reclaimed art & school supplies in (and near) Chicago

Nature has always inspired art.  And nature has provided the materials that artists use. 

Artists, craft-makers, students and teachers can create their work with the earth in mind– shrinking their carbon footprint, using non-toxic materials and reusing materials to reduce waste.

Have art supplies you don’t need?  Need art supplies you don’t have?
Get to an art supply exchange.  

You may be surprised to find what can be repurposed.  When you need supplies, start by looking for materials that someone else doesn’t need anymore.  Whenever you’re done with materials or supplies, check these sites to see if someone else can use them.  Ask questions before you deliver or send your materials to find out how they will be used, repurposed or recycled.

colored pencils photo by joe mazza / brave lux
You can find useful things at an art supply exchange. (photo by joe mazza / brave lux)

Find or donate materials around Chicago:

art & design & school supplies

Joe’s garage

animalia project‘s occasional, pop-up art supply exchange for artists, craft-makers, teachers and anyone creating art.  Check our event calendar for upcoming dates.

The Wasteshed

a storefront in Chicago that sells reclaimed art supplies at low prices.  They accept donations, too.  Their inventory includes fabric, notions, yarn, paint, stamps, pens, pencils, markers, canvases and much more. There’s a teacher corner with free supplies for teachers. Check out their workshops on mending clothes, making crafts and more.

Zero Landfill Chicago

provides free surplus & outdated architectural and interior design samples for teachers, artists, students and arts educators at semi-annual exchanges in Chicago.  Look for interesting fabric, wallpaper, tile, glass, metal, carpet, laminates and more.  They also have binders, books, matboard and foamcore.

Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange (CCRx)

accepts art supplies, office supplies and other materials, then donates them to Chicago teachers. In addition to office and art supplies, they share furniture, hardware, musical instruments and equipment. Check out their workshops, too.

Creative Pitch

provides free art supplies to art educators, art therapists and other professionals in need.  They offer graphic design supplies including crayons, pens, paper, paint, brushes, canvas, glue, scissors, rulers, clay and more.  Donations are accepted.  To receive supplies, apply on their website.

Upcycling Colors

collects used art, craft and school supplies and games (and suitcases!) that they clean, sort and distribute to schools and youth groups around the world.  They have several drop off locations in Chicago.

ReUZ Room

in the Environmental Education Center shares useful things for school and craft projects. You can find or donate things like shoeboxes, buttons, paper towel tubes, yarn and more. This is a project of the Lake County (IN) Solid Waste Management District. (Located in Hammond, IN.)


offers a wide range of supplies for schools, including art supplies, paper, furniture and books for teachers and non-profts.  Find out about making donations and how to get materials for your school.  (Located in  in Glen Ellyn, IL.)

Brushwood Art Supply Exchange / BASE

offers inexpensive art supplies, with discounts for educators and community partners, along with a tool library and open studio. They also accept donations. (Located in Riverwoods, IL in the Ryerson Woods Forest Preserve.)

Make art with a big impact and a small footprint.

architectural materials

ReBuilding Exchange

sells salvaged building materials, large and small, including lumber, windows, drawer pulls, sinks, faucets, mirrors and lots more– in Chicago.  And– they offer classes to help you make your own stuff with wood.

ReStore Chicago

sells donated (often new) building supplies, furniture and appliances– in Chicago.  Sales benefit Habitat for Humanity and their work to build homes in Chicago.

Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse

sells a wide variety of salvaged building materials, including lumber, flooring, windows, plumbing and lots more– in Evanston. They host a series of architecture workshops, too.

Horigan Urban Forest Products

sells wood from the urban forest.  They have lumber salvaged from storm- and insect-damaged trees; species include ash, maple and other trees with beautiful grain.

*Most of these organizations are on facebook, instagram & twitter, too.  They often have more information– and pictures of their latest stock on social media.

useful things & oddities

See More the Sea Lion. Made from marine litter by Washed Ashore; on display at the Shedd Aquarium. (photo by susan ask)

American Science & Surplus

sells an always interesting variety of laboratory glass, electronic bits, science kits and other “incredible stuff” for “discovery and invention”.  It’s fun to explore in their stores in Chicago, Milwaukee and the suburbs, and their online store.

Resource Center

has lots of zero waste programs, including a recycling center.  The home of Creative Reuse Warehouse, a resource for finding salvaged art and craft supplies, which has several open houses a year and is also open by appointment.

Repurposed Materials

sells a constantly changing inventory of industrial leftovers and oddities, including flooring from basketball courts, snowfencing, parachutes, bowling shoe sole rubber, giant brushes and more.  It’s fun to look at their site; they have warehouses in Kankakee and other parts of the country.


provides an online marketplace for people to buy and sell all kinds of things, with digital hubs around the world.


provides an online forum for members to exchange materials for free, with digital communities all over the world.

Thrift Stores

often have great materials for making art.  Check out your local second-hand store!

Outside the Chicago region

search for ‘creative reuse centers’, ‘zero landfill’ or ‘architectural salvage’ to start searching for something in your area.

Many of these organizations need volunteers to keep things going. 
Maybe you can help them out?

recycling information for other materials in Chicago

Chicago / Recycle by City 

is the City’s official recycling information page; it’s very helpful and kinda fun.  It includes a useful guide (with good photos of what can be recycled), a quiz for testing your knowledge and more.

Chicago Recycling Coalition

has been working on improving waste disposal options in Chicago for decades.   Explore their resources and get involved.

information about recycling anywhere in the US:

Earth 911

look up local recycling locations for specific materials.


find options for bulk collection of unusual materials, primarily packing for food and toiletries.

reuse, repurpose and recycle supplies for school, art, craft & office

last updated March 2019