20 Maker-Made Projects for Earth Day

Energy & Sustainability Science

First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day was declared as a day to honor our amazing planet, consider the environmental issues it faces, and focus on formulating viable solutions. Who better to throw a hat in the ring but makers? The formidable cleverness, creativity, and compassion of makers shines bright in the arena of Earth-loving projects. Here is but a sampling of 20 good-for-the-planet projects that will be at the 12th annual Maker Faire Bay Area, the biggest DIY festival on Earth, taking place on May 19–20 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds. Plus, read on to learn how to join the Maker Faire Green Travelers and help reduce waste at the Faire.


Green Skies Vertical Farm

Green Skies Vertical Farm is an urban micro-farm in West Oakland, Calif., that uses soil and hydroponic methods to produce the freshest certified organic herbs, microgreens, and salad greens. Part of the Future Food Institute, Green Skies will be exhibiting the ways they grow food, including their microgreens production in rain gutters.

Hamama Microgreens

Hamama‘s first product line, the MicroGrow Kit with Seed Quilts, makes growing healthy microgreens indoors attainable for all. No prep, no mess, and you only water once. Microgreens are the seedling versions of your favorite veggies. They’re up to 40x more nutritiously dense than their mature counterparts, according to USDA research. The exhibit will raise awareness about all the types of nutritious microgreens you can eat and also showcase living art, including “paintings” and sculptures made out of microgreens grown with the Seed Quilt technology.

Compass Green Mobile Greenhouse

Compass Green is a mobile education project that teaches sustainable agriculture, inspires creative solutions to food security issues, and demonstrates an environmentally responsible way of living, all from the back of a mobile greenhouse. Tour the greenhouse and see demonstrations of various aspects of the deeply researched technique of biointensive sustainable agriculture, such as deep soil preparation, companion planting, seed saving, and composting. Compass Green’s school programs focus on educating young consumers about the dangerous impact that conventional agriculture is having on our planet and empowering them to make a real difference in our environment and their own health by supporting sustainable agriculture.

WaterWorks Backyard Hydroponic Gardens

WaterWorks chronicles Bruce Gee’s hydroponic journey over the past two years. Learn how to grow and harvest 10 heads of lettuce per week in a backyard hydroponic system. Grow fresh vegetables using 90% less water than typical gardening. This system can be built using standard parts from a hardware store.

Bug Hotel

UCCE Master Gardeners show you how to build a Bug Hotel using recycled materials (such as used wine crates, old bird houses, large tin cans, bamboo, branches, and other nesting material) to attract beneficial insects to your garden. Learn to identify “good bugs” and how to deter “bad bugs” and other garden pests in a sustainable way.

Local Greens Indoor Farm

Local Greens is an indoor hydroponic organic produce farm in Berkeley, Calif., that utilize the latest technology to grow thousands of pounds of microgreens, sprouts, and basil monthly for 40 Bay Area grocery markets. Come see how they do it.


BioPile is a completely autonomous vertical hydroponic indoor growing system. BioPile units are stacked vertically, enabling them to provide food for many people while occupying minimum space. Grow 30 different vegetables in the space of a person! The water reserve lasts a month and the system can work anywhere, thanks to the energy-efficient lighting and ventilation systems.

Grow Bucket Life

Come learn about growing food in your home, no matter how little space you have, and assemble a free seed germinating bag to start your own sprouts! Grow Bucket kits come with lighting, ventilation, and a timer.

Root Hydroponics

Root is a smart in-home hydroponic system that helps you effortlessly grow and maintain fresh herbs, produce, and flowers of your own. Root is great for anyone interested in cultivating their own food, from beginners to professionals.


CalSol: UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team

CalSol, the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team, is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to design, build, test, and race fully solar-powered vehicles. Composed of over 50 undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines, CalSol provides students with hands-on experience with real world engineering, project management, and business aptitude. They will display their 7th-generation car named Impulse, which placed 4th in the 2012 American Solar Challenge.

Solving Climate Change with Biomass

To solve climate change, we need to do more than just plug in solar panels — we have to get carbon out of the sky and back into the ground. Biomass gasifiers do that by turning organic waste into on-demand, renewable, carbon-negative energy. All Power Labs will bring a compact biomass gasifier genset, which will turn waste nutshells into electricity. The remaining residue, known as biochar, is a great fertilizer — they’ll offer free sample ziplock bags to the public to put in their gardens.

