Green Maker Initiative map

Green Maker Initiative map

Greener makers

MAKE Southwest is an acclaimed exhibition space for contemporary craft and design as well as a leading charity for craft education. They were looking for ways to support their members and designer makers to reduce their environmental impact. 
As part of the ERDF Low Carbon Devon project, Dr Emma Whittaker had been researching how to support the creative industries in Devon to reduce the environmental impact of their practice. Inspired by Creative Carbon Scotland’s models, it seemed there could be exciting potential to develop a similar scheme in the South West of England. 
MAKE Southwest and Low Carbon Devon worked together to create The Green Maker Initiative, a free resource to help makers across the southwest develop gentler practices. MAKE Southwest were also awarded funds by Arts Council England to help develop the Green Maker Initiative.

What is the Green Maker Initiative?

The free initiative invites makers, in all areas of craft design and making, to sign a pledge to monitor, manage and reduce the environmental impact of their practice. In return, members are part of a community that can share resources and ideas around sustainability, as well as join exhibitions and proudly display the Green Maker Initiative logo on their merchandise.
During an early Green Maker Initiative event, different creative communities were brought together to network, view the exhibitions and exchange unwanted, but useable materials such as leather offcuts. 
Dr Emma Whittaker interviewed attendees about the actions they were taking to lessen the environmental impact of their practice. These details were added to paper tags and pinned to a giant map on the walls of the gallery. Now available as a digital map, it is a growing public resource showcasing designer makers focusing on sustainability. The event also included an exhibition of members’ work - a ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ sale, encouraging makers to sell, rather than discard, less-than-perfect items.
Green Maker Initiative logo

Innovative solutions

Through the Initiative, Dr Whittaker has been able to gather and analyse information from people working across the creative industries – from basket making to textiles to bookbinding – to understand the challenges they face and collate examples of good practice.
The most frequent action taken to reduce environmental impact related to the recycling of materials, both reprocessing materials like paper and cotton into new items as well as recycling materials sourced second-hand from charity shops, scrap stores or army surplus. Emphasis was particularly placed on reusing old packaging and making sure it can be recycled by the customer. 
Many makers mentioned seeing their crafts’ remnants or waste as a creative opportunity to develop something new, such as making miniature items or components. Other recycling approaches included reassigning textile scraps as stuffing material and wood shavings for packaging or animal bedding. 
It is common practice for makers working with precious metals to melt down their scrap but also collect the lemel (dust/small pieces) that can be recycled by specialist companies. 
Several members noted how they are reducing energy consumption by insulating their studios, using LED lighting, choosing renewable energy suppliers or using heat pumps and solar power to produce renewable energy. 
Travel is highlighted by makers as a key challenge, with many makers in the South West living rurally and relying on petrol vehicles. To address this, members mentioned actively reducing journeys by combining posting, shopping or meeting trips and also lift sharing with other makers when attending events, shows and markets. Cycling was highlighted by a number of interviewees as a main way of travelling locally and using a cargo bike in an urban setting was an aspiration for some.

The ceramics industry

Due to the need for intensive heat processes to create their products, the ceramics industry is one of many particularly concerned about their carbon footprint as well as energy price increases. 
Through the Green Maker Initiative, we have heard about pottery producers finding innovative ways to reduce their energy and water use –
  •  powering their kilns through heat pump sources or solar power
  •  developing stacking systems to maximise items in the kiln for the most efficient use
  •  finding and digging clay in their local area
  •  creating their own packaging
  •  recycling materials they find in charity shops
  •  monitoring, recycling and reducing water
  •  devising the most energy efficient delivery routes for their end product.
Ceramic pots


The Green Maker Initiative is a new service provided by MAKE Southwest which raises its profile as a leader in sustainability in the craft and designer maker sector. There are now around 200 members in the South West, establishing a network of people working towards the same goal and facilitating the sharing of ideas. As markets for low carbon products continue to grow, the Green Maker Initiative map provides a central point for people looking for local, sustainable suppliers.   
To find out more about the Green Maker Initiative, visit the MAKE Southwest website. 
Green Maker members
Green Maker members
A film has been made giving voice to some of the members within the Green Maker Initiative. Hear from designer makers in Devon tell us about their journey developing sustainable practices.
The Low Carbon Devon project was a five-year European Regional Development Fund project held at the University of Plymouth supporting Devon businesses to transition to the low carbon economy closing in mid-2023.
The project served as a catalyst for low carbon economic growth in Devon via the Future Shift internship programme, a series of free events and by connecting enterprises with expertise within the University of Plymouth.
The project collaborated with over 130 innovative Devon enterprises who are developing sustainable practices and securing opportunities in the low carbon economy.
To find out more about the University of Plymouth's business services visit Enterprise Solutions
Low Carbon Devon logo