Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eco-friendly Markers for Eco-friendly Creativity?

Creativity is something I believe to be essential to my and my children's development.  Creativity unleashes the intuition and gives the soul permission to express itself in a uniquely individual way.  That said, we spend a lot of unstructured time at the table with colors, scissors, glue and fun.

And as we craft and play on this beautiful spring-ish day, I am pondering the question, "How much longer can I keep markers out of my house?"  The girls seem fine without them . . . until they have them.  And then, like with plastic toys, they are little beasts inhaling the food of which they have been starved.  They didn't know they were starving of this novelty, and maybe they really weren't, but when the opportunity to indulge in the forbidden fruit/plastic happens, they go wild.

What's the big deal?  Why won't I just give them plastic markers?

The purist in me that likes to ignore the mounting pile of gifted plastic toys and desperate purchases I have made for them also likes to envision that we use the real deal and skip all that plastic if we don't need it.  We have beeswax crayons.  We have water colors.  We have color pencils.  Who needs a marker?  They really are just water color in a tube.

But they are also kinda cool.  So I know some time in our future, while making paper and painting masterpieces, my kids will also be demanding markers.


There is no perfect solution, but there are, at present, a few options that will lighten the load if you choose markers and want to do it in a way that is more eco-friendly.

1.  Don't use them.  This is obvious, but needs to be stated.  No one NEEDS markers.  We will not die without markers.  There is no "marker imperative" to our survival.  So just skip it if you can.

2.  Choose natural instead of just non-toxic.  You can get natural markers through Clementine Art.  They make and sell beautiful natural products that might just be available in a locally owned shop near you.  But they are still packaged in plastic and are pricey.

3.  Use a marker that is refillable.  A Google search will reveal a lot options, but here is an example of AusPen refillable whiteboard markers:

4.  Use Crayola and sign the petition at to start a take-back program so Crayola can keep all those plastic tubes and parts out of the landfills and oceans.  And then hope for change.

5.  Use Crayola, sign that petition (see link above) and then take it upon yourself to recycle those tubes.  Crafting a Green World has a tutorial on doing just that, though you will want to hand deliver these to your recycling station to make sure they don't get discarded.  They are made from #5 plastic and recyclable, but not marked.

6.  If you aren't up for the messy process of dismantling a dozen or more markers at a time, you could always send them to Terracycle and they will recycle them for you.  Terracycle has a ton of brigades, and I am happy to report that our local Comal County UU Society participates.

There is no perfect solution at this point, and while markers are not a true need in our lives, creativity is.  Promoting eco-friendly creativity is an important part of the process and makes me feel much better for that time down the road when, and if, markers find their way to our creative days and ways. 

Do you use markers in your creativity?  How have you made your creative process more eco-friendly? 


  1. I use markers and have to say that I didn't even notice they were made of plastic. Is that crazy of me? I am oblivious sometimes. I think of plastic cartons and packaging but markers were just markers. Thanks for the wake up call. I wonder what else I take for granted that is plastic. It is everywhere.

    1. It's everywhere! But the more we become aware then the more we can take action. Check out TerraCycle and see what kind of bridages they have to get an idea of what's hiding in our daily use!

  2. We use markers and I had no idea they could be recycled! Thanks for this very informative post. We will definitely be recycling our next set.

    1. You may have to convince your local recycling center of it, and like on the tutorial, bring a printout from Crayola to verify the type of plastic that it is. And let us know if you do!