Will the Maker Revolution contribute to a more sustainable world?

We are living in a world dominated by consumerism. A habit which is polluting our environment and is using up our raw materials. A habit caused by the industrial revolution. A time in which products could be manufactured at a high speed and in large amounts due to automation. At this moment we are experiencing the transition from the industrial revolution towards the maker revolution. This is a transition from mass production towards mass customization.

A change which is largely accepted by the majority because of the possibility of designing your own product according to your own taste and needs. People have always been creating, inventing, building, making, designing and redesigning. The Maker Revolution offers the possibility of doing this with a low amount of resources with skills, which are easy to master, by sharing knowledge in online open source communities.

Now can we see this transition as a sustainable development? We could argue that even more waste is being generated because people are producing more things. Just because they can, people will feel the need to create their own goods, and perhaps sell it. Changing the consumerist mindset of billions of people seems like an impossible challenge. But the maker revolution also offers the possibility of making your own product just for you. One will be able to have one of a kind jewelry or perfectly fitting shoes. This could result in less waste and a longer life of products. Making, also offers the possibility of fixing things. Industrially made products, which are falling apart could be given a new life by making the missing parts to fix it yourself. Now even old products of which parts are not sold in shops anymore can be fixed.

On the whole, the life cycle of customized products prove to be more efficient and produce less waste than mass produced products. But we will have to wait and see whether this transition will really lead to a total reduction in waste or if it will only lead to an increase in consumption and production of goods.

Tiwanee van der Horst

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