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Artists have a responsibility to consider how we affect the world

Jessica Lavie, BA Fine Art student at the University of Northampton, tells us how pledging to the #SDGTeachIn connects to her work with environmentally-conscious art. 

Sustainability is about creating new and better ways for humanity to meet its needs without causing harm to the environment. Many art industries, including universities, use materials and processes in the production of art that are highly toxic and harmful to both our health and environment.

Printmaking is one of the most toxic art forms when we consider the chemicals used in the process, including the inks we use and where or how the materials are disposed of. I feel it is our responsibility as printmakers and artists alike to consider very carefully just how our actions are likely to affect our world.

As an individual who is environmentally conscious, I felt compelled to explore safer methods and alternatives in printmaking and discovered printmakers that have adopted safer techniques. I set about practising a greener method of printmaking, by firstly committing to using no plastic during production, unless it can be reused or recycled. I replaced disposable plastic gloves with natural rubber gloves, obtained from a responsibly-managed plantation, and sourced non-toxic inks, biodegradable linoleum and acid-free paper. Another advantage of the non-toxic inks is that they can be cleaned up easily with just warm water, ditching the need for mineral spirits which are incredibly harmful to the environment.

This new approach to printmaking has led me to raise awareness by introducing an eco print workshop. The workshop features examples of contemporary printmakers using environmentally-friendly techniques, followed by a demonstration and group activity. The workshop takes place during the SDG Teach-in in February at the University of Northampton and is open to any art students and staff. I hope to not only motivate fellow students and staff to use safer processes and materials, but to encourage larger faculties such as the university to accommodate the needs of printmaking.

Get involved, and pledge to support the #SDGTeachIn, too!