The effects of climate change are increasing ten-fold in the UK each year and the impact is being felt from the sea to the land. In the North Sea, the puffin population has diminished over the past twenty years, falling from approximately 33,000 to just 570. In 2018, the Saddleworth Moor, due to an intense heatwave, went up in flames. Meanwhile, in Norfolk, almost every year someone loses their house due to erosion on the coastline, as cliffs give up and are washed into the sea.
The deeply harmful effects of climate change are set to continue and worsen unless action is taken. Governments throughout the world have implemented numerous policies to tackle pollution, but even if they are to succeed in these plans, damage will still be done. Saving the planet is up to us, through what we do, what we eat, and how we travel, among many other things.
Interestingly, art can have a positive impact on the environment. In fact, the materials used in the process are just the beginning. But its at the beginning of the chain where many artists throughout the world have decided to start, producing what is known as sustainable art.
Browse our guide and discover how their work is breaking the conventional norms, and how they are helping create a greener planet.
In both Ancient Egypt and Rome, salt played an important part in society — as currency. Now, despite the fact the power of the pound may be in doubt due to Brexit and its impacts, it’s safe to say we are a far cry away from sodium chloride replacing sterling. Regardless, American artist Bettina Werner uses salt on more than just her chips.
Although sound forestry may exist, the vast majority of paper ends up on top a landfill. As well as taking twice the amount of energy to develop a piece of paper as it does to produce a plastic bag, paper is the cause of 14 per cent of the world’s deforestation. So, what if you don’t use paper to draw on?
Werner, who is otherwise known as the ‘Queen of Salt’ creates entirely salt based artworks, which are themed on life, love and spirituality. She describes her work as minimalist, in which respect she feels less is certainly more.
A Bristol designer Marcie K is taking the world by storm by showing that old does not mean worthless. An ‘upcycler’, Marcie takes everything that people don’t want anymore, and turns it into something fabulous. Stepping beyond the realms of your comfort zone is exactly what Marcie is about.
The artist notes how you can’t be scared of destroying an old family heirloom, the worry in doing so is what it’s all about. Perusing through Marcie’s Instagram is somewhat like walking through the world’s most colourful charity shop — Pat Butcher’s leopard print collection would be put to shame here.
Marcie, who is due to feature on this year’s Grand Designs Live, transforms damaged side tables, worn-out armchairs, or simply old-fashioned kitchens, into flamboyant masterpieces.
Considered to be one of the major pioneers within the sustainable art industry, Nils brings life into his work, in a way like no one else does. Born in Bavaria in 1937, Nils moved to Paris to pursue his career as an artist, however he soon recognised that panel painting in the studio was destructive to the planet that had provided him with so much.
The artist began to take all his work outdoors, citing that it wasn’t art that actually impressed him, it was his ‘personal reaction to what I saw before my eyes that would actually excite me.’ Effectively, what Nils went on to do throughout his career was single-handedly replicate a David Attenborough documentary.
One of his projects, pictured below, entailed removing all the centre branches of a pollard willow tree. In the hollowed out centre, he laid in fern leaves from a nearby tree, before placing a ring of poppy petals. Nothing manufactured was used to create the photo — simply nature and manpower. Fascinating!
Robin Hood isn’t the only astounding character to come out of Sherwood Forest — so has a recycled sculpture of celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Wildlife, animals, plants, and public figures are just a handful of the creations Michelle Reader has developed in the studio.
Charity shops, household waste, and scrapyards often provide the source for Michelle’s materials. Working with recycled goods since 1997, the artist points to the thrill she receives from working with found materials, from cartons and bottles to polystyrene cups and plastic boxes. You’ve no idea what you’re going to get, but similarly you are completely unrestricted by what you can end up creating.
Not only has the artist been commissioned by television series, The One Show, she has also been called upon to create awards for several ‘green’ ceremonies.
With the environment under more pressure than ever before, making small alterations that prevent further damage is essential. Following in the footsteps of these artists is the perfect place to start.
Gary Peeling is MD at Where The Trade Buys, a UK print company and specialist in folded business cards, with bases in London, Sunderland and Surrey.