Sustainability in Practice: DIY Repair, Reuse and Innovation
30 October–2 November 2024
Venue: Estonian National Museum, Muuseumi tee 2, Tartu, Estonia

Conference Call for Papers

Sustainability perceived as an economic and political endeavour in terms of green transition and sustainable development often neglects the role of the individual consumer, and the sustainable everyday practices, solutions and lifestyles shaped by culture, heritage and history. This conference addresses ecological sustainability through do it yourself (DIY) practices, and through consumer behaviour. The focus on DIY repair, reuse and vernacular innovation seeks to examine sustainability in the context of everyday life and domestic and community settings. By bringing together ethnological, anthropological, sociological and craft studies perspectives, the conference aims to show and discuss contemporary, traditional and vernacular sustainable practices.

Repair, reuse and repurpose of diverse commodities and materials, and vernacular innovation, are today increasingly perceived as part of sustainable consumption culture. However, the role and meaning of these practices have changed over time, depending on social, economic and political environments. Facing the global climate crisis, we are looking for lessons from the past and present for more sustainable and resilient ways of life.

We invite presentations, workshops and documentaries that explore various forms of DIY practice, solution, innovation and material culture related to sustainability in a variety of settings and regions. Apart from academics, experts from memory institutions and craft scholars, this conference also invites activists, craftsmen and designers to share their experience and knowledge.

Possible topics include:
  • Repair and maintenance
  • Reuse and repurpose
  • Vernacular innovation and invention
  • Material culture of sustainability
  • Sustainable and resilient lifestyles and communities
  • Forms of activism (for example, repair cafés, the right to repair movement, low-tech, etc.)
  • Heritage and applied heritage
  • The role of museums and memory institutions in maintaining and promoting sustainability
  • Insights from activists and craftsmen or designers
The deadline for submission is 31 March 2024. Please send an abstract (200–300 words) of the presentation, workshop or documentary film with the title and your details. In addition, for workshops please add special requirements, and for documentaries please add online access to the film with English subtitles.

Please send your submission to conference e-mail:

The conference is organised by the Estonian National Museum in collaboration with the Washing Machine Made of Beetroot joint exhibition project, curated by the Estonian Road Museum, the Estonian Agricultural Museum, and the Tartu City Museum. The conference programme involves organised tours of the exhibition on invention, ingenuity, recycling and DIY mentality, and visits to various public repair workshops in Tartu.

The conference and the exhibition are part of and supported by the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 programme.