There's no getting around it. Energy and resources are consumed at every stage of the making cycle – getting clay to the studio, making work, firing the kilns and shipping/delivery of finished pieces.
For my work, I:
 Order 300 pounds of clay at a time, and it is transported to my location from Southern California in plastic 25-pound bags.
 Sit or stand at my (electric) wheel with a bucket of water beside me for throwing.
 Bisque-fire in my (electric) kiln, raising the temperature to approximately 1900F degrees over 11 hours.
 Mix up some glaze (with water), apply it to pieces... and then refire to approximately 2230F degrees over another 13 hours.
 Unload, clean, sand/polish, pack and box up – and then deliver or ship pieces to the consumer or gallery/store.
It's a lot... and there are a myriad of steps along the way to conserve or change processes that can make a difference if they're followed every day.
At clay conferences, schools and in private studios throughout the country, it's been a huge topic. How can we continue to make the work we love, but do it in more environmentally friendly ways that don't harm the environment or suck up water, energy and resources?
Here's what I'm doing:
This is the biggest leap for me, and it's just recently that I've been able to invest in converting my studio to solar power. It's a huge investment and would not be warranted if I was not pursuing this full-time and able to re-invest earnings into the studio. The fact that my studio is at a home we own is another key reason we were able to take this leap.
- Solar-powered studio basics: I and am now relying on sun-power for my basic electrical needs: lights, electric wheel, pug mill (mixer for clay), etc.
- Solar-powered electric kiln: It's still new, but it appears that I can fire an entire kiln-load using solar exclusively. We recently put in batteries as well, and the combination of stored energy and direct solar provide enough power to significantly reduce the need to electricity from the grid.
- Basic water reclaim: At my sink, I have three buckets in which I dump water that has been used to clean my work table and equipment. The clay and glaze will sink to the bottom of the buckets and I syphon off the top to use for cleaning.
- Clay water reclaim: After several cycles of throwing at my wheel, the water gets thick with clay. I empty this throwing water into a clay reclaim bin with other clay scraps.
RESOURCE RECLAIM AND RECYCLING:
- Clay: Clay scraps are saved and pugged or wedged up to use in future pieces. Once every three months or so I'm able to reclaim and pug up approximately 100 to 200 pounds of clay for use in making new pieces.
- Glaze: Left-over glaze is returned to its source bucket for future use. I'm very careful to minimize any waste. I brush, dip and pour glazes and any not used is captured in the process.
PACKING and SHIPPING:
I use recycled materials as much as possible for packing and shipping. Area stores and friends often save boxes and packing materials for me.
1. Evaluate best time for kiln firing. As we get more experienced at firing with solar power, I'll be looking at the firing data to determine best firing time to best utilize solar.
2. Though I reclaim and reuse as much glaze and clay as possible, there is still the waste at the bottom of the buckets. Rather than dispose of it, I'm considering making pavers, a practice followed by several potters and school ceramics departments.
3. Continue to update my studio as new practices and ideas are presented. Here are some resources I've been delving into and implementing when possible:
Green Task Force, NCECA (National Council for the Advancement of Ceramic Arts
Artist Studio EcoGuide, Craft in America