Are you wondering about the best places to find materials for sustainable crafts? You’ll find ideas to round up all the materials you need for eco-friendly crafts in our comprehensive list.
Crafting is and has always been my happy place. I have so many cherished memories of holing up with my mom in her crafting room as a kid, surrounded by boxes and bins that overflowed with ribbons, stickers, glue guns, and opportunities. It was the opportunity to make something, imagine, and play.
And it still is! Now there’s just wine involved.
The problem is that an evening crafting session can quickly feel at odds with your environmental goals, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s really easy to fall victim to that overwhelming “UGH” feeling (I call it eco-guilt) when you survey all the packaging and plastic waste generated by indulging your creative side.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to transform your newest Pinterest projects into more environmentally friendly crafts; the path to sustainable arts and crafts starts with shopping or sourcing materials responsibly. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of going to the craft store for each and every embellishment or ingredient, but there are so many ways to find the sustainable crafting materials you need that are less impactful on the planet.
Where To Find Sustainable Crafting Supplies
Thrift Stores or Secondhand Stores
The thrift store inspires so many of my sustainable crafts. I use unwanted books in a lot of my projects, and you’ll find everything from untouched coloring books to sheet music to oversized photo books on the shelf at your local thrift store, just waiting to transform into a collage, wrapping paper, origami, greeting cards, or even a holiday table runner.
Thrift stores also boast fabric galore, which can turn your sewing project into an environmentally-friendly craft with the swipe of a debit card.
Are you looking to make your own ugly sweater? Does your little one want to decorate their own sweatshirt? Ready-made t-shirts await your iron-on decals, skirts beg for bedazzling, and kids’ clothes hang on the rack, ready for your next tie-dye project. You can even source fabric from secondhand clothes for your next holiday garland!
If you’re looking for large swaths of fabric at a discount, head for the linens aisle or scope out the tablecloths or runners. And before you feel guilty about purchasing a sweater just to use its adorable buttons in another project, remember that 85% of all clothing is destined for the landfill or the incinerator. It’s better to use the buttons to have the whole thing end up in the trash.
Last but certainly not least, your local thrift store is overflowing with mats and frames for painting or showcasing finished artwork.
Traditional Craft Stores
Sometimes a trip to the big box craft store is simply unavoidable, but that doesn’t rule out the opportunity for some sustainable crafting. Pick hemp over monofilament line and bamboo or organic cotton over synthetics. Grab some recycled water bottle felt. Choose soy wax or beeswax. Most importantly, don’t forget to poke through the fabric scraps: there are always some adorable gems in there.
Shop Your Own Home
Crafting easily translates to clutter. Once you’ve finished a project, you’ll often find yourself staring at a tablespoon of acrylic paint, snippets of ribbon, or a pile of crayon stubs, wondering if there’s “enough worth saving.” YES! Declutter while reducing craft waste by turning it into something new.
For a lazy-day sustainable craft that yields eco-friendly crafting supplies (I know, that just blew your mind. Go ahead and read that phrase a second time.), let your kids fill silicone baking tins with colorful broken crayons and melt them into new, multicolored, giant crayon blocks. These also make adorable stocking stuffers, teachers’ gifts, and kids’ birthday presents on a budget.
Mix leftover acrylic paints together for a fresh batch of green, purple, black, coral, pink, or orange. You’ll have less to store, and your children will love the creative process of “inventing” their own colors for that next sustainable craft on the horizon.
Are you drowning in snippets of ribbon? Take a page out of my momma’s crafting book, and tie the bits into little ready-to-use bows for your greeting card project, ornament-making day, or sewing craft. You can also use fabric bits and ribbon waste as stuffing for your next felted creation or DIY-throw pillow.
Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, OfferUp, and Buy Nothing Groups
Admittedly, glass jars or fabric are easier to source secondhand for a sustainable craft than things like Cricut accessories, stamps, alcohol inks, and stencils. However, online platforms like Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, OfferUp, and Buy Nothing groups are a fabulous resource for obtaining specialized crafting supplies at a discounted rate without contributing to the supply and demand chain.
For an example of what’s available online, our local area has current listings for the following:
- Full, unopened scrapbooking kit
- Lot of pom poms
- A giant lot of unopened kids’ party favor crafts
- Unused paint-your-own unicorn kit
- Large lot of Sharpies, alcohol inks, stamps, and felt
- Unopened bag of Poly-fil
- Box of assorted decorative paper
It’s definitely worth checking out the offerings in your area, especially if you have a more specialized craft or supplies in mind. By sourcing your arts and crafts supplies from these platforms or secondhand stores, you’re also keeping them out of the landfill!
The Habitat for Humanity Restore deserves its own mention because of the more specialized nature of this thrift store. While you’ll find the usual furniture, wall art, and kitchen items, you’ll also find tons of DIY home project supplies as well, which are useful in a number of eco-friendly crafts.
