Bumblr: A collective action network

Pollinators like bees and birds are critical to plant diversity, agriculture, and ultimately human survival, but in many places are threatened by loss of habitat and pesticide exposure. We blended scrap cardboard, compostable plant materials, and a native seed mix designed to attract pollinators species, pressing them into a plantable “forum” that will grow into a place where pollinators can congregate. We invite you to join the campaign to build new pollinator habitat from the detritus of our production processes like cardboard. 

Materials: Scrap cardboard from shipping and laser cutting, moss, compostable organic matter, native pollinator seed mix, corn starch, corn syrup, water, vinegar

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Step 1: Gathering

Collect cardboard from wherever it piles up in your design practice. Bumblr works with cardboard that might be too soiled or wet to recycle, but take precautions to avoid cardboard that is likely to be contaminated, e.g. with pesticides. Go outside to scavenge for other compostable matter like moss and decomposing plant matter to mix in. You’ll also need pollinator-friendly seeds, which you can look up here and gather in the late summer or fall. You can also purchase the seeds from a seed company, but check that they’re appropriate for your intended planting setting vis-a-vis growing conditions and native plant species. Group seeds by their preferred growing conditions if they differ, e.g. some prefer direct sun while others want shade.

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Step 2: Milling

Peel off any tape and remove any staples from the cardboard. Cut it into 1/2″ pieces and place in a hammer mill if you have one, or use a heavy duty kitchen blender. Be careful not to overload the machine as the cardboard needs space to fluff up. Blend until all pieces are broken down into a soft, insulation like material.

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Step 3: Mixing

Wearing gloves and a respirator, pour 2 parts cardboard mixture, 2 part plant matter mixture, and 1 part pollinator seed mix into a bowl and blend them together by hand, being careful not to crush the delicate seeds. Make a corn starch glue by mixing 1/4 cup corn starch and 1/4 cup water over heat, whisking continuously so there are no lumps. Add 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar and keep stirring until it thickens. Let it cool before mixing into the cardboard and organic matter, using only enough to moisten and hold the mix together. Do not use too much vinegar as the acidity can damage the seeds. Save the extra glue in an airtight container.


Step 4: Forming

Depending on the consistency, use your hands, a pastry bag, caulking device, or other piping method to dot out 1″ rounds of the mixture onto wax paper or another nonstick surface. If you have a larger area prepped for planting, you can extrude shapes, words, patterns, and other forms. Keep in mind most seeds can’t be planted very deeply or they won’t germinate, so check the preferences of the species you’ve collected. Leave the fora out just long enough to solidify into a spongy texture.


Step 5: Cultivating your Bumblr forum

Plant the seed forms in prepared soil within a few feet of each other alongside existing flowering plants to build your Bumblr forum for pollinators to congregate. Bees in particular are sensitive to expending energy by having to fly too far for food, so it is important to place the forum as close as possible to existing food and habitats. Putting out extra food (e.g. bird seed), water, and protected space (e.g. a hive) will help furnish the forum. Give any remainders to neighbors to extend the new habitat, along with a copy of this recipe. Water and fertilize as needed. When the forum goes to seed, collect, dry and store the seeds for the next planting season.


Step 6: Reimagining

How else might we reconfigure discarded technology production materials as sites for cultivating more-than-human concerns?


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