Green DIY is About More Than Soda Can Tabs
I consider myself a pretty crafty guy, and as both a DIY-er and someone who cares about the impact I have on the environment, “green DIY” is a term that I care about and identify with. That’s why I get frustrated when, say, researching a blog post on green DIY leads me to post after post of can-tab bracelets and up-cycled mason jars. While it’s true that up-cycled craft projects often make good use of post-consumer materials, true green DIY involves more than just a cute idea for reusing your old crocs.
Green, Sustainable, Eco-Friendly?--How about Responsible?
In the jumble of buzzwords that get tagged on to projects that incorporate elements of responsible design, what we should care about is just that: responsibility. Truly green projects are those that, considering all aspects of a project, make design choices that prioritize the environment and human health along with form, function, and budget. That’s why I encourage you to take a more holistic approach to your green crafting. For inspiration, consider the case of green-building standards.
In a green-building rating system, such as the USGBC's LEED, project teams are awarded points for incorporating environmentally-conscious best practices into each aspect of their project. Starting with the design of the final product, to the selection of raw materials, and continuing through the construction techniques and final finishes, project teams seeking certification points need to consider each element of their project to ensure that sustainable principles inform each stage of the project.
Thinking it Through
Your DIY projects can benefit from the same rigorous thought process that goes into designing a green skyscraper.
- When designing your project, consider it’s final form. Will this project help you recycle more (maybe incorporating recycling into your house’s structure) will it help you manage energy (diy programmable thermostat) or maybe it will help you conserve resources (rain barrel).
- Choosing Materials: Are you using virgin materials that could be effectively replaced with reused materials? Are the materials that you are purchasing the best choices? Look into using FSC certified wood, zero-formaldyhyde composites, or recycled building materials for your home-improvement projects.
- Are the final finishes safe for you, your family, and the earth? Use low VOC paints, stains, and finishes to avoid harmful fumes. Consider earth-friendly alternatives like old fashioned milk paint or shellac.
- Finally, think about the whole lifecycle of your project. If you’re creating something that might not be meant to last forever, think through how you will dispose of it when the time comes. Favor screws over glues in fasteners, to make sure that deconstruction is easier, and the materials can be saved or modified to stay in use.
Making your DIY projects green is not simply a matter of using old corks instead of other materials (although you can do some neat stuff with them). Rather, green DIY means that you think deliberately and conscientiously about the whole project process to ensure that you are limiting your environmental impact, using healthy materials from renewable sources, and planning for the eventual end-of-life of your project by incorporating deconstruction principles in the design.
It's important to remember that the main goal of a DIY project is to interact with your world, making, improving, or repairing your environment in ways that bring you closer to it and enrich your personal experience. DIY projects are moments of learning and growing, and offer the unique chance to materialize your commitment to sustainability and responsible design. Craft can be an expression of who we are, what we value, and the way that we want to exist in the world; by incorporating sustainability and resilience into your projects, be proud and cognizant of the fact that you're practicing what you preach.