Zero Waste

DIY Zero Waste Craft Activity

Craft activities are so much fun. I used to love meandering through Michaels, thinking about all the creative possibilities. I took beading classes, painted, and attempted to crochet. I bought coloring books, marker sets, and stamps.

Since I’ve adopted more of a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle, I’ve been reluctant to get too creative. It can feel like getting crafty produces so much waste, plus I end up with finished pieces I may or may not love or need.

That’s why I was so happy when I discovered S.C.R.A.P. Gallery. At a CRRA Conference I went to in August, S.C.R.A.P. Gallery gave us a little paper bag of “trash”—items that were discarded (like coffee cup lids or wine corks) or donated because they were no longer wanted (like playing cards or plastic feathers). We were told to turn this trash into treasure, much like S.C.R.A.P. Gallery does with their arts and crafts activities with students throughout Coachella Valley.

I loved the activity and was inspired to lead a zero waste craft activity for Christmas with my family. I did the following to find items for the activity:

  • I looked in the trash and recycle bins at my apartment complex (found some boxes and bottle caps).
  • I kept trash/recycle items used my myself and my family (like Cheez-It boxes and wine corks).
  • I went to a few thrift stores for more traditional art materials (got Xmas bows, balls of yarn, old buttons, and a bunch of other cool secondhand stuff).
  • I used items my Mom had in a craft drawer (construction paper pack, glue sticks, markers and crayons).

Note: if you need glue, here are a few DIY glue recipes.

It turned out to be a fun activity! Even my 12-year-old and 9-year-old cousins got into it. We had a couple prizes for the most creative use of the items, and I made myself a sweet little jewelry holder out of a Cheez-It box.

Want to lead your own zero waste craft? Here are some places to look for materials:

  • Thrift stores. The bigger thrift store chains have some options, but smaller thrift stores, like church and local nonprofit thrift stores, seem to be the goldmine for arts and crafts items. Plus, items are usually a lot cheaper!
  • Your stuff. We all have random items that we can use for a craft project. I found some old construction paper, a few random figurines, a couple old balloons, and more when I went to collect materials for my activity. Check out what you can use from your own closet and drawers.
  • Recycle bin. The recycle bin is where it’s at for materials. Look through your own bin, your complex’s bin, or neighbor’s bins. Items such as old glass bottles, boxes, and aluminum cans are great materials to use.
  • Trash bin. The trash bin is a great place to hunt for smaller materials, though looking through your own home’s trash is a lot easier than hunting through the trash bin at an apartment complex. Use caution when hunting for materials, but dumpster diving can be a fruitful experience if you keep an eye out over time.
  • Your family and friends. We all have random items that would be great for a craft project. Asking family and friends to contribute to the activity is a great way to get some interesting and diverse materials. Be specific about what you’re doing (an art activity utilizing trash and other discarded materials) and what you’re looking for (don’t buy anything new! If you have items like arts and crafts materials, cool trinkets, little interesting pieces of material that could be made into a sculpture or collage, please donate to the craft activity). You’ll be amazed at what gets donated!
  • Secondhand craft stores. There are many different secondhand craft stores popping up all over the place. I know of places in San Diego, Boston, and Minneapolis—your area may have one as well!
  • Your neighborhood. Walk around your neighborhood for found items or litter. Be mindful and stay safe, but there are a lot of materials that can be used for a craft activity. Examples of things you can pick up and use: bottle caps, plastic eggs, rubber balls, pine cones, leaves, acorns.
Bottle cap art from students at S.C.R.A.P Gallery