Eco-art and “Green brainwashing”: How to distinguish them?
Eco-art is a great way to reduce the amount of waste. Some creativity and effort – and everyone can make something new and useful at home from materials they already have. The production process is also an excellent tool for environmental education. However, does eco-art always contribute to the preservation of the environment and our planet?
“The true purpose of eco-art is twofold. First, it is intended to contribute to the fight against climate change, loss of biological diversity, to reduce the pollution created by humans. Therefore, a broken porcelain cup can become jewellery, old jeans – an apron, computer keyboard keys – earrings. The second purpose is educational. When creating eco-art, participants learn more about essential environmental problems, and also it encourages others to behave more responsibly”, – says Martynas Norbutas, head of the Lithuanian Youth Center.
One of the fundamental principles of eco-art is not to create more pollution. Therefore, when creating it, almost no new materials or products are used, and nothing is created – which would have to be thrown away anyway.
“If we use new products during the creation of eco art, this is already “green brainwashing”. By the way, this happens in some schools. For example, when students receive the task of making something out of used disposable coffee cups, they take another tactic – they buy new cups from the store. This kind of behaviour basically contradicts the nature of eco art,” – says Martynas, who implemented the Erasmus+ project “Recycling of Waste with Handicrafts”.
According to him, it is vital not to create art products that will end up in the rubbish anyway. The purpose of eco-art is not for one-time viewing. It’s about creating things that people actually need. “If you come to an eco-art workshop, and they show you how to make an item you don’t need – don’t make it. Just learn the principles and think about what else you can create from those materials”, – tells M. Norbutas.
The third aspect is not to spoil the recyclable materials. Eco-art makes sense when it is created from materials that can no longer be recycled, such as most textiles, ceramic shards, etc. Another way is to create from recyclable materials in such a way that even after creating a new item, it can be thrown into the container for recyclable waste.
“A common bad example is the use of different types of materials in eco-art. For example, paper and plastic are glued with hot glue, textile is also added – we get a mix that is not recycled. So instead of sorting and giving the waste a second life, something is created that is only suitable for burning,” – says Martynas.
Examples of eco art
Various examples of eco art from Turkey, Croatia, Lithuania and Spain were collected and included in the publication of the Erasmus+ project “Recycling of Waste with Handicrafts”. It can be downloaded here. It also contains information about various environmental problems, which is intended for both non-formal education activities and lessons in schools.
By the way, the works of several artists were exhibited during the project in an exhibition held in Castelló, Spain. In the public library of the town, it was possible to see the works of 12 foreign artists and dozens of works by residents of the town and surrounding areas.
The exhibition attracted a lot of interest from local people. It also exhibits the works of three artists from Lithuania. Milda Paukšta’s apron made from discarded jeans surprised the audience. A considerable number of visitors photographed it and were interested in how it could be sewn at home.
Visitors’ eyes were also drawn to Laura Petrushkė’s colourful shopping bag, which was made from unused, torn plastic bags.
The jewellery made from shards by the artist Eglė Gilė received detailed discussions. One of the residents of the local town admitted that he works with stone processing and mosaics in his spare time. Therefore, he himself began to show the visitors how to process the shards properly so that they become a tool for creating jewellery.
According to Martynas Norbutas, waste is an excellent material for new creations. “Our publication provides detailed instructions on how to make something useful. But much more important to understand the concept that waste is a material which can be used in different ways. Everyone can draw inspiration from others and come up with something unique”, – says M. Norbutas.
The Erasmus+ project “Recycling of waste with handicrafts” is partially financed by the European Union. Opinions expressed at this article are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.