Crafters Will Save the World

comments (1) April 17th, 2009     

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mattgup Matt Embrey, member
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Photo: via greenupgrader.com

I have recently come to the conclusion that crafters are going to save the world. I believe this will come about in one of two scenarios: Crafters will knit a gigantic net out of carbon nano-tubes that will stop an asteroid from wiping out all life on this planet, or in a more likely scenario, the crafters’ ethos permeates into mainstream culture and changes the way we make and think about stuff. That first scenario is pretty self-explanatory, so let me spend a little time on the second.

The most important environmental issue we need to address is consumption. Global warming, deforestation, pollution, lack of clean drinking water, and animal extinction can all be traced back to overconsumption, a vice that we as a culture are addicted to. At our current levels of consumption, we will never create enough clean energy to meet our energy needs, and eventually we’ll find ourselves drowning in trash, pollution, and rising sea levels.

How are crafters going to save us from this? They already are, by leading by example. To achieve sustainability, we need to change the way we think about stuff. We need to start to think like crafters.

The first lesson the world needs to learn from crafters: do it yourself!

If you want something, make it. If you need something, make it. If it’s torn, mend it. If it’s broke, fix it. Whatever you make will probably last longer than its store-bought counterpart because when you take the effort to create, it’s natural to put the effort in to do it right. Plus, your creation will carry much more meaning and value. You and your family will treasure it and ensure it lasts.

Take the example of the good old BigboxMart bedspread. I bought one of these for about $40 when I got my first place out of college. It had some celebrity on the package and was made with so much quality and care that the seam ripped open when I tore the tag off. Soon the quilting stitches started to come undone and the plastic, foamy filler started congregating in the corners, leaving me with a sheet that had puffy corners. My mother’s bed is covered with a quilt her great-aunt made for her. She made it well before I was born, and it will probably outlast me.

The second lesson: the 3 Rs—reduce, reuse, and REUSE

I replaced “recycle” with another “reuse” because we all already recycle; it’s important, but we have step things up. It’s time to start looking at things through the eyes of a crafter. An indie crafter is like MacGyver; everything he or she sees is a tool or material that can relive a thousand lives. For example, when the average person sees a ripped or stained T-shirt, he or she sees trash and it’s off to the landfill. When the crafter sees one, he or she sees a world of possibilities. Now depending on your skill level and how daring you are, you can take that torn tee and turn it into a number of useful things from rags to a rug to a bikini!

Another example is an old cereal box. Sure, you can throw it into the recycling bin, which is better than the trash, but you can save a whole lot of energy by giving it another life before you send it off to the recycling plant. We all need gift boxes from time to time. By putting your craft on and reusing those boxes before they get recycled, you are doing more with less, saving materials and energy.

The third lesson (listen up, manufacturers): make heirlooms, not junk

I recently attended a presentation on sustainable design by an MIT scientist, Saul Griffith, in which he laid out the grim future that I touched on earlier. He contends that to save ourselves, consumers and industry must shift from playing fast and loose with our resources to embracing what he calls “heirloom design.” Heirloom design is about making something that’s going to last AND something that we are going to WANT to keep.

Crafters don’t have to think about this; this is what they do, it’s what crafting is. So much of our stuff is made so hastily and costs and means so little that we don’t think twice about replacing it when it breaks or loses its luster. When crafters make something, they put more than just raw materials into it; they put their imagination, experience, and emotion into it. The end result is something that has utility but also beauty and meaning. These are the things we cherish, and things we make sure will last so we can pass them down to our children.

The idea that industry can abandon “planned obsolescence” and create heirlooms is not so farfetched. There are companies that already create products that, through superior quality and design, last for generations. Think of the Rolex watch, the KitchenAid stand mixer, or the Les Paul guitar. Once we as consumers change the way we spend and demand beauty and quality, manufacturers will respond.

Now I know I am preaching to the choir here at CraftStylish, so consider this a tribute.

Keep creating,


keep innovating, and


keep saving the world one stitch at a time!


posted in: green, restyle, crafty by nature, environment, sustainable

Comments (1)

AutumnElayne writes: Great post, Matt!
Weening industry off planned obsolecense is a real pickle in an economy that relies so heavily on profit and growth.
The good news is that green crafting is leaps and bounds ahead of traditional manufacturing in terms of sustainable, resourceful production of domestic goods. Indeed, it could potentially save the world :)
-Autumn Wiggins
Posted: 8:43 pm on April 17th
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