Discover: Our Ultimate List of Eco-Friendly Craft Supplies

For the past 7 years (7!!) fun kid crafts and parent DIYs have been a favorite feature on the barley & birch blog. As a graphic designer (and general tinkerer) putting together new projects and experimenting with materials is honestly one of my favorite parts of my b&b work. But to be 100% truthful, I rarely post a new blog project without feeling some reservations. I sometimes worry that there’s a little hypocrisy lurking in my posts. I look at the table full of acrylic-painted wood “mistake” pieces that don’t work out and think, “what am I going to do with these…? Did I just waste all of that?”. I sit at my desk with a bunch of test-prints of our printables, wondering if it really jives with the values at the heart of our mission.

The thing is – I LOVE our DIYS! I adore our printables and have so much fun putting them together. I try to keep all my scraps and reuse them as their own projects later. I try to minify elements of printables, so I can fit as much as possible or multiple copies of something on one page. I try to create projects that can be played with or used over and over again. But….is that really good enough? I ended up deciding that right now, I think I’m doing a fairly good job of crafting responsibly, but realistically. There’s no reason to sacrifice creativity, art, experimentation and plain old craftin’ fun – but….it doesn’t mean we can’t continuously try to do better. And that’s how this list was born.

What you’ll find below are greener alternatives to almost all of the supplies we’ve used in our blog projects so far – common supplies you probably have at home or in classrooms. I specifically searched for items that were: biodegradable, natural, non-toxic, sustainably and ethically sourced, produced with alternative energy, made in the USA, and/or composed of recycled content. I’ve also included some supplies that I really haven’t found great options for – maybe you have a suggestion? I’ll be updating them as I run across better alternatives.

Just a note: I did *not* put this together with the purpose of encouraging everyone to immediately get out and buy everything on this list (although, wow – three cheers if you plan on that!). Rather than be a guide to the “perfect” eco-friendly craft supply, I’m writing this as I intend to use it…when it makes sense. Maybe it just doesn’t make sense to buy one pair of eco-friendly scissors if it’s going to require being packaged and shipped across the country on its own – but if you’re looking to outfit a classroom? Score! Maybe you already have supplies at home you’d prefer to use up – I have TONS and they’re definitely not all eco-friendly. Although I’ll be using them up, and sometimes it will just be more convenient to buy something not-so-green, it’s been great to realize I have options. I’m definitely planning on replacing my “worst offenders” and slowly…the rest…as it makes sense. 

Even if you don’t end up using this list, there are some simple ways to green your art’ing and crafting just by tweaking your habits or trying new things from time to time. Buy locally when you can. Experiment with using recycled or reclaimed materials. Try making your own dyes (I found some awesome instructions here, here and here!). Print mindfully and slip things you could reuse into a plastic sleeve temporarily to cut down on paper and ink waste (you can reuse the sleeve over and over again!). Buy a few refillable pens or markers.

Whether you’re coming at this as an eco and budget-conscious shopper, energetic about greening a specific corner of consumption, or just curious to see what’s being offered out there, I hope you find this list useful – for the projects you’ll find on our blog, and beyond!

 

 


 BasICS


 Glue 

Le Petite Matisse Craft Glue from Etsy

$4 per (1) 4 oz. – $8 per (1) 8 oz.

  • Handmade using water, organic gluten free flour, organic distilled vinegar, organic sugar, citric acid and potassium sorbate
  • Perfect for projects younger kids or toddlers might be helping with or will handle once completed
  • Made in the USA

 Scissors 

Acme KleenEarth® Recycled 8″ Shears from Green Apple Supply

$4.03 per (1) pair

  • Composed of 70% Recycled Plastic: 30% Post Consumer Stainless Steel

 Dry Erase Markers

EcoSmart Refillable Markers and Ink from EcoSmart World

Prices vary, but a 4-pack with (1) ink refill starts at $12.95

  • Made from 100% recycled aluminum and are recycled
  • Refillable AND replaceable nibs
  • Ink is non-toxic and harsh chemical-free

 Sturdy Tape 

Biodegradeable Kraft Paper Tape from EcoEnclose

$8.25 per (1) 60 yd. roll

  • Renewable and biodegradable plant-derived adhesive & backing
  • Awesome for large-scale cardboard construction projects
  • Made in the USA
  • Full dislcosure, this is our packaging supplier, and we can attest they’re great to work with and are doing lots of cool stuff to change their industry!

