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.

Excited about greening your craft supply cabinet? We have a whole collection of simple ideas to help you make your art and craft habits more eco-friendly here!

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.

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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.

Our Favorite Eco-Friendly Craft Supplies by Category

Click to jump straight to the supply category you’re looking for

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 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!

*As a reminder, when using alternative supplies with kids, be aware of any food allergies and take a close look at ingredients. As an example, milk derivatives (like casein) are often used in paints, etc.*


Eco-Friendly Craft Supplies – The 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

Supertite Universal Eco-Glue (good super glue substitute) from Eco-Bond

$5/tube 

  • Zero VOC
  • Water based (NOT petroleum based)
  • Solvent free

SCISSORS

Westcott KleenEarth® Recycled 8″ Shears from Amazon

$7.10 per (1) pair

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

CHALK MARKERS

MoodClue White Liquid Chalk Markers (also available in colors!) from Eco-Friendly Crafts

$7.95 per set of (2) or $9.95 per set of (4)

  • Non-toxic and eco-friendly
  • Dust-free and odorless

DRY ERASE MARKERS

AusPen Refillable Whiteboard Markers and Ink from AusPen

Prices vary

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

CRAYONS

Eco-Kids Eco-Crayons from Eco-Friendly Crafts

$7.99 for a pack of 10

  • Made from Bees wax, carnuba wax, soy wax, and mineral pigments.
  • Made in the USA

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!

SPRAY FIXATIVE FOR CHALKS AND PASTELS

Make your own from skim milk!

$0 (or, well…whatever the milk costs…) 😉 

  • Using skim milk in a fine mist spray bottle, gently spray artwork in a side-to-side motion, from a far enough distance that you don’t get wet splotches. Repeat light applications as necessary (usually 1-3 layers).
  • Not only does this work immediately upon drying, it stands the test of time well. The active ingredient is casein (a milk protein) – it’s non-toxic and considered extremely archival.

Paints, Stains, and 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)

Gesso

Eco Gesso Kit from Natural Earth Paint

32.95 for 1 kit (makes 50 fl. oz. of gesso – enough to prime 10-15 medium-sized canvases)

  • 100% non-toxic and vegan
  • Made with French marble dust, limestone powder, titanium dioxide pigment, and plant-based binders, this gesso is superb quality.
  • Can be mixed as needed
  • Made in the USA

Paper, Laminates, and 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 and 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, and 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 or gallon ziplock bag 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.

Self-Adhesive Vinyl

PVC-Free Self Adhesive Vinyl from Eco-Friendly Crafts

Prices vary depending on sheet/roll size, but start at $1 for (1) 12″ x 22″ sheet and go up to $6 for a 24″ x 1 yd. roll

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

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, and Fabric


Foam Craft Sheets

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any great USA (or elsewhere)-made options, the thing about foam is that it’s one of the LEAST eco-friendly products. Typically, it contains the worst kind of plastic and, by nature, isn’t made to be biodegradable. I’ve tried to substitute felt for foam sheets when possible, but if you find any good substitutes that fit what I’m looking for below, please be sure to add it in the comments below!

  • 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

Premium Eco-Fi Felt from Eco-Friendly Crafts

Prices vary, but average $1 per 12″ x 9″ sheets

  • 100% Post-Consumer Waste (made from recycled plastic bottles)
  • Thicker and more durable than the Classic Eco-Fi felt (also offered by Eco-Friendly Crafts)
  • Made in the USA

Yarns, Twine, Rope, and 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!


Miscellaneous Craft Supplies


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 Universal Soul

Prices vary, but average between $9.99 for (1) 6g bottle

  • Completely biodegradable
  • Packaged in reusable & recyclable glass jars
  • Vegan/cruelty-free & ocean-safe
  • Made in the USA

Looking for something I’m missing? Check the comments below, and feel free to leave any questions, additions, or suggestions!

