Happy Earth Day: Sustainability in Making

Happy Earth Day: Sustainability in Making

As the weather starts to improve and things start to grow again–and with Earth Day coming up on April 22nd–it’s a great time to talk about sustainability in making. The maker movement is already very much about sustainability; in fact, it’s one of the things I like the most about maker culture. Much of the DIY spirit is focused on moving away from cheaply-made, mass-produced goods put together in factories and shipped around the world. As makers, we can exert more control by paying attention to the things we consume, where they come from, and how they affect the environment around us.

So, what are a few things makers can to do celebrate Earth Day and to focus on sustainability?

    • Repair something that breaks
      We’ve been trained by disposable consumer culture to throw out and replace broken items rather than trying to fix them. Often, it’s prohibitively expensive or even impossible to get a replacement part, so we’ve learned to just get rid of something as soon as it doesn’t work. Instead, head down to your local makerspace and use a 3D printer to quickly and simply create any replacement parts you need.


    • Learn to sew
      Start small. Teach yourself to attach a button. Learn how to mend small rips and tears. Skills like these can help you avoid tossing otherwise usable clothes. As you improve, you can extend the life of old clothes you no longer wear by updating them into something fresh and new.


    • Borrow tools
      A number of makerspaces, either independent or within libraries, have a practice of lending out tools. See what you can borrow to fix things around the house. Start shifting your mindset from the culture of consumerism to the culture of repair.


    • Upcycle “trash”
      One person’s trash is a maker’s raw materials. Check out our post about upcycling and think of creative ways to bring new life to objects that would otherwise end up in landfills.


    • Grow food, cook, homebrew
      When you reduce the distance your food needs to travel to reach you, you reduce your carbon footprint, as well. Growing food on a small scale also lets you control the chemicals and pesticides you’re using. Plant a garden, homebrew your own beer, and support other food-makers by visiting farmers’ markets or participating in CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture).


    • Recycle 3D printed parts
      If you have 3D printed creations you no longer need or have amassed a number of failed print attempts, check out our post in which Emily explored options for recycling these pieces.


    • Monitor your energy use
      Have you ever left the house and realized you forgot to turn off a light or turn down the heat? Explore creative solutions with electronics like Arduino and Raspberry Pi to help keep track of your energy usage and give yourself better control.


Have you undertaken any projects like these that were successful? What are some other ways making can help us focus on sustainability? Leave your comments below or tweet us @makerbridge, and have a happy Earth Day!


Image Credit: “Earth Full South Pacific” by Flickr user Bruce Irving

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