Eliminating one’s carbon footprint by treading as lightly on the planet as possible has been famously and boldly explored by Colin Beavan, otherwise known as No Impact Man, but very few of us possess the commitment or sheer insanity necessary to ride it out beyond a solid 24-hour time period. That doesn’t mean that we are inadequate planetary citizens and really, who says that coming up with a Plan B is such a bad thing? Rather than being tempted to hurl yourself off of a cliff of eco-desperation when you realize that you can’t bear to live without many of the comfortable spoils of a modern lifestyle, there are additional ways to honor our natural environment that require less perspiration and brow-furrowing stress. With Earth Day right around the corner, have you ever considered dabbling in a little-to-no-impact art? If that sounds like an intriguing proposition, then pull up a piece of driftwood and let your imagination run wild. On Saturday, April 17, 2010, California’s Stinson Beach, about 25 miles north of San Francisco, will be transformed into an eco-art zone adorned with finger-drawn spirals, sculptures and countless other artistic flourishes achieved with nothing more than natural materials and a little creative inspiration. Now in its sixth year, the free event encourages the public to connect to the natural environment, first by participating in a beach cleanup and then by incorporating found objects such as sea glass, stones, shells and seaweed into artistic arrangements of their own creation. Examples of the many art works compiled in past events can be seen on environmental artist/event host Zach Pine’s website, the common denominator among all of them being that once they are photographed, no harmful impact is left behind.
Jenny Lee Fowler's leaf art
Celebrating the majesty of Mother Nature by making a creative yet ecologically respectful mark on the world is a popular theme in the artistic community. Using a massive rake, California artist Andres Amador carves masterfully sweeping patterns into beach sand during low tides, photographing his adorned coasts before the ocean ultimately engulfs them.  Using a somewhat related medium, Cal Lane creates literal lacy “dirt carpet” installations that are achieved by lasering filigree patterns onto recycled materials and then using them as stencils. In slightly more dramatic fashion, Japan’s Aomori prefecture Inakadate farmers have been strategically seeding their rice fields with multiple toned varieties for the past 17 years in order to create impressive, large-scale art works that change in appearance as the seasons progress. Street artist Vinchen cleverly took advantage a tumbling display of unruly ivy by transforming it into the perfect crowning glory for his spray-painted face. Fallen leaves serve as the ideal biodegradable canvases for Etsy artist Jenny Lee Fowler’s custom silhouette portraits, Brazilian advertising firm Tatil Design’s laser-etched art works and award-winning New York Times blogger/illustrator Christopher Niemann’s highly amusing series of hand-cut leaf illustrations. Advertising company CURB combines all of the above techniques into an entirely sustainable approach, employing moss, carved sand, mowed grass and even steam-cleaned pavement to reflect its message du jour in an entirely eco-friendly manner. Even the fashion world has taken advantage of a no-impact approach, as is the case with British Columbia artist Nicole Dextras’ appealingly lush and entirely organic “Weedrobes,” which make the most of recycled garden clippings.  Similarly, Bulgarian textile artist Ceca Georgieva’s vast collection of eco sculptures and whimsical, hand-arranged body adornments feature Mother Nature’s often forgotten baubles (like blades of grass, twigs, seed pods and leaves) curved and coaxed into impossibly beautiful arrangements. If you’re not sufficiently inspired at this point to make your own original zero-carbon artistic impact, then you might want to consider spending just five minutes with a child. In that short period of time, you will glean so many handy eco-art tips that it will be virtually impossible to look at a feather or pinecone in the same way again!