doing good work

June 2, 2009


sustainable art

May 6, 2009

making your own inkmake your own papermake your own paintmake your own screen print

make your own watercolors

Traditional printing ink poses a serious danger to the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. This is because toxic chemicals that are produced during the manufacturing and disposal processes, as well as during the use of this ink, are released into the environment.There are, however, alternatives to this unhealthy problem. Some companies use non-toxic, water-based inks for their screen printing needs. The advantage of this over traditional ink is that it leaves the fabric soft, washable and iron-able without fading or releasing toxic fumes. The disadvantage is that it only can be used on light-colored fabrics.

mantis graphics makes a great case for water based inks for screen printing.

Making your own ink, paper, paint, wax, screen-printers is easy, affordable, and downright jolly. It also leads to a more satisfied artist, one aware of the materials they use and what the process is of making them. This also can enlighten students to the dangers of art (chemicals, etc), how to avoid using premades, etc. Also it stands to teach kids a thing or two about reusing materials, about the resources all around them, and about being eco-friendly!

LP: a long term project, including stretching your own screens with pantyhose or other sheer fabric from around the house (or provided by the teacher), followed by the mixing of the ink, and either paper making for birthday/holiday cards and/or their own designs. Depending on the age you’re working with (I think this would be equally as exciting for both elementary and secondary students), perhaps canvas bags for shopping (for mom and dad, or yourself) (see above) or their own t-shirts. During the process of making the screen prints/ink/etc. to keep everyone motivated, small drawings and thumbnails can be due. This is also a great way to get the long term processes across to kids, and you can cite the great masters who made their own pigments and stretched their own canvases.

materials and resources can be found nearly anywhere. for wood try local thrift store chairs or tables, or if you’re working in a high school, the wood shop. The ink is fairly self explanatory and most of those can be found at any craft or paper store. paper pulp is normally just created from old paper, so if you’re going to go this route, perhaps talking to your students about the recycling program at your school would be beneficial! These products will last just as long as anything you can find in bulk or is machine made, and stressing this is important so that maybe the next generation can make better choices than ours.

butterfield-01 Looking into sustainable art, you will come across many different outcomes. Whether the art is created from materials that won’t harm the earth in the present and future, or art that is created from pieces of the actual Earth. These processes are in definition “sustainable” by maintaining an ecological balance, and in some cases, creating a positive change.

As I looked into the topic, I came across sustainable works that were created from the Earth. Fore example, Deborah Butterfield compiles drift wood fragments, as well as other found materials and incorporates them into her own visions. Her process of adaptive reuse: the process of adapting old structures for purposes other than those initially intended, gives more intensity to her work as a fragile wonder.



How cool would it be to walk through a forest trail and come across this!? Well, I’m guessing the artist probably won’t just leave these around randomly, but the idea that they are made of the Earth, replicating creatures that occupy the Earth, and are placed in the open environment completes this idea of a sustainable structure. This will interact entirely with weathering and has so already.

dirosa_35 artwork_images_3277222_210572_deborah-butterfield



 Working with sticks has always been a great project for kids, and now you can incorporate the current high intensity surge of popularity of sustainable art.

By first collecting sticks or wood scraps that were naturally fallen (drift wood is a great example) you can create a plethora of tools for all types of projects. If you use fallen branches, you might want to consider how to properly clean them before handing them over to student. Shaving the bark may help, as well as provide extra resources/materials for your project. 

Next, you brainstorm. What are some ways you can assemble these pieces together without compromising your intention of an environmentally friendly form? If working with bark, you can peel it back slowly, which creates a great twine. Keeping it halfway attached to the stick, sometimes wrapped around makes it even stronger. Wires and paper scraps can also be picked up and used to adhere the pieces.

Finally, you assemble. If carefully planned out, there will be no need for twine or peeled bark to conjoin each piece (similarly to how tee pee structures can be formed with the weight of each post leaning on one another). Small or large, this type of project can be adapted for young kids to young adults and onward. 











I have always been fascinated with the idea of complete sustainability. To be able to live off the grid, never having to worry about next month’s bills. Some people feel switching to fluorescent bulbs is a way of becoming more sustainable, yeah that’s a start. Though I say forget the bulb, go for the whole house. This is where earthships come into play. An earthship is a type of passive polar home made of natural and recycled materials. Designed and marketed by Earthship Biotecture of Taos, NM, the homes are primarily constructed to work autonomously and are generally made of earth-filled tires, utilizing thermal mass construction to naturally regulate indoor temperature. earthship-montage-1

They also usually have their own special natural ventilation system. Earthships are generally off the grid homes, minimizing their reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. II can’t help but appreciate the genius involved with these wonderful structures. I stumbled upon them when I was looking at structures made of tires. Who would of thought you could make a house from old tires. This is one of the greatest examples of sustainable design I have ever seen. The wall are made of pack earth tires and the skylights are made of colored bottles. I mean you have to be kidding me. This is a a hippie haven. These maverick structures are intended to allow homeowners to be virtually self sufficient, providing their own water, heat, electricity, and food, and hence eradicating the need for centralized distribution of the most essential human needs.

