"Sustainable Self Portrait" by Tom Linigen aged 7

I teach a Sustainability unit  in the Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts at WSI Nepean College. Here are some resources that other artistsmay find helpful. 

Sustainable Development aims to meet human needs in the present while preserving the environment so that these needs can also be met in the indefinite future.

  • reduces the use of resources including water, materials and energy
  • encourage recycling and increase the use of renewable resources
  • encourage redesign of production processes and products to eliminate the production of toxic materials
  • protect natural habitats and environments valued for their biodiversity.

Sustainable thinking can become an everyday part of your work practice and lifestyle, where you don't create unnecessary environmental problems, rather than an afterthought to clean up after the work process.

What is WSI Nepean Ceramics doing about sustainability?

  • Electric kilns are fired overnight (off peak electricity) using timers and computer controllers. Firing cycles are as short as possible, and we fire to a range of high and low temperatures to conserve energy and give students experience of a range of firing effects. We have a range of large and small kilns to ensure the kilns are efficiently packed, and fired when they are full, consistent with the needs of the students and assessment deadlines.
  • Reduction kilns are fired with Natural Gas and use Oxygen probes to avoid fuel wastage and give consistent results.
  •  Raku firings minmise the amount of smoke released into the environment. See our Kilns and Firing page for details.
  • Much of the large plant, especially the kiln and wheels were purchased when we opened in 1982 and have been used by hundreds of students. We emphasise maintenance and repair, rather than disposal and replacement of tools and equipment. Scroll down on the wheel page and the Kilns and Firing page to see various equipment repairs.
  • We encourage students to re-purpose or make their own tools, often from scrap rather than buy new manufactured tools.
  • When we have funds, we try to buy tools and equipment that will last and that are repairable, rather than cheaper throw away tools.
  • We try to run the office with minimal paper (back to back photocopying, auto off on the computers and printer, etc).
  • Some student info (copyright permitting) is available online, rather than relying on a lot of photocopying which may go to waste.
  • We use a bucket system in the sinks, and have sediment traps in the sinks to reduce the clay going into the waste water system.
  • Although we do give students access to a full range of glaze materials and teach safe handling procedures, we do attempt to minimise the use of toxic materials, and take steps ensure clay and glaze waste is not released into the environment.
  • WSI Nepean recycles of paper, PET bottles and aluminium, turps, scrap clay, pallets, packaging, silver is recovered from photographic chemicals used in film and paper processing.
  • We use Low energy lighting.
  • We use rechargeable, rather than disposable, batteries in tools like cameras, oxygen probes, pyrometers etc.
  • We encourage students to make informed choices on their use of energy, materials and water.



Zero emission vehicle ready to dispatch your ceramics order.

Environmental sustainability is everybody’s responsibility, including being aware of the rules and regulations that govern your activities.

 The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) is the key NSW environmental law, covering water, land, air, noise pollution and waste management.

 There are specific legal requirements to manage Backflow Prevention,Trade waste, General Water Regulation, Water Wise Rules, Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery

Individual Artists Approaches to Sustainability 

  • Artists who intentionally create temporary pieces by arranging natural materials, for example, leaves and feathers and allowing them to rot after being photographed. Eg Richard LongAndy Goldsworthy British sand artist Tony Plant
  • Artists who create work from waste materials that were destined for landfill eg the annual Waste to Art exhibition held by Blue Mountains Council. artists examples Ash Keating, who exhibited at the Trapezium Gallery at WSI Nepean some time ago, John Dahlsen,Jorn Vanhoffen
  • Artists who use waste material to make useful tools or equipment to make art works up cycling.  Toadlilystudios where the studio is entirely built from recycled wooden pallets.
  • Artists who make art that attempts to persuade or increase awareness of environmental issues eg Anton GormleyJacek Tylicki
  • Artists who try to use whole of life principles to their make art work and life as sustainable as they can, and sustainability becomes and important part of their brand. eg Steve Harrison in ceramics (uses local materials, renewable energy etc) ,Greg Patch in Painting (beeswax paints)

Not Frequently Asked Questions

How many trees get chopped down to make photocopy paper?

Very hard to calculate, depends on the type of paper and the production method and the productivity of the forest resource, but This site estimates that one 500 sheet ream of A4photocopy paper uses around 6% of one tree, and another estimates there are approximately 8,350 sheets of paper in one tree. Maybe we should think before we hit the print button.

How much electricity do the kilns use?

An electric kiln has a kilowatt rating ie the (60 cmx 60cm x 125cm) Woodrow kiln at Nepean Collge has a rating of 20kw. It uses 20 kilowatts of electricity per hour when on full power. For a bisque firing, it would use 6 hours x 20 kw = 120 kw of electricity. A midfire (1180oC) firing would use half as much again. See the above section for the steps we take at Nepean to minimise energy use in the kilns.

How am I supposed to dispose of stuff that I can't put in the recycle bin, like batteries, paint, light bulbs, scrap metal etc etc??

Apart from using as little as possible, or upcycling into something useful, http://www.sita.com.au/community-education/site-tours-education/recycling-tips/ has a listing of the greenest way to dispose of waste. Or contact your local council.

Green Games and Quiz

As well as making sustainable choices in your art practice, consider your lifestyle choices and calculate your ecological footprint here This calculator estimates the amount of land and ocean required to support your consumption of food, goods services, housing, energy and to assimilate your wastes. It calculates how many Earths would be required to support everyone with your current level of consumption.

Test your green skills with the Green Collar Worker Game.

 The Great Green Web Game tests your knowledge of how consumer choices affect the environment

Sust games 2 games to learn about sustainability. The second game challenges you to build a sustainable house.