Greening Your Business

by Rebecca Shapiro,
Ladies Who Launch member, Portland, OR

FA - Green Your Business

Living in merry green Portland, one can’t help but be “green-hearted.” It’s in our culture, and, thanks to the rain, everything is green. It becomes a subliminal nudge to recycle, at the very least. Since I’m already a big recycler—my 64-gallon recycling bin overflows every week thanks to over-packaged products—I began to think about what else I could do to be green.

I turned my focus on my new art studio space, and while getting it organized, I made a purposeful decision to change some wasteful habits. Here are some things I learned during this process that can hopefully also help you make your place of business more eco-friendly …

• Keep things tidy and reduce clutter. If things are too messy my brain shuts down and I forget what I have. I end up driving to the store and buying something I already own. When my space is organized, I work efficiently and don’t make unnecessary trips.

• I love a good cup of tea while painting. Instead of pouring day-old water from my teapot down the drain, I water the plants or use it in my next painting session.

• My studio has an electric heater and a wood-burning stove. Wood burning contributes to air pollution, so I use Java-Logs ( They cost a little more but they heat the space efficiently, produce fewer emissions, and I don’t have to use the heater.

• I shut off my computers and power strips at night, which saves me $11 a month. My office has a furnace. I turn the heat down to 60 degrees at night and up to 70 degrees when working at my computer. I save over $15 a month just by turning the heat down. In the summer I use ceiling fans and open windows for cross ventilation.

• My studio has lots of natural light so I rarely use overhead lights. I use fluorescent bulbs for the lights when I do need them.

• I have lots of ideas so I jot them down on scraps of paper. I make sure I write on both sides before taking a fresh piece of paper. Lately, I’ve been saving the used scraps for mixed media projects. They make great backgrounds. Any paper that isn’t incorporated into my artwork is either shredded and used for shipping or recycled.

• Be creative. Use materials in ways you hadn’t considered before. I made a commitment to not purchase any new supplies until I used what I had or found a suitable replacement by using something else creatively. I’ve made exciting discoveries for my art working this way.

• I work with water-based media, which leaves little waste and low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). When painting murals, I choose paints which have no VOCs in the colorants and bases. Think about whether there are greener products you can use in your own business.

• I never throw away watercolors. I let them dry out in their pans instead because they can be reconstituted with a few drops of water. I also work in encaustic. There is very little waste with this medium because leftover beeswax is melted into other colors. I am careful to ventilate properly and not overheat the beeswax so I don’t create toxic fumes. When painting with acrylics I use a sheet of glass for a palette. When the paint dries, I scrape it off with a razor blade and take the scraps to the Metro hazardous waste station. I take turpentine and solvents to Metro as well instead of pouring them down the drain.

• I buy products with the ACMI ( seal. ACMI specializes in art material toxicology. This way I know how to handle and dispose of the mediums.

• When you spend money, you are supporting a wide range of businesses, organizations, and people. The way you use your money can be a powerful vote for a greener lifestyle. I do my best to make purchases that support earth-friendly businesses.

It really wasn’t that difficult to “green” my art business. Now I actually look for ways to be more resourceful. It’s fun and is another part of the creative process!

Rebecca Shapiro is a Portland Incubator leader and an “artpreneur.” Her Ladies Who Launch LIVE event this year is all about living a green life and building a sustainable business.