I go through a lot of paper. Mountains sometimes. I feel a bit guilty every time I take the recycling basket out of my studio, a stand of trees at a time. Of course the drawing paper tossed in the recycle bin represents a fraction of what I use. A lot of my drawings stay housed in sketch books, shelved in the bookcase, the rest ends up as final artwork. I am an environmental nightmare.
In our house and studio we recycle everything we can. We also compost. But there are things that aren’t so easy to drop in the blue bin. I’ve been hanging onto my empty printer cartridges until I can find a place that will take them. I have an ancient scanner, a printer that won’t print black any more and a three tonne PowerPC and monitor from 1997 (still works great!) sitting in a relative’s basement until I get around to sending them to a recycling place. There is no way I can throw out that much plastic, metal gadgetry and glass. Thinking about it makes me a little ill. All this junk. And it’s not just that it takes up landfill space, its spent and tired remains represent all the processes and energy and chemicals that went into making it, marketing it and shipping it in the first place.
I go through episodes now and again where I wish I needed none of this stuff. I have faint, idealistic notions that my boyfriend and I will leave the city to live simply in the country, growing our own food and furnishing the house with the bare necessities produced locally with natural products. But I grew up on a farm. I know the truth of the hobby farm existence. I don’t think we can make that leap right now. Besides, a hobby farm upbringing is part of the reason I went off chicken – the smell of it brings back unpleasant plucking memories.
There was a point, due also in part to a crisis of occupational choice at the time, where the act of painting made me despair. Did the world really need another piece of canvas covered in paint? “No” I’d answer myself. But I didn’t now what else to do.
I’ve moved past that point. I know the world doesn’t need more painted canvas but I now just paint. I try to balance what I do with better choices in other things. We furnished our studio with tables and book cases constructed from salvaged wood from a local place that sells second-hand building supplies. They are cheaper and sturdier built this way, and are designed to fit the space. We’ve found a line of non-toxic household cleaning products and we take our canvas grocery bags with us when we shop. We are fortunate to live close to a shopping area and walk to pick up groceries, mail letters and rent movies. Recently I found a local business called frogfile that sources ‘green’ office supplies. We ordered a bunch before Christmas, including compostable plates for our New Year’s party.
A DVD we ordered came packaged in a 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper case and wrapped in a compostable corn starch based bioplastic wrapper (what did we really expect from An Inconvenient Truth?). It was a welcome break from the overzealous packaging of most products. Bioplastics have been around for a while, but they still aren’t very common unless it’s at the takeout counter at Capers Market. The DVD packaging was such a simple idea but it set us to thinking about how we could do the same sort of thing with our mailers and demo reels. We’ve been inspired to seek out more sustainable options in our day to day living and running of our studio. And we don’t do it because we feel we have to, we do it because we want to. Like making healthy food choices, it feels good.
I haven’t found a solution to my excessive paper consumption. I doubt I ever will. Though I have managed to reduce it somewhat with the help of a little technology. I don’t print out my reference material anymore – I shoot digital photos and leave them on my laptop, drawing from the screen. Not only is it often more convenient, the image quality is better. In a little while my laptop will be worth its weight in paper.