Siege X-Stove

Come try the Siege X-Stove, the most versatile, rugged, and affordable camping and survival stove system on the planet. In addition to being the favorite stove of countless outdoors enthusiasts, campers, backpackers, preppers, and bushcraft/survival instructors, the California-made Siege Stove is also uniquely suited to developing nations and disaster relief. Its efficient use of minimal biofuel wood scraps (instead of bulky, expensive resource-intensive gas and synthetic fuels) can help reduce deforestation, with the unique benefit of giving common cans a second life (reuse is even better than recycling!). This and its ability to make a cleaner-burning gasifier stove from two interlocking cans gives it advantages that no other stove has. Siege X-Stove is also practically indestructible, unlike most other proposed cooking solutions.

Homemade Microbial Fuel Cells

Los Gatos High School student Cassandra Melax will showcase how to make simple microbial fuel cells mostly with materials one can find at home. All you need is a plastic container, mud, wires, and thin sheets of carbon cloth. She’ll be bringing a few fully functioning fuel cells as well as the individual parts to explain how it’s set up. The exhibit will include an explanation of how bacteria power these fuel cells, how batteries generally work (including those that use salt bridges), and the types of environmentally friendly energy production that are available today.

Biomass Rocket Stoves

InStove (Institutional Stove Solutions.) is a nonprofit that designs institutional biomass rocket stoves and allied technologies for use where fossil fuels or electricity are insufficient or unavailable. Come learn about how biomass can be used to sustainably meet energy needs at home and abroad! InStove (Institutional Stove Solutions) is dedicated to relieving suffering, improving health, and reducing harm to the environment through renewable energy technology and education.

The BellyRacer

Behold this electric go-cart where you lay on your belly. Originally built for Burning man by lifelong maker Karen Schwartz, this go-kart initially ran off of a lithium-ion battery but it has gone solar and now uses a 250-watt solar panel.



Come ride with Cyclecide’s pedal-powered carnival! They’ll have the Bike Coral, 20 modified bikes, including tall bikes, choppers, sidecar bikes, bumper bikes, swing bikes, and more! Plus, check out the 32-foot-high Axe-Grinder, the four-person Cyclo-fuge, the Whirl-n-Hurl, and the Kiddie Carousel.


What if you could ride a bike that was sort of like a car with most of a car’s features and few of the drawbacks? Meet Frankentrike, the all-purpose ideal form of personal transport for the dense urban environment. Frankentrike is all about showing people that we can get around without a car in our cities, but in a way where the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

The Pedal-Powered Stage

Rock the Bike invites you to come pedal-power live music performances from talented local bands and take part in the Energy Challenges, where you can go head-to-head with common electrical devices, trying to power them with your legs. This year, the Pedal-Powered Stage will feature 24 bikes, all kid-friendly, plus four adult-specific bikes.


Green Engineers: The Tool Chain

For the last two years, Steven Mosbrucker’s main focus at his one-man invention shop The Green Engineers has been the Tool Chain, a recycling micro fab including a shredder for recycling thermoplastics (The Reclaimer), a filament maker (Multistruder/FilaFactory) to turn the recycled thermoplastics into 3D printer filament, and a 3D printer (Simple Cubic) to use the recycled filament. With these three machines, you’ll either be able to make endless filament and print from pellets or go completely green by recycling plastic or recycling failed prints.

The Super-Amazing Plastic Bottle Boat

The Super Amazing Plastic Bottle Boat Project team is comprised of four 2nd-grade students from Oak Knoll Elementary in Menlo Park, California (plus one little brother). They tested the best way to tie string together in order to build a boat out of plastic bottles, string, and twine.

Join Our Green Traveler Program

Join the Maker Faire Green Travelers as a zero-waste expert to teach young makers the way to preserve our environmental resources and remind all to think before they throw by teaching people to identify compostable/recyclable/non-recyclable items at waste stations located throughout the Faire!

Our Green Travelers help set up and maintain the on-site recycling and composting program, as well as other sustainability functions throughout the Faire. Last year, our Green Traveler team is credited with making the following happen:

• Total waste diversion rate of 80%
• 5.98 tons total waste diverted to recycling
• 5.67 tons of waste collected for compost
• 1,250 lbs. of materials collected for reuse at local makerspaces, schools, etc.
• 1.6 tons of cooking oil collected for conversion to biofuel

Volunteer your time with this program and in exchange get some great perks, including a free pass to the Faire. A variety of shifts are available. Sign up today!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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