It is quite possible that throughout the course of your life you have accumulated at least one, if not multiple, musical instruments that you no longer have a use for. It might be an instrument that you played when you were younger, one that was passed down to you or one that needs some repair. Perhaps you’ve picked up an instrument as a hobby and lost interest, are a musician who has cycled through instruments over the years, or maybe you know someone else who no longer has a use for the instruments they have acquired.
Whatever the case, deciding what to do with an unused instrument can be difficult. While many may choose to simply throw away their instruments, especially if they are broken, there are other options that not only benefit the environment, but other people as well!
When deciding on what to do with your old or broken musical instrument, it is important to think about its embodied energy. Embodied energy is the sum of all the energy that is required in order to make a good or service. Embodied energy includes all processes related to the good or service including the material that was extracted, the manufacturing process, as well as the transportation and delivery. Although accurately assessing the embodied energy is a complex task, taking a moment to consider what processes and materials went into the production of your musical instrument can help you realize that simply landfilling it is not environmentally friendly.
Most musical instruments have been crafted by skilled work, specific materials and techniques. All of that labour, knowledge as well as the raw materials, glues, stains, varnishes, and so on really should not end up in the landfill. Items such as these can have real value in terms of providing new service and enjoyment.
Musical instruments can be fixed up (if needed) and donated or gifted to a family member or friend! Additionally, if you think your musical instrument has significant value, and you are willing to put in the time, they can also be sold. With either of these methods, your musical instrument will be able to be reused and enjoyed all over again!
Donating your musical instrument
There are likely a variety of local musical instrument donation programs in your area. One of the most popular kinds of donation programs are ones that give your pre-loved instruments to students in need. Band programs are an important part of many school programs. Not only can learning and playing a musical instrument improve cognitive function, but it can also introduce a student to a newfound passion!
Unfortunately, there are many school-aged children who are unable to afford a musical instrument. Luckily, there are organizations and programs that allow these children to receive second-hand instruments that have been tuned up and are ready to play!
The Three Rs Music Program
For example, Music Canada is a non-profit organization that has created The Three Rs Music Program in the province of Ontario. This program Rescues musical instruments, Restores them at local repair shops, and Reunites them with students who attend Ontario’s publicly-funded schools. In 2019, this program was able to collect a total of 3,120 instruments that were then repaired and distributed to public schools across the province. The Three Rs Music Program ensured that at-risk, Indigenous, and other underrepresented communities were prioritized.
Hungry for Music
Hungry for Music is another non-profit organization that collects and redistributes musical instruments to those in need. This organization has four drop-off locations in the United States: Takoma Park, Maryland; Chantilly Virginia; Haymarket, Virginia; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you don’t live in any of those areas, musical instruments can also be sent to the organization by mail! Hungry for Music accepts instruments in any condition (although playable is preferred), and redistribute them to:
If you fit any of these categories, you may also request an instrument through their website!
Instead of letting your instruments collect dust or end up in the landfill, give them a second life and make a difference! Check out any local programs or organizations that can help you donate your unused musical instruments to someone in need! It is a beautiful way to let that instrument and all of its embodied energy and potential continue to serve its function.
This practice reduces waste going to the landfill, and is another means of sustainable gift-giving to a family member, friend or someone who would benefit from it. Consider refurbishing a family heirloom instrument and gifting it to someone who can make use of it.
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