Crafting for climate change

Crafting for climate change

This year I have been giving a series of talks on crafting and climate change.

As crafters we have an ability to make choices and help stand up and make a difference but most people don’t know where to start. I could spend days talking about the facts and figures like:

•In 2019 we were told we had 12 years to dramatically reduced the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere or we would reach an irreversible tipping point.

•The UK alone needs to plant 3 billion trees

•2016 was the warmest year on record & 17 of the 18 warmest years have occurred since 2000

•11% of all global greenhouse emissions are caused by deforestation

•408 parts per million – the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest it has been in 3 million years

•Nearly 1 million hectares of coastal eco systems are lost each year

and showing you fabulous infograms like this

But honestly if I kept on like that for the whole thing you would just end up feeling really small and helpless and go away feeling like there was nothing you could actually do.

So what can you do?

Start at home. It is where you are most of the time when you are crafting so it is the best place to start.

•If you don’t need it don’t buy it!

Sounds obvious but crafters are as well known for their buying habits as they are for their making habits. Many will admit that they prefer the accumulation of crafting materials more than they actually like the making of things. ow is the time to really start thinking about whether you really need that new thing or whether you have enough which brings me to the next point.

•Un-stash your STABLE

STash Aquired Beyond Life Expectancy. This is what happens when the buying has gone too far and the amount of materials gathered has become so great that there is actually now way you will use them all before you pop your clogs. No you do not need to buy any more stuff. You just need to use what you have. Previously I have looked at why we don’t use our stash (there is a section in Embracing you inner wabi sabi on just this) but in the end it comes down to one main thing. You have made it too precious, a revered item that you love just for being the thing it is right now. Whether it is a paintbrush, a set of crayons, a piece of fabric, a sketchbook. A one point you bought it with the intention of turning it into something else and now it sits there just being a thing. Use it and enjoy it.

•Look at what you have and finish it, remodel or get rid

Our world is full of other acronyms. WIP’s, UFO’s, OMG’s whatever you like to call them. In the end it comes down to that fact that you have a selection of not quite finished things that you need to decide what to do with. And finishing them is not always the answer. Sometimes it is ok to admit hat you have spent quite enough time on them and the fact that they have sat in the cupboard for the last 2 years is because you hate them or never even liked cross stitch in the first place. Get them out and if you still love them, finish them, if you don’t love them either find a new way to use them or don’t be scared to get rid of them.

•Decide what you actually enjoy doing and focus

This is important. We spend a lot of time colecting things including new techniques. It is so easy to get caught up in the idea of trying everything and never really focusing on what we really enjoy. Find out what you love and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be only one technique but it can’t be every technique. Once you know what you want to do it is easier not to end up with the world’s largest stash and easier to start using it up.

•Learn to love what you have

The materialistic world we live in constantly pressures us in to wanting more and new things all the time when actually we probably have what we need or the ability to create it. We also have a lot of skills. Each person is different and we should be happy that we all have our own personality and strengths. Crafting is no different. Expressing yourself through your craft is a way to learn to love what you have. Develop your strengths whether it is drawing, sewing, pottery. We each have natural creative tendencies. Using the tools and equipment we own rather than always wanting the latest gadgets, with the right skill you can create the most amazing things with even the simplest of tools.

Being Realistic we are going to buy more things, but before you do there are a few points to consider.

Where has it come from? How has it been made? What is it made of? How does the process work?

Has it travelled half way round the world to be here or is it from Durham? If it is from Durham did the materials come half way round the world to Durham before it was constructed? Is it made of a bio-degradeable material or a non sustainable one? Is there an alternative material it could be made of? Could you buy a local version instead? Could you buy a natural material instead of plastic? Is the natural material from a sustainable source? Could you use a different process that produces less waste? or uses a longer lasting tool?

It gets confusing. If you don’t know the origins of something ask the supplier and if they cannot tell you don’t be afraid to say no. Suppliers should be able to tell you the origins of their goods.

Processes are not all as environmentally friendly or bad as they first appear to be. For instance some versions of natural dyeing processes use chemicals to fix and prepare fabrics that are harmful or even in the dye mix. Some plastics are better than others (and some are not even technically plastic).

If you can buy an alternative, it may be more expensive but it could last longer, and will often mean the difference between sustainable and not.

What can I make?

If you want to start making things to make a difference think about where you could start.

Non-disposable items for your home including:

•make up wipes •serviettes •cloths •sanitary pads •bags for veg/shopping

Cook from scratch instead of buying prepacked

•The process of cooking can be very satisfying and as good as crafting in other ways

Learn to dye and make using things in your garden

•Working with natural methods and processes is less harmful to the environment and better for you as it gets you back in touch with nature

Mend instead of buying new

•Crafting and saving money – win win!

Sustainable Art and Craft

Robert Cannon
Korean Paper Sculpture
upcycled cutlery herb markers

Change the way you approach life

Be more wabi sabi

A wabi sabi based life style is much more climate conscious naturally. Wanting for less, being more in tune with yourself, living more slowly. All these things lead to less strain on the environment and more care for it.

Get back in touch with nature

Understanding and living with nature means you will genuinely care for it. If you love the world around you will want to keep it or improve it. As humans we are designed to live in tune with nature and rediscovering this will help you feel healthier too.

Get talking and sharing

Feeling you are not alone is a big part of being able to make a change so starting conversations and sharing your thoughts and experiences is important.


Even small acts of craft can make people think

Show the love is a campaign to get people talking about the political side of climate change. Groups and individuals make green hearts and then put them into the community or even present them directly to MP’s asking them to pledge their support for climate change at a political level.

The craftivist collective is a group setup to support people in making craft to make a statement. They even make kits so you can start to make your own craftivist statements and get them out into the world.

Artists are making work to create statements about climate change too like Lorenzo Duran’s piece about aeroplane emissions

and Katherine Harvey’s giant plastic chandelier about the amount of single use plastics we have in society today.

Not sure where to start? Then why not join a group. There are plenty online like the craftivist collective or our own Wabi Sabi Collective. Or you can join a national institution like the WI who campaign for climate change as well as other causes annually. The Embroiderers’ Guild have branches across the country and there are also lots of local textiles and crafting groups too. There are also climate groups like Friends of the Earth.

You could take a course or do online research to increase your knowledge. Or you could even read a book!

If you ever get to the point where you feel really small and wonder what one single person could ever do in this world to help with something so big. Remember this:

Greta was one single person and she has started the biggest conversation about climate change the world has ever seen.

Final thought for the day.

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