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Pollution Prevention for Arts Education: P2 Opportunities
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
Health Effects
Regulations and Policies
P2 Opportunities
Consumer Education
Glossary of Terms
Green Products
Key Contacts
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Greening Your Lessons -- Art
This portal provided by Greening Schools for art educator resources covers a broad spectrum of conc...

Keeping the Artist Safe: Hazards of Arts and Crafts Materials
This compilation from the National Library of Medicine provides an overview of hazards encountered i...

U.S. EPA Regional Pollution Prevention Programs
The 10 U.S. EPA regional offices and contacts are provided. Regional questions regarding pollution ...

U.S. EPA School Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3)
The Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3) aims to ensure that all schools are free from hazards a...

<big><b>Pollution Prevention for Arts Education: P2 Opportunities</b></big>

Information in this section includes activities and materials, specific to the arts, that help reduce health-related issues and pollution prevention. Pollution is generated in a variety of forms. Pollution includes air quality, water quality, and waste. Pollution prevention is any process that reduces or eliminates the amount of and the toxicity of pollutants that would enter the waste stream or would otherwise have been released into the environment. Pollution prevention occurs before education efforts, such as deciding in advance to reuse old sets and costumes as well as purchasing non-toxic art supplies. Pollution prevention includes solvent substitutions and beneficial reuse of by-products.

Pollution prevention for arts education includes the following components:

  • Education
  • Identification
  • Substitution
  • Improving Operations and Waste Management
  • Monitoring


    The first line of education involves art educators in formal education, elementary grades through college. These educators help students establish their art form as well as their techniques. It is at this time students, or future artists, need to understand not only hazards and risks (the why), but also alternatives that will allow them to achieve their desired effects. Education curricula and resources for arts education instructors (K-12) will be found in the Curricula category of this topic hub.

    Education for art instructors needs to become formalized to provide resources for making informed decisions on changing techniques. Concern for health and safety issues in arts education is a growing interest, but also a relatively new area of emphasis for pollution prevention. As more information becomes available, teachers and art instructors need access to changing trends and technology. Establishing pollution prevention information for arts educators in school districts would be a valuable step. This can also involve staying current with changes in legal requirements and legislation for labeling.


    Assessments conducted in art studios and classrooms offer opportunities for determining the types of hazardous materials in the learning center. These assessments can establish baselines from which to develop pollution prevention plans and procedures. Conduct personal and classroom risk assessments as part of the identification process. Support for this can often be through local/state environmental protection agencies. Art and material inventories, use of paper, handling of waste, and energy management techniques all can be assessed.

    Address safety issues. In particular, backstage conditions in theatrical arts can create a variety of safety concerns not shared in most other art learning environments. When assessing this portion of the program, note floor conditions, ladders, scaffolding, electrical cords, and relationship of lights to flammable materials. Transporting potentially hazardous materials under these conditions can increase risks. Similar concerns can be found in industrial shops with power tools and sharp implements frequently in use while students are moving about the classroom.


    After generating inventories for art supplies, waste management, and energy use, substitutions and alternative practices need to be determined. Budget constraints tend to guide the process; however, manufacturers have been quick to respond to toxicity issues in traditional art supplies. Non-traditional art supplies present greater challenges for locating substitutions, and they present greater risks as most contain unknown materials. Found-art projects (found art often uses unknown scraps and junks from waste) create the greatest risks for both generating pollution and health risks. Case studies and green product suppliers offer suggestions for identifying substitutions.

    When it is not possible or practical to substitute less hazardous materials in art activities, the art educator should insure that all control methods and safety procedures are in place, such as local exhaust, increased general ventilation, and control of timing of activities to minimize exposure. In addition, the art educator must insure that students appreciate potential hazards associated with the activities through ongoing education.

    Improving Operations

    Best management techniques and curricula can guide art educators through improved operations, which involves the following:

  • Obtaining more energy-efficient equipment and as a suggestion, look for the Energy Star logo where applicable
  • Installing efficiency equipment that turns lights off when rooms are not in use
  • Changing purchasing procedures
  • Improving ventilation
  • Providing protective clothing (and requiring that it be worn when appropriate)
  • Changing handling and storage of materials
  • Adopting different housekeeping practices (i.e., reduce disturbing potentially hazardous substances)
  • Developing a plan for managing wastes and for monitoring old inventory
  • Establishing procedures for recycling waste material where possible
  • Monitoring

    All pollution prevention procedures require systematic monitoring and follow-up. Continuing education provides information for updating procedures, but a process for monitoring must be part of any plan. At this time, there are no suggestions for monitoring P2 activities in an arts education program, but the following are recommendations from other P2 areas applicable to this topic:

  • Keep studio and classroom safe, clean, and properly functioning. Encourage students to properly clean at the end of class sessions, particularly when large amounts of dust have been generated
  • Maintain all equipment, protective clothing, detectors, and extinguishers
  • Monitor ventilation fans to be certain they are functioning
  • Regularly check storage for leaks, weak shelving, and out-of-date chemicals
  • Provide annual reviews of safety procedures with teaching and building maintenance staff
  • Check periodically to see that proper handling and disposal of hazardous material is being conducted
  • Replace lights with energy-efficient lighting and monitor all motion sensors.

    Best Practices

    Best management practices for P2 for Art Education combine various strategies to address different types and sources of wastes and health hazards with the most affordable and efficient methods. Components of a comprehensive program have been identified in the above discussion, but in summary, they include the following:

    1. Inventory old stored chemicals from art studios and art classrooms, industrial shops, and backstage areas. Properly dispose any hazardous, unusued, and/or out-of-date chemicals. Art classrooms include any area designated for art study (including photography, pottery, metal shop, ceramics, forging, painting, woodworking, and others).

    2. Implement policies to reduce further generation of hazardous wastes.

    3. Educate consumers on hazardous products and selection of non-toxic alternative art materials, including reading labels and using material safety data sheets.

    4. Create opportunities for instructors and art students to exchange unused materials from art projects.

    5. Develop a process for handling waste and stored chemicals.

    6. Establish a procedure for staying current on changing technology and research on hazardous and toxic supplies (both traditional and non-traditional) used in art education.

    Much can be done to prevent pollution, increase energy efficiency, and maintain healthy learning environments. The above identifies only primary topics and criteria. As technology, awareness, and legislation change, "best practices" will be reflected through the links on the right side of this page and throughout the Pollution Prevention for Art Education Topic Hub. They will also be identified in GLRPPR news and conferences; workshops will provide opportunities to remain current.


    The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

    The Pollution Prevention for Arts Education Topic Hub™ was developed by:

    Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
    Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
    Contact email:

    Hub Last Updated: 7/31/2009