Can art contribute to climate change? Mark Golden is committed to painting a more sustainable picture for artists and their creative process.
Editor's Note: Right now, individuals around the world are taking decisive action to address climate change. Through a collaboration with Climate Changers, Outrider is sharing examples of people stepping forward to make a difference. Their inspiring stories can ignite more of us to take meaningful action. Mark Golden draws on a legacy of land, water and product development co-existing on the same canvas. His story is one of taking realistic and inspiring steps to ensure the business’s brush makes healthy strokes. Outrider invites you to get to know these Climate Changers and see how you can be part of the solution, too.
Many years ago Ben Gavett, our Director of Regulatory Affairs, shared this value with me that we continue to practice today: start where you can on your journey for sustainability and don’t wait for perfect. We make artist products that use water in many of its formulas as well as for cleaning. It comes from wells on our property. The same wells that my folks used for drinking when their house was here, the same wells we all still use for both production and drinking.
We are located in one of the most beautiful rural areas of Upstate New York in the middle of rolling hills, dotted by farms and families. The commitment to our stewardship for this gift of resources will hopefully support our employee owners, and their successors for many generations to come.
I care about climate change not for provincial reasons as we have yet to have our lives so interrupted as to be forced to make any real changes. Yes, the seasons seem to begin earlier for our farmers, we are now invaded by pests that would have been killed off in colder, longer winters and the storms we’ve seen seem to be more intense. But, the issues that affect our lives are the ones that are more global in nature.
How can we be so passive when we know our actions are affecting millions of others around the world? It is easy when things are so far away–the flooding, the acidification of our oceans, the loss of coral life, the lack of safe water and the changes in the entire food chain that lead to disastrous effects to so many communities. If our sense of community and compassion end at our front door, we then stand for nothing but our own greed.
In terms of impacting my life, the most profound action to take to mitigate the effect of climate change is first to have a thoughtful recognition of how I contribute to the problem—what I use, reuse and throw out. Where do I need to travel and can I get more done in one trip? Whether composting, driving a hybrid car or recycling, these are the personal small steps I can take. For our company, the steps are similar—first a thoughtful recognition of how we contribute to the problem. Specifically, we use non-renewable resources to make our artist acrylic colors as many of our pigments come from resources that we have little control over.
We made a conscious choice here that our responsibility is to the legacy of artists that use our materials that expect them to last for hundreds of years. The acrylic polymers that we use have proven to be some of the most durable and lightfast of artist materials. We are also excited to be making oil colors, made from linseed (flax seed). This is a renewable source of material for professional artist paint. We have also created tools for artists to be able to mitigate their environmental impact when using their various mediums. Providing education in reducing materials that end up in our waste streams is also very important to us.
Water is the most common component in the paints and mediums we make. For every gallon of water used as an ingredient, we need another gallon to clean the production equipment and tools used to make the paint. Ultimately, all this water returns to the ecosystem.
To achieve greater recycling of our precious water resources we use a Reverse Osmosis (RO) filtering system that allows us to reuse over two-thirds of our cleaning water each day. This reduces the need for transporting wastewater and thus, taking a moderate bite out of our carbon footprint. It also directly decreases our groundwater withdrawals by the amount we are able to reuse.
GOLDEN has an overall "green" attitude. We strive for formulations and processes that reflect our concern for the environment, including the ingredients that go in our paints. The wastewater generated while making paint, cleaning equipment, and any waste we generate throughout that process go to use in our Seconds Program.
The Seconds Program helps support artists while reducing our waste stream. The Seconds Program provides materials that fall short of GOLDEN standards to artists, non-profit groups, and employees at little or no cost.
Here are some resources that may be helpful if you are taking a similar path to address climate change or if you want to explore new directions:
Mark Golden is the founder of Golden Artist Colors.