As I open the window a crack to hear this mornings song birds, I can imagine you are wondering why garbage would be part of a blog about creativity that is focusing on the theme of “home” for the month of February. I’d say that is a reasonable query. When I returned our rented movies to the gas station yesterday I paid cash (as the money is put in a separate envelope for the garbage collector) for a $7.00 tag to be placed on one, not too big and not too heavy bag of garbage.

This morning I tied off our one bag of garbage that we accumulate every three to four weeks and carried up to the main intersection to be picked up and then hauled off our island.

We live down the hill and around the corner of the road on the right.

It is a ritual I love. Being good islanders, we compost, regift, recycle, reuse, reduce and refuse with gusto. But there is always that little bit left that no one wants or can seem to find a use. This remaining refuge becomes our bag of garbage. Our creating, cleaning and clearing of our home has us frequently contemplating environmental practices which then brings us to examining what decisions we make earlier the acquiring and creating process.

My digital camera is a step in the direction of “reduce” by only printing the best while also being able to make these images available for viewing by many. Most recently, my creativity has been influenced by the “refuse” part of the environmental practices equation. I purchased a set of water miscible oil paints because I could use my same brushes and canvases but didn’t need to use any toxic solvents nor would there be the same use of materials in framing as with my watercolour paintings. In my creative process, I’m refusing to use as many toxic materials as possible and limiting the use of materials needed to create my finished products.

A frequent responder to sprout questions and full-time artist Tobin Eckian from Newburyport, MA takes the creative environmental practice even a step further into an area she calls “upcycle” in her use of cardboard in her art. Tobin’s blog and Etsy shop delight and inspire me with her creative “upcycle” art.

And just so you don’t think my weekend was all about garbage, here is an image from Sunday afternoon’s photo shoot…

View and purchase full resolution image here.

Sprout Question: How do environmental practices influence your creativity?

p.s. thank you for reading, participating and sharing Creative Potager. This is the 31st post since December 27, 2009 and because of you, there has been 246 comments and over 2000 views.

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

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Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

16 thoughts on “Garbage

  1. I am always looking for ways to reuse and upcycle! I didn’t know you lived on an island 🙂 what wonderful photos and inspiration to imagine being on an island with no where to leave my trash. Makes me think about how much I use and don’t reuse.

    thanks so much for including my etsy shop link and words about me!


    • You are welcome Tobin, it was a pleasure to be able to share your “upcycle” creative practice. Yes being on an island does help to refine our environmental practices. Particularly in the area of refusing, regifting and reusing. Goods seem to be used and shared around until there is no good left in them before recycling or removal. There is always room for improvement but I like to focus on adding new creative environmental practices rather than wasting time mentally cataloging what I am NOT doing yet. This is facilitated by our awesome non-profit Mayne Island recycling depot. Last time we came back from recycling all I had was three wine corks left in my pocket. Everything else we had gathered and sorted was accepted.

  2. What a great question, Terrill. I learned intaglio and silkscreen printmaking in ’89. I took home my silkscreen after college and started doing my own prints when I was 19. But often you have to use solvents and other harsh chemicals. As I was considering what I’d do with my life, I decided against mural painting because of constant exposure to solvents and paint fumes. I watched a friend develop her own photographs at home in 1990 and was shocked at the amount of harsh chemicals she put down the drain. I decided against photography right there. I never took an oil painting class for the same reason: harsh chemicals. So, here I am, using watercolor and graphite to create. Last week alone I saw 4 signs from the universe that I was to start mural painting. And the class I wanted to take but was full this Jan was printmaking using solar plates: Yes! Now I can make prints without solvents.

    In answer: environmental practices sculpt the very medium I choose in which to be creative.

    • Wow! Jessica your environmental practices and creative journey is amazing. Thank you so much for your detailed answer to today’s sprout question. I will be interested to see how you find these new printmaking techniques work for you.

  3. what can cork be used for? if you have enough, you can glue them onto a surface and use as a bulletin board. My sweetheart saves most of our corks in a big glass jar. I wanted to make a board out of them. He is waiting for inspiration to strike with a better idea but this has been going on for over 10 years and we are still collecting corks.

    • I am laughing so hard Tobin as I read your comment. I too have a large collection of corks awaiting inspiration. I just love them! They feel so good in the hands and some have wonderful prints on them. I hadn’t thought to put them in big glass jar for admiring while I wait for the muse to guide me into making something new with them. What a great idea.