 


 Paints, Stains & Glazes 


Tempera Paint for paper projects

Chroma Green Series from Dick Blick Art Supplies

$2.32 per (1) pint and $13.08 per (1) gallon (via the website – in-store prices may vary)

  • 100% detergent-free and non-toxic
  • Uses 25% less energy to produce and packaging is made of recycled products

Paints for small wood or craft projects

Milkpaint from The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company

Prices vary – $4.00 per (1) 1 oz. sample (multiple options), $12.95 per (1) pint, $19.95 per (1) quart, $49.95 per (1) gallon

*Additional purchasing options, coupons and rebates are available.*

  • All-natural, environmentally safe, non-toxic and is the First USDA Certified Biobased Paint
  • Comes in a powder form, so small batches can be mixed (and you can mix your own colors!)
  • Made in the USA
  • Work with local vendors in almost all states – check their list here before you purchase online to save delivery cost (extra green!)

Natural Wood Stains

Bio Poly Natural from Earthpaint

Prices start at $16.89 per (1) pint and $74 per (1) gallon (vary by color)

  • Made from natural pine resin, special linseed oil and pure beeswax
  • No polyurethane and zero petrochemicals
  • Available in pints for small projects and comes in 40+ colors

Natural Wood Wax

Zero VOC Wax from The Real Milk Paint Co.

$16.99 per (1) 8 oz. container, $26.99 per (1) 16 oz. container

  • Made from Walnut oil (head’s up for those with allergy concerns!), bee’s wax, carnauba wax, and drier.
  • Non-VOC
  • Made in the USA (Hohenwald, Tennessee) and available at many local retailers in almost all 50 states

Epoxy (Mod podge alternative)

EcoEpoxy from EarthSafe Finishes

$29.95 per (1) 8 oz. kit, $59.95 per (1) 32 oz. kit

  • Waterbased,  VOC Free and  BPA Free
  • Made in the USA

Spray Paint

The best option is probably a Non-VOC paint with an airless sprayer system. We love this option from Preval…

Preval Sprayer System from Preval

$9.99 per (1) reusable can + paint reservoir on their site (there are less expensive options elsewhere on the web and at box stores). 

  • Refillable Spray System allows you to use your own ecofriendly paints – and save extra for later!
  • Uses a small amount of ecofirendly propellant
  • Both the aluminum aerosol power unit and the glass jar can be recycled
  • A grip handle attachment is available for those who have arthritis or find spraying painful

….BUT if you’d rather buy the paint ready to go, a good alternative would be to try

Plutonium Spray Paint from Plutonium Paint

Prices vary with quantity, but start at $12.95 per (1) can with a 3-can minimum order via their website

  • Plutonium™ reduces the carbon footprint of aerosol spray by 50%, by using a 70% pigment load and 30% propellant, making it more eco-friendly than leading brands.
  • No CFCs + mold and mildew resistant.
  • Their cans are made from tin-free steel and use materials that eliminate almost all carbon emissions, copper, or water use during production.
  • Work with local vendors in almost all 50 states (check their list here) but are also available on Amazon, at Dick Blick and other major stores.
  • Made in the USA (Detroit, MI)

 


 Paper, laminates & Printing Ink


Construction Paper

Tru-Ray Construction Paper from Pacon

$2.98 per (1) package (50 sheets) via Dick Blick’s website

  • Contains 50% recycled fiber content
  • Acid-Free
  • Sustainably sourced
  • Made in the USA

copy Paper & Natural-Colored Cardstock

Tree-Free Printing Paper and Banana Paper Cardstock from EcoPaper

$79 per (1) carton of copier paper (5,000 sheets) or $10.99 per (1) ream of banana paper 

