It’s Easy Being Green: Arts and Crafts with a Mission

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

Is one person’s trash really another’s treasure? According to a Durham, North Carolina-based arts and crafts store it is.

The Scrap Exchange lets people explore their creativity while helping out the environment. The Scrap Exchange was founded in 1991 as a sustainable art supply store that takes unwanted materials from businesses and community members and resells them as arts and crafts supplies. Materials sell for 50 to 70 percent off their retail prices, and popular items include paper, fabric, office supplies, marble scraps, and CD cases. The idea is to promote environmental awareness and creativity by providing high-quality, low-cost materials for artists.

The Scrap Exchange also has an in-house art gallery to show off the local artists who turn recycled materials into crafts such as handmade bags, metal sculptures, and jewelry. Classes such as quilting and collage are available for people who may not have a natural creative streak. And the Scrap Exchange offers children’s birthday parties that give kids a chance to create fun projects with their friends while teaching them about taking care of the planet.

The Resource Center in Chicago is another nonprofit organization that is encouraging creative re-use. Their Creative Reuse Warehouse finds rejects and by-products that local businesses treat as waste. The materials are donated to Chicago schools, service organizations, performance companies, and individual artists. It’s a win-win situation for the CRW’s donors and recipients—donors get a tax deduction, and recipients have materials to teach classes and present artwork that they may not have been able to afford otherwise.

Similar programs are available throughout the country. The Scroungers’ Center for Reusable Art Parts has been in San Francisco since the 1970s, and it offers unique workshops where participants learn about different crafts and art techniques. And Creative Reuse Pittsburgh, a newcomer to creative re-use, collects reusable discards from businesses and other organizations in its region, offers hands-on creative arts programs, and hosts booths at local arts festivals.

A day at any creative re-use center might be a great way to become re-acquainted with the right side of your brain without the guilt of waste. Participating in the arts isn’t just fun—it’s beneficial. Art has been linked to developing critical thinking skills, persistence, and lightheartedness. Add that to the environmental benefits of places like The Scrap Exchange, and the lure of creative re-use centers is almost irresistible.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series