  4. Hi Terrill,
    I used to paint with oils and for the same reasons as you I find myself resisting that medium now because of the harsh chemicals. Also don’t like to wait so long for the oils to dry! I would love to hear what you think about the water soluble oil paints. Please keep us posted on this method as I’ve been thinking about giving it a shot. 🙂

    Found some pretty good ideas on this link – – on how to use corks. Look at the pic of how the lady made a chair rail using corks! Pretty. 🙂

    • Thanks Itaya, I will keep us posted on how the water miscible oils work out. I was told to just use them like I would any other oil paint – “just paint!” was the exact advice. So “just paint” is what I’m going to do. Great link for using wine corks!

    • Welcome coffee messiah and thanks for contributing to today’s Sprout response. By the way, I love the quote on your awesome blog “What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” by Lao Tzu. And in case you didn’t already know, coffee on the west coast of Canada is a refined ritual. We have an original Zassenhaus Mokka knee grinder for our locally roasted, shade grown fairtrade beans which are then brewed in an Italian stovetop. (the hand grinder was purchased to keep me from smashing coffee beans in a tea towel or ziplock bag when we have one of our inevitable power outages)

  5. The photograph “Far Shore” is breathtaking, Terrill.

    Sprout Question: How do environmental practices influence your creativity?

    As a writer, I do a lot of printing. We recycle every sheet of paper, making sure to use BOTH sides.

    As a reader, I use a Kindle. This way, no trees are chopped down to produce books.

    • Hello Laurie thank you as always for your sprout response:) I have been wondering about kindle and what it is like to use. I have a hard time reading books on-line and have been considering kindle as a solution. I seem to remember that you are an avid library user for both books and movies.

      And “Far Shore” may be my personal favourite of my photographs at the moment. It was very difficult to take and I just hoping the print/hard copy meets my expectations.

  6. “It is a ritual I love. Being good islanders, we compost, regift, recycle, reuse, reduce and refuse with gusto. But there is always that little bit left that no one wants or can seem to find a use. This remaining refuge becomes our bag of garbage. Our creating, cleaning and clearing of our home has us frequently contemplating environmental practices which then brings us to examining what decisions we make earlier the acquiring and creating process.”

    It is truly remarkable that nearly all refuse can be recycled, regifted or reposted, and that you have just a small bag that you tie and leave off every “three to four weeks!” Our garbage here at our Northern New Jersey home is picked up at our curb every Monday and Thursday, and even that routine seems insufficient.

    As I am a school teacher (my wife just became a principal in the same district after teaching special education for about 16 years) so I can point to various student projects that utilized environmental concerns, like the building of art projects with recycled materials. The annual science project in the middle grades allowed for chickens to remain in heated open boxes to lay eggs, and the students kept vigil on the hatching.

    • Sam your dismay at the possibility of one bag of garbage every 3-4 weeks made me giggle. It reminds of when I read about a young couple in Victoria B.C. who made having no garbage a serious life commitment. They managed to get down to one bag of garbage a year and after that even less. I had the same sense of amazement with their success as you at our practice.

      If a person wants to reduce garbage, start small by learning what you can recycle. Then learn how to compost. In Vancouver B.C. even apartment buildings are developing composting practices. I still have a long way to go to be a really excellent non-garbage person. I find our children are leaps and bounds ahead of me. For example, that little ziplock baggy that I put the garbage ticket in and stapled to the bag – they wouldn’t do that. In fact, they would have refused to buy those little baggies in the first place. They would have put the garbage ticket in an old used clear bag (after having phoned the garbage collection company to asked if the ticket had been printed on recycled paper – and if not, they would be able to provide a really good print shop that only used recycled paper and non-toxic printing inks).

      However, we are all learning and it doesn’t really matter where we start with our environmental practices – we just need to start and it kind of takes off from there. Besides it is fun. If you have 3 bags of garbage a week now – what would you have to do to only have 2? By the time you get to only 2 bags a week you start to get hooked and then you say “I wonder if we can only do one bag a week?” And kids love to do this because they get to use their creativity and participate as equal participants – even giving advice and suggestions to their parents:)

      Good luck with those science projects… my daughter is a science teacher in a private school with a particular interest in physics. She loves science projects and makes a practice of doing learning labs all the time. And thanks Sam for adding a sprout to the Sprout Question of the day!

  7. Terrill – I don’t just like my Kindle, I LOVE it! Mine is the original version, and I still think it’s the best thing since peanut butter! As you know, I am a person of very few “things.” I don’t have a lot in the way of “stuff.” If for some reason I had to leave in a quick hurry, the three inanimate objects I would grab are: my laptop, my camera, and my Kindle.

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