earthship-bathroomThe central building blocks of an earthship are recycled car tires which are pounded full of local soil. These earth-filled “bricks,” along with recycled glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans, form walls which absorb heat during the day and radiate it into the home once the temperature drops. The properties of the earthship’s walls, combined with the strategic placement of the build site and ventilation passages, create the ultimate structure for passive solar heating and cooling. Rain and snow are captured on the roof, filtered, and used for four uses before it passes out of the home, including fresh drinking water, irrigating the indoor garden, cleaning, and waste treatment. Food is grown in “greenhouse corridors” in the home.


Earthships have been built in climates as diverse as Belgium, Honduras, South Africa, Japan, and Bolivia. The Earthship Biotecture crew provided disaster relief to Indian locals directly after the 2004 tsunami by teaching citizens how to construct homes that would provide water, energy, and food. The team continues to invent the most cutting edge innovations in green building for disaster relief, extreme climactic conditions, and everyday residential applications. As we examine the climatic and ecological uncertainty of our immediate future, we can thank our lucky stars that the earthship has finally landed. Long live the earthship! Be sure to check out the video of Micheal Reynolds, the “Garbage Warrior”. He is one of the founding fathers behind earthships.


My lesson plan would be simply to create a bottle wall. I would say that this lesson is geared more towards High School. I would use plastic bottles, string or metal wire, and mortar to construct this wall. The bottles would be collected by myself and the students. When a sufficient amount of bottles has been collected, we would bind them together and stacked them like bricks. We would use mortar in between each stacked layer to give the wall strength and rigidity. This lesson would not only teach the students to be more conscious of the materials they have around them. That not all materials have to be a one time use. The construction would also teach students to  better understand basic construction techniques that can be later applied to future projects.

The Story of Stuff

April 24, 2009


“From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.”

Fun Facts from the Story:

• In the past 3 decades, 1/3 of the planet’s natural resources have been consumed.
• In the U.S. we have LESS THAN 4% of our original forests left.
• 40% of waterways in the U.S. have become undrinkable.
• The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of the world’s resources and creates 30% of the world’s waste.
• The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago.
• We each see more advertisements in one year than a people 50 years ago saw in a lifetime.
• In the U.S., we spend 3–4 times as many hours shopping as our counterparts in Europe do.
• Each person in the United States makes 4 1/2 pounds of garbage a day. Twice what we each made thirty years ago.

They are working with Facing the Future a non-profit education organization that provides resources and action opportunities on global issues and sustainability for teachers, students and the public. They’re collaborating right now to figure out how to create a curriculum for use in classrooms.

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This video should abosolutely be shown to any group of people ESPECIALLY our students in conjunction with lessons that involve topics of: litter, pollution, recycling, repurposing, reusing, consumerism, and

the future.

City = Sustainability

April 13, 2009

When I think sustainable design, the first thing I think of is a city.  Cities at san-francisco-aerial-viewtheir most basic level of design are sustainable.  They require very small amounts of land to accommodate large amounts of people.  Thanks to this compact design, residents are able to get around on foot of bicycle, and when available public transportation.  When a city provides clean public transportation and effective waste management that city becomes even more sustainable.

I would like to highlight San Francisco as my top pick for sustainable design.  Yes the entire city.  Ranked #2 most sustainable city for 2008, San Fran is #1 in my heart.  (I am slightly biased, but for good reason)  Aside victorygarden_art_400_200808081409341from being the home of the Tanner family and the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is home to residents and local government who have taken big steps to lessen their impact on the earth.  Zero- emissions buses, 3 cart waste system (recycle, compost, garbage) for every resident and business, and serious ordinances blocking major corporations from taking over the commercial spaces are just the beginning.  “In 2007 the city was first in the nation to ban plastic bags at major grocery stores, and in 2008 it implemented the largest solar incentive program in the country. After allowing city hall’s front lawn to be plowed into a 55summer-long vegetable garden installation, Mayor Newsom promised a first-ever city food policy that promotes urban gardens and calls for fruit-bearing trees on street medians.” ( While San Francisco has a natural advantage of the yearlong growing season, city dwellers without this luxury (Chicagoans) should not despair- container gardening has a yearlong season as well.


garbagebins_clo-1Have your students make a list of all the ways your city is sustainable (public transportation, parks, recycling pick up) Students can brainstorm new ways to make their city greener, then begin to implement one or more as a class.  For instance, if your school does not currently recycle, begin recycling in your classroom.  You can have your students collect plastic shopping bags then fuse the bags to create a sheet of fabric.  this fabric can be sewn into tote bags.  Students will never have to use another plastic bag again!  If possible start a garden! check out the edible schoolyard project in the links below.


click links abovedolores-park,_California