Have you ever regretted a purchase? I definitely have. Collecting art materials is a guilty pleasure for me. Every time I stepped into Art Friend, I would walk out with something new, even if I didn’t need it. By the time I discovered that this was getting out of hand, it was too late and my shelves were already filled to the brim. In the end, I only used a small handful of these materials and the rest just sat there. Tired of keeping all these extra materials, I ended up throwing some of them away (which was an absolute mistake).
Thinking back on my (shameful) actions made me realise how I fell victim to the linear economy. What exactly is the linear economy? The linear economy is a phenomenon where products experience a one-way life cycle. An item is created, used and then disposed of once it reaches the end of its lifespan (Government of the Netherlands, n.d.). Profit is generated from this model by producing more and purchasing higher quantities, which can encourage wasteful consuming habits. Unfortunately, many of the art materials I use follow this life cycle (in some cases, I even skipped the usage step and went straight to disposal), which definitely adds to the amount of waste I produce from practising art. Is there any solution to this?
Thankfully there is, and that’s where the circular economy comes in! Through such an economy, resources are incorporated back into the cycle of production or are actively reused. As such, a smaller amount of resources is maximised, cutting down on both the amount we consume and waste (Sariatli, 2017). How can this be applied to our art practice? We can start to move towards such a cycle by selling or donating old art materials to others instead of disposing of them. By keeping them out of the trash, their lifespans can be prolonged and remain in use for a longer period of time! Not only would this help to cut down on waste, it would also help your pre-loved art materials to find a new and loving home! Determined to amend my past mistakes, I have begun to sell or give away my leftover art materials.
Revisiting the circular economy concept made me wonder if others did the same too! As such, I conducted a survey among my artist friends to see how they managed their art practice. When asked about what they do with unused materials, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that 64.8% of the respondents opted to donate, sell, reuse leftover materials.
Furthermore, 88.2% of the participants also expressed that they were willing to make changes towards sustainability, suggesting that artists are becoming increasingly aware of the waste their practice may create.
While my sample size is a little small, I still think it’s great that more artists are adopting the circular economy approach and perhaps we can all begin to practice art sustainably by starting with small actions like these!
Government of the Netherlands. (n.d.) From a linear to a circular economy. Retrieved from https://www.government.nl/topics/circular-economy/from-a-linear-to-a-circular-economy.
Sariatli, F. (2017). Linear Economy Versus Circular Economy: A Comparative and Analyzer Study for Optimization of Economy for Sustainability. Visegrad Journal on Bioeconomy and Sustainable Development, 6(1), 31-34. Retrieved from https://content.sciendo.com/view/journals/vjbsd/6/1/article-p31.xml.