. Or you can pick up or order brands like Mama K’s playdough, For My Kids Happy Fun Dough, or Eco-Dough.

Go Shopping! There are plenty of art stores to choose from carrying green goodies, whether it’s your neighborhood Blick or local favorites like Monkey Bars in Alameda and Rockridge Kids in Oakland. Or, for the greenest solution of all, try reusing salvaged art supplies from a treasure trove like the The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Get ready to get crafty!

—Renee M. Rutledge