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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Sustainable Swaps for Back-to-School (or Home)

This hidden Tempe gem is the epicenter for upcycling aficionados and zero-wasters. Founder and Executive Director Sherrie Zeitlin and her team divert tons of materials from the landfill (paper, paints, fabric, bottles, containers—almost anything imaginable) and offer it for reuse to artists, educators, nonprofits, and the general public, completely free of charge.

The Art Resource Center (ARC), located at 910 S. Hohokam Drive, #105, not only works incredibly hard to get upcycled products in schools but is also a certified Arizona
Green Business through Local First Arizona. It practices sustainability in its operations, switching to LED bulbs, using occupancy sensors in its large facility, eliminating chemical air fresheners, avoiding spraying for pests, recycling all acceptable materials, and using donated items—including bags for purchases rather than buying new. We spoke to Zeitlin to find out more.

What are some common back-to-school items one can find at the Art Resource Center? Best-kept secrets?

Most people are looking for traditional supplies to start the school year, but when they come to The ARC, they are usually overwhelmed by the variety. We have about 10,000 topographic maps that are perfect for mapping one’s life, especially the fantasies of young children.

You’ve been serving Arizona teachers and students for a long time. What stories/projects have strongly impacted you along the way?

I have 16 years of stories that make me smile or bring tears to my eyes. The very first year, I received a call from a new hire teacher who was expected to teach with a room full of nothing but a couple of reams of copy paper. We filled her van with supplies as she cried and cried and cried.

School benches have been made using our broken clay tiles, quilts, and masks from our fabric, and sculptures from all the random bits and pieces we have. We hear all the time that the teachers could not do what they do if it weren’t for The ARC.

Any nonprofit can walk through our doors and take away supplies free of charge. There are no buy-in or hidden fees. The question most often asked, “Are you sure it’s free?”

Any at-home discards parents/teachers can quickly turn into supplies?

There is art to be made from anything, and our homes are filled with the makings! From paper towel rolls to newspapers to twist ties and yogurt cups to leftover paint cans in the garage, the sky’s the limit. For special trips and tricks, you might just want to visit or give The ARC a call!

Keep up with all of Green Living’s content by visiting our website and following along on social media!

Learn more about Local First green business here.

Maria Lopez is the communications manager for Local First Arizona, a coalition of more than 3,000 local, independent businesses and nonprofits working to promote, support, and celebrate a vibrant and sustainable Arizona economy by educating citizens about local business ownership, social equity, cultural diversity, and environmental impact. More at www.localfirstaz.com.


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