If you’re on the hunt for decorative pulls or knobs (like I often used when flipping furniture), hinges, fabric samples, or wall sconces, this is your spot. The Habitat for Humanity is also an awesome source for chandelier prisms for DIY suncatchers, the odd box of leftover tile for homemade coaster sets, decorative paper or drawer liners, cans of leftover paint, glass jars, and so much more.
Grab some fresh air and consider foraging for supplies for your next sustainable crafting adventure. Be respectful of the things in nature that need to stay in nature (don’t take too much and don’t take what other animals need), but a few leafy branches for a DIY bouquet, simple holiday tablescape, or easy centerpiece go a long way.
You can even find tons of amazing foraged holiday decorations in your yard or a local park. Pine cones, berries, and evergreen branches are perfect for the season. In many cases, you can even compost your foraged decorations after you’re done using them to send all those amazing nutrients back to the soil!
“Not Quite Right” Products
I’m not quite sure what to call these, but they are generally products that stores need to sell at a discount because they aren’t quite right (or they need to be sold quickly). This might include open-box products, mis-tinted paint at a hardware store that wasn’t exactly the right color for another customer, products nearing an expiration date but still in good condition, and other types of products that don’t fit on a store’s shelves as “new and perfect.”
In many cases, these products will end up in the trash. It’s great that stores want to sell them to make some profit – and prevent otherwise great products from ending up in the landfill. Give these supplies some love and a second chance at life.
Don’t feel shy about asking around for what you need! A lot of creatives have heaps and heaps of crafting clutter they don’t want to throw out “in case they need it” but that they’d be secretly relieved to rehouse.
Both my mother and I fall into this category. My mom is my first call when I need anything from cross-stitching materials to sequins to fabric pens. You can offer payment, trade crafting supplies, or just say thank you, depending on the situation.
While antique stores may not be the first thought that comes to mind when you’re approaching a sustainable craft, definitely don’t rule them out. Our nearby antique mall boasts entire booths filled with spools of gorgeous vintage ribbon, buttons, thread, patterns, handcrafted lace, embroidery needles, and more.
Shop Online For Eco-Friendly Art Supplies
Are you on the hunt for something super specific that will greatly lessen your environmental impact, like biodegradable glitter? You’ll likely need to order BioGlitter from an online vendor unless you’re in a big city, but it’s worth the wait to not leave a trail of microplastics in your wake.
You can grab recycled newspaper colored pencils, bamboo rulers, recycled rubber erasers, and plant-based glue at Oynx + Green. Natural Earth Paint will ship zero waste pigments to you, but be prepared to fix the paint and follow all safety precautions. Eco Art and Craft sells eco-friendly crayons and paints for kids, and keep an eye out for casein paints, which are made from milk proteins.
However, it’s up to you to decide if shipping an eco-friendly product halfway across the globe in packaging is better than purchasing secondhand traditional craft products locally.
Search Your Kitchen
Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of playing with my food. (Did you catch Eco-friendly Crafting: 15 Creative Ways to Use Food Scraps?) With a little creativity, you may find that almost everything you need for a fun day of sustainable crafting is right there in your kitchen, including the ingredients for a quick, non-toxic homemade tempura paint.
Check Your Own Waste Stream
One man’s trash is one clever woman’s sustainable crafting fodder. Don’t dismiss the sustainable crafting supplies you might find in your trash or your recycling bin.
Those aren’t Oui Yoplait jars; those are Easter bunnies. That’s not a box to recycle, it’s a soon-to-be stencil. Are you about to toss that egg carton? That’s actually the perfect container for eco-friendly aromatic fire starters.
And hold up, were you about to compost those popsicle sticks? Why not wash them and make a DIY haunted house or let your kids make dragonflies? That wrinkled wrapping paper isn’t trash; it’s perfect for paper crowns, DIY paper bead necklaces, or a lovely DIY gift wrap.
And, if you’ve had a few too many ladies’ crafting nights lately and you’ve got an empty wine crate divider on your hands, I’ve got a DIY centerpiece idea for that.
Finally, keep an eye out for random opportunities to score craft materials. Library sales, garage sales, and even your local theater can have loads of usable, exciting items for next to nothing or completely free.
A local theater once posted tons of enormous bags of free chiffon on Instagram from a retired set design. My crafty friend Kendra picked it up, made several sets of floor-length curtains, and passed on a lot of the extra bags to Amy for her DIY wedding decor. I ended up with three bags thanks to the Sisterhood of Traveling Chiffon, one of which I gave away for free on Facebook Marketplace, and the other I gave to Nicole, my craft-loving neighbor. That’s five crafts fueled by one IG post!
With a little creativity, you’ll soon find opportunities to turn any creative project into a sustainable craft!
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About the Author
Reese Moore is a photographer, content creator, and pickle connoisseur who divides time between Charleston and Lake Lure. When she’s not behind the lens shooting stunning images for Reese Moore Photography, Reese loves to spend her time wandering the woods with her dog Gatsby or adventuring with her husband Logan in their Airstream Basecamp.