Anticipated Environmental Sustainability of Personal Fabrication

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* Article: Anticipated environmental sustainability of personal fabrication. By Cindy Kohtala and Sampsa Hyysalo. Journal of Cleaner Production, Issue 99, 2015, pp. 333-344



"Distributed manufacturing is rapidly proliferating to citizen level via the use of digital fabrication equipment, especially in dedicated “makerspaces”. The sustainability benefits of citizens' personalfabrication are commonly endorsed. However, to assess how these maker practitioners actually deal with environmental issues, these practitioners and their practices need to be studied.

Moreover research on the environmental issues in personal fabrication is nascent despite the common perception that the digital technologies can become disruptive. The present paper is the first to report on how practitioners assess the environmental sustainability of future practices in this rapidly changing field. It does sothrough an envisioning workshop with leading-edge makers.

The findings show that these makers are well able to envision the future of their field. Roughly 25% of the issues covered had clear environmental implications. Within these, issues of energy use, recycling, reusing and reducing materials were covered widely by environmentally-oriented participants. In contrast, issues related to emerging technologies, materials and practices were covered by other participants, but their environmental implications remained unaddressed. The authors concluded there is a gap between different maker subcultures in their sustainability orientations and competences. Further research on the environmental aspects of real-life maker practices and personal fabrication technologies now could help avert negative impacts later, as the maker phenomenon spreads.

This knowledge should also be directed to developing targeted environmental guidelines and solutions for personal fabrication users, which are currently lacking. Potential also lies in seeking to enhance dialogue between pro-environmental and new-technology-oriented practitioners through shared spaces, workshops and conferences.

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