One of the first things I realized when I started my own journey toward being a more eco-conscious parent was that craft materials were incredibly wasteful. I didn't want to squash my children's creativity by not buying art supplies, but I also didn't want to contribute to all the waste. I looked for recycled and eco-friendly fabric and craft materials everywhere, but it was almost impossible to find.
That problem is now solved. Jill Bridges started Eco-Friendly Crafts in 2018 to help parents and artists find greener alternatives to popular art and craft supplies. Below Jill explains why she started EcoFriendlyCrafts.com and why arts, crafts, and fabrics should be made from recycled and eco-friendly materials.
Jill: The average consumer doesn't know, or perhaps just doesn't care, about how serious the warnings that come on most craft supplies are. I have had many folks tell me over the years "Oh, that warning is on everything, I just ignore it." I don't believe creativity should come with a health risk.
I started this company when I realized how impossible it was to find safe and sustainable materials, and I hope to continue to raise awareness of the products out there that function just as well, if not better than, the harmful stuff. It has been extremely encouraging to find more and more new products to add each season. I think at least some of the art supply companies are realizing the need to clean up their products, so it's a win-win.
Jill: We have two suppliers for t-shirt yarn. One is a Fair Trade organization in India, the same one that provides our banana silk and sari yarns and ribbons. We also carry the Hoooked line of yarns, which come from Portugal and are also made from recycled materials. It's made from garment industry scraps that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Jill: The environmental impact of manufacturing new yarns is significant1. Whenever possible, I prefer to use yarns made from recycled fibers. In the case of our yarns from India, these are made with remnants from their bustling garment industry. These cloths and fibers would have made it into landfills, but we're able to help it have a new life instead.
Jill: Without getting overly technical, PVC2 contains dangerous chemical additives including phthalates, lead, and cadmium. Over time, these toxins can leach out of the vinyl, or go airborne in the case of laser cutting machines. The fact that other popular craft vinyl have lead clearly listed on their material data safety sheets is enough for me to never want it in my home. The process of making PVC vinyl puts toxic chlorine-based chemicals into our air and waterways, so it's a bigger issue than just safety inside your own home.
Jill: Traditional felt is either wool, a wool blend, or plastic-based. Bamboo felt is typically a bamboo and rayon blend. Rayon is made from plant fibers. Some retailers will call it 100% bamboo because technically it is, but there are some chemicals used in the process of making it.
Anytime we source a product that is not 100% natural and green we label it accordingly so our customers can make an educated decision on their purchase. We had a lot of folks wanting artisan quality vegan-friendly felt and this is the best we've found so far. Recycled plastic felts feel like the craft felt you may have used as a child. The bamboo felt is buttery soft and a joy to work with. Like with all of our products, we'll update the product line when something more green is available.
Jill: Most faux leather is PVC or petroleum-based, and ours are made from natural fibers. We currently carry two styles of faux leather. One is a paper-based fabric that has a leather look and feel to it and comes in some great vibrant colors. It can be washed just like any other fabric can be, which is really nice. The other is made of cork bark and comes in lots of patterns and metallic finishes. The cork has a more traditional "pleather" feel, while the paper-based feels more like traditional leather.