i am determined to make art from media that does not harm the environment. it is difficult but i know it can be done. i have started by recycling the waste produced making other work (e.g. saving the grey rinsing liquids i use rather than canning them or draining them down the sink – it means a lot of stored effluent!)… giving it a go…
in 2016 i was unwittingly confronted by my assumptions about recycling. i have always believed in a responsible domestic environmental practice. one where recycling means to be accountable for household and workplace waste; by handing over something i am no longer able to use to a certified group or corporation for recycling, i am freeing myself from the burden my waste will have on our environment. letting that waste become someone else’s responsibility, problem or cause made me feel good about my environmental hygiene.
then this happened. over last summer, i faced a conundrum involving drinking water at my studio. having been convinced in my early adult life by the healthy lifestyle movement, i have become happily accustomed to drinking ‘at least eight (12, 24, 63) glasses of water a day’. I have been a good disciple of this teaching and happily fulfilled my quota daily.
during the heat of the summer months of 2016 i became increasingly dissatisfied with the taste and temperature of the liquid refreshment offered from the tap at my studio and, on an innocent whim, one day i purchased 600ml of locally sourced fresh tasting water in a plastic bottle. happy with my purchase and unwavering resolve to reuse the container for the entirety of the summer, i felt i would manage to link my health mantra and environmental one guiltlessly.
sadly, as the warm salad days of the summer progressed and my enthusiasm for my craft blossomed, i neglected to make the time or muster discipline to refill that 600ml bottle every day before i mounted my bicycle and headed out to enjoy the warm breeze kissing on my SPF 50+ covered face.
then, compounding the negative impact my healthy and maturely carefree lifestyle was about to unleash on nature, not only was i choosing to purchase water in bottle most days, due to an unusual but marvelous melbourne summer, i sometimes purchased more than one!
my only hope to remain on the environmental high-ground (the fitness church applauded my physical activity and consumption of water) was to rest-assured in the truth that those clear plastic containers of life giving sustenance were RECYCLABLE! i would be able to pop them in the 160 litre recycle bin at the studio provided, at a cost, by the city. phew!!
as fate would have it, before i had the courage to belonk my way to the bin (carrying empty plastic bottles in a cardboard box make that sound) and hoping this incriminating noise of plastic on plastic in a cardboard box did not arouse the self righteous curiosity of my fellow artisans, i realized i had been hoarding the wicked things. i had become a hoarder! suddenly that one, 600ml bottle had become 20, then thirty, then…(summer is 3 months long so give me a break).
how was i to resolve my conundrum?
the climax of this story is that i began to seriously question my lack of consumer discipline and it’s effects on the environment and, as importantly, my ideas about recycling.
the water quality improved at my studio, helping resolve part of my problem and i did decide to keep all those darn bottles; i whipped up a temporary hanging installation in my studio that was enjoyed and celebrated. most astoundingly, though, an interest in recycling materials in my art was born. not a bad outcome.
although i don’t know all the facts about what happens to those recyclables we throw in the wheelie-bin-of-redemption, i do understand that sometimes putting stuff in bins can be part of a bigger conundrum. the challenge actually begins at the shopping list not the bin.
my journey as a recycled artist has begun. water bottles aside, i do see waste in my studio that could be repurposed, reutilized, reconditioned, reused, recovered and maybe even reprocessed. recycling has more than one definition.
Now that’s what i call recycling!