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5 Ways To Make Your #LockdownArt More Sustainable

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By Yashodhara Sirur

For many of us, the Covid-19induced lockdown has been a time to unwind, relax and rejuvenate. Never before in our busy city lives had we gotten the time to indulge in the art forms we bid goodbye to when we grew up! As a result, many of us have suddenly taken to sketching, doodling and painting.

Somehow, when we think about producing art, we tend to go overboard and buy a heap of pretty stationery, imported paints, brushes, pens, mediums, and a whole assortment of knick-knacks. Sustainability goals are discarded as easily as a bunch of onion peels in the compost!

The truth is that art comes with its own carbon footprint. Most paints are made out of chemical or animal-derived pigments. Even paper requires a large amount of bleaching and whitening treatment. Sketchpens, glitter pens and other fancy supplies are much worse, of course.

But there are ways to make art with minimal harm to the environment. Here are a few tips we have rounded up to help you make your art as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.

1. Go Natural

Brown paint can be created using instant coffee powder. Image Source: Pixabay

You don’t have to buy plastic tubs of colourful chemicals anymore! We spoke to a natural colour artist Nandhitha Ramaraj, and she told us how easy, economical and rewarding natural colours can be. These colours can be made out of nearly all herbs, vegetables and flowers around us. Some ubiquitous sources included turmeric for yellow, beetroot for pink, and coffee or soil for brown. As Nandhitha points out, a lot of our traditional art forms like Madhubani and Warli use naturally occurring dyes and minerals for their art. Head over to Nandhitha’s Instagram page for information on natural paint workshops.

2. Choose The Right Supplies

Use sustainable materials, like this paper, which is made from processed elephant dung. Image Source: Flickr

When it comes to paper, pick from the more sustainable varieties. Many international paper brands like Daler Rowney, Strathmore and Fabriano offer recycled paper and bamboo paper. Khadi Papers is an Indian company offering paper made of scrap fabric. Some south Indian states even offer paper made of elephant dung! Plantable pencils and colour pencils made of recycled paper are other great options to start with. And while you’re at it, why not invest in synthetic cruelty-free brushes rather than the traditional sable and horse-hair paintbrushes/

3. Make Wiser Choices

Watercolours are a more sustainable alternative compared to acrylics. Image Source: Unsplash

So much of our carbon footprint could be erased by simply making smarter choices. If you have to buy a set of colours, choose a painting style that involves less paraphernalia. For instance, watercolour is more sustainable than oil or acrylic, simply because it reduces the need for chemical mediums.
– Reuse! Borrow your nephew’s colours if you’re only going to make the one odd painting. Reuse leftover colours from your own childhood! Repurpose old rags and chinaware for paint cloths and palettes.
– Shop local to cut down on transport and packaging costs.
– If you’re a beginner artist, invest in a smaller palette of colours. Buy a larger set only once you commit to the art form.
– Avoid glitter-based art supplies — they are a big contributor to microplastics.

4. Make It Fun For Children

Let children explore their creative side by getting them to play with home-made modelling clay or painting on pebbles. Image Source: Pixabay

Let’s be honest, most children are not about to create the next Mona Lisa. Art for children is often a means of keeping them busy and getting their creative juices flowing. Keeping that in mind, one need not invest in varieties of sketch-pens, glitter pens and paints.
– Use natural colours made of turmeric powder and chickpea flour, pureed beetroot or strawberry, henna, coffee and more. They come with the added advantage of being taste-safe!
– Use materials found in nature such as petals and leaves. Punch holes in leaves to make leaf confetti. Stick these onto paper using smashed boiled rice as an adhesive instead of glue.
– Paint on natural materials like pebbles, pistachio shells, and eggshells.
– Use vegetables for stamp-painting. Lady’s finger cut in half creates a pretty flower stamp, while potatoes can be used to cut out various shapes like leaves, stars and circles.
– Make homemade playdough with refined flour, salt and oil. You can even add natural colours or food colour to spruce up the dough.

5. Create Land Art

Find flowers, leaves and twigs in a park and create a mandala as a tribute to nature. Image Source: Pixabay.

Art need not last long enough to survive generations — sometimes, beauty is in the ephemeral. Art can be seen as a means of meditation, creating transient beauty and connecting with loved ones. If such are your thoughts, land art might be your cup of tea. Simply step into a park or your own backyard, gather leaves, twigs, flowers and stones and create a giant mandala, or gather flat pebbles to create domino-tile art. You could also head to the beach and make a sand-castle. Whatever you choose, it will be a beautiful tribute to nature.

Note: This article was initially published on Ethico India.

About the Author: Yashodhara is a new mommy, IT professional and cat lover who lives in Mumbai. When not running after her toddler, she’s trying her best to read, write and catch a few extra winks.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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