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Testing The Environment, One DIY Tool At A Time

Laine Kaplan-Levenson

The non-profit Public Lab is an environmental organization for the DIY community. They help people monitor the health of their natural spaces with low cost kits and materials. The organization launched after the 2010 BP oil spill with the goal of  making information available to the public about that disaster. 

As the 5th anniversary of the spill approaches, Public Lab is unveiling some new techniques for getting communities to document environmental issues.

One of the kits helps people test for oil. Oil testers can be really expensive, but the Public Lab’s website tells you how to make one using common household items, like a flashlight, some cardboard, and a camera.

“We should be able to sit here and say ‘Hey, this scanned material that I found off the side of the road or that rolled off the beach, is actually oil,” says Stevie Lewis, Public Lab’s outreach manager. For instance, people can test whether there’s still crude oil lingering on their land after a spill.

Other DIY kits include air and water quality testing tools. Public Lab hopes to put these to use along the gulf coast.

Support for WWNO's Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and the Kabacoff Family Foundation.

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