Sustainability: My Journey Begins

Right now, stand up, and take a step outside. What is the first thing you notice? The sky, the trees, is there a car near, people, is it dark out? Rarely do people take the time to fully understand that everything we see is of some significance to this world. Rather it be the birds flying over your home, your loved ones, the beach you vacationed on, or even yourself, everything is connected to a system; and every system on this earth is interconnected. We have an understanding for these systems in order to make this thing called “sustainability” work. Before entering my courses this semester I did not know what sustainability was nor did I care in all honesty. I didn’t know that there should be such a focus on the concept. I now know that sustainability is a strive to maintain and protect not only our natural environment but all systems in our world. In a Ted Talk I was watched the women said, “Sustainability is a catalyst for innovation.”, and this really stuck with me. If more people could get behind this notion, innovation would surround us. We are so use to using short term thinking and problem solving that we only sustain the unsustainable. This is why I enjoy such a focus on this idea of sustainability in my recent courses.

A tame problem is a problem in which you can solve using an algorithm or a pre-made set of rules or calculations. Where as a wicked problem is one that cannot be solved by simply using an algorithm, it has no known solution. Even when one attempts to solve a wicked problem, you usually just end up discovering it is larger and more complex than initially thought. Wicked problems encompass six characteristics that make them difficult if not impossible to solve including: vague problem definitions, variable solutions, solutions with no end point, solutions that pose irreversible effects, solutions that require a unique approach, and urgency. Each of these feed into what makes wicked problems so non-traditional and complex.

In the 11th hour film, I was pleasantly surprised to see Janine Benyus who I previously watched and loved in a Ted Talk from my problem solving class. She is an expert on biomimicry and contributed her ideas and beliefs of nature in the film as well. The film was excellent and truthfully scared me a bit. How can I along with much of the world be so clueless when it comes to the immense issues of our planet? It helped me to more so understand climate change and why their is an urgency to change our ways. We must make more sustainable choices and designs if we want to see changes. How long will many of these issues last without massive change? There are so many questions and gray areas which is why they are wicked problems of our world.

 

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Until I Know Better

     In “The 11th Hour,” many large environmental problems are approached in a highly impactful, but somehow not overwhelming, way. Experts quickly and clearly make their points, observations, and solutions. It is gripping without being devastating- a true feat. Though I’ve seen it before, the one sad thing I still walk away with is, what about everyone else? It’s a disorienting emotional roller coaster to walk around in this culture and feel like an alien sometimes. People are so self involved, constantly on social media, talking about trivial things, and always, constantly, bottomlessly, consuming. I agree with the film- the biggest change needs to happen culturally. People