  • Made from 100% Sugar Cane waste/tree-free agricultural bio-products coupled with 100% post consumer content
  • Fully biodegradable and recyclable
  • Made through a sustainable, eco-friendly manufacturing process
  • Chlorine free, non-bleached

Multi-Colored Cardstock, lux papers & Envelopes

Paper collections from French Papers

Prices vary

  • Offer organic, recycled, post-consumer waste, acid free, lignin free, soy ink compatible, and FSC ® certified paper collections
  • Produced in mills powered by fully renewable hydroelectric generators
  • Made in the USA

Sticker and Label Sheets

Compostable  or 100% Recycled PCW Sticker Sheets from Pure Labels

Prices vary, but start at $9.95 per (1) box – 25 sheets

  • All-Natural and Unbleached with naturally occurring fibers and tone
  • Compostable and Biodegradable
  • Inkjet and laser compatible
  • Made in the USA

Self-Laminating Sheets

The only good alternative I’ve found for this is just to skip the lamination altogether and use a reusable plastic sleeve instead. Although there is at least 1 biodegradable option for lamination machines, I couldn’t find anything similar for those who just want a few of the DIY sheets.

Home Printing Supplies

Ink Cartridges and Toners from InkPal

Prices Vary

  • Available for almost every major brand of home printer
  • Less expensive than most name brand inks
  • Cartridges are made from 100% recycled components
  • Use eco-friendly soy inks and toners
  • Made in the USA

 


 Craft Foam, Felt & Fabric


Foam Craft Sheets 

Didn’t find any great USA-made options, and am a little hesitant to fully recommend these, but check into EVA Eco-friendly Foam Sheets from Coloreva

Prices Vary

  • Non-PVC, BPA-free, Formahide-free (note: acceptable formahide levels vary country to country, so “free” may not really mean zero).
  • Biodegradable

Felt

Organic Plant-Dyed Wool Felt from A Child’s Dream

$14.50 per (1) 18×18 sheet

  • Bioland Organic Certified
  • Plant-Dyed

 

Eco-Fi Felt from Kunin

Prices vary, but average $5.49 per package – (12) 12″ x 9″ sheets

  • 100% Post-Consumer Waste (made from recycled plastic bottles)
  • Made in the USA
  • Available at JoAnn Fabrics (but check for other local suppliers first!)

Yarns, Twine, Rope, Flannels

Specific collections from Organic Cotton Plus

Prices vary 

Ribbon

Eco-Friendly Cotton Ribbon from Etsy

$5.75 per (1) yard

  • Reusable
  • 100% cotton
  • Non-toxic dyes

 


 Wood


Balsa Wood

Any product from Taskboard (Balsa-wood alternative)

Prices Vary

  •  Forested from a sustainable source
  • Biodegradable
  • Made in the USA

Any product from Balsa Central

Prices Vary

  • Low Production CO2 Footprint
  • Plantation-Grown, Sustainably and ethically-sourced
  • Biodegradable

Plywood

Look for FSC-Certified Wood – The Home Depot has been carrying FSC-Certified since 1994, but almost all of the big box stores sell it now. If it’s not clearly marked, ask someone to direct you to the proper choices. Don’t forget to check with a local supplier first though if you have some around your area!

 


 Etcetera


Picture Frames

Ecocare Frames from Bainbridge Nielsen

Prices vary, but start at $16.99 for an 11″ x 14″ frame

  • Made from sustainable wood alternatives and reclaimed plantation woods, which do not contribute to deforestation
  • All elements are either recyclable or biodegradable
  • The frame finish is waterbased and free of chemicals and solvents
  • Frames sized 8″ × 10″ and larger include an acid-free mat

Glitter!

Biodegradable Glitter from Wild Bloomery

Prices vary, but average between $5 and $8 per (1) bag or jar

  • Made from natural minerals (some) and biodegradable (all)
  • Packaging is completely natural, recyclable, reusable & biodegradable
  • Made in the USA

 

Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave any questions, additions or suggestions in the comments below!