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Amanda E.
With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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20 Comments

  1. I’m looking for eco friendly craft vinyl. I found some from the UK that does heat transfer vinyl but I’d like regular sticky too.

    Do you know of anywhere that sells it?

    • Hmmm – vinyl (especially the sticky kind) is tough because it’s almost always a PVC-based plastic, which is pretty lethal for the environment. I don’t know of any good substitutes off-the-top of my head, but I’ll be sure to be on the lookout!

  2. Loved this! Thanx so much. Have chemical sensitivity and had to leave my art and hobbies behind. Now Will start again from these resources. ✌😊

  3. I’m looking for wooden rings to finish a wooden baby gym and also make some baby teethers! There seem to be a million sellers on Etsy and Amazon, but do you know of any that are responsibly sourced and, ideally, US-made? Thanks!!

    • Hi Kayla! I directly messaged a few US-based Etsy vendors to get a little more information than what I could find on their listings. Of my favorites, I think I would recommend Bobbin Sew Designs (https://www.etsy.com/listing/488469717/10-organic-finished-wooden-teething). I wanted to make sure any vendor I recommended made their wooden teething rings with FSC-certified wood, were CPSIA certified and safe for babies, and ideally used organic finishes. Bobbin Sew Designs was the only one that checked all those boxes!

  4. Just wanted you to know that there are now dry erase crayons. Crayola makes them and they work pretty well. We had to get dry erase markers for our highscool student because it was mandatory for math class. But we won’t be using them at home anymore. Love your blog. Cheers.

  5. Thank you for this list! I stopped painting a year ago due to the internal conflict concerning environment, how much waist is dumped into the ocean in the process of making paint, and what it takes to make canvas and paper. Have been searching for alternatives to my usual choices. I miss making art and need to find a new way of doing it. Thank you again!

    • Erika, I felt EXACTLY the same way – it’s been so tough for me to reconcile some of my creative processes too. Like you, I was thrilled to find some resources so I could get back to it, and am excited to share them whenever I can – we’re all in this together. As a bonus, it’s actually been really fun to experiment with some new natural supplies. Let me know if you run across any green methods or supplies we shouldn’t miss, and thanks for the comment!

  6. Hi!

    Does anyone know of an environmentally friendly resin substitute? I’ve just discovered all the beautiful things that can be made with resin but can’t bring myself to use it. Gutted!

    Cheers :>

    Kathryn

    • Hi Kathryn! I haven’t ever used resin, so haven’t tried any of the options, but I did a google search for “eco-friendly resin” and quite a few came up! You could look into alternatives like EcoPoxy and TerraCast – again, I haven’t tried them out and don’t know how green they truly are (VOC-free is a good indicator to look for in true eco-friendly finishes) but it’s a place to start!

  7. Hello! I’m hoping for help finding chunky beads for a 3 or 4 year old to make jewelry. Any ideas? Thank you so much! Your list has been so helpful to us several times already!

  8. Hey Amanda. Thanks so much for this post, I found such a variety of things I was looking for, sustainably sourced. I am loving the activities you provide on here as well.

  9. This was very informative what I am looking for. This information solved my problem. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Hi Hannah! Ooooh YES! So, the first thing that comes to mind is using something like a potato or apple. But if you’d like the kiddos to get in on the *carving* process, fruits and veggies can be a bit tricky. Here’s something I have on an experimentation to-do list but haven’t tried yet: basswood is a nice sustainable softwood that you can use a pencil or pen to draw *into* much like styrofoam. It can be purchased in block shapes that are very similar in size and shape to traditional linoleum printmaking blocks. If you want to go a bit more “pro,” Dick Blick Art supplies sells Eco-Karve printing plates. You could also try building surfaces *up* instead of cutting away, and gluing cut pieces of scrap cardboard onto a wooden block or a larger piece of heavy cardboard (like we did for our scrap stamp shape collages). Bar Rucci of ARTBAR also has a great collagraph printmaking project I have used and shared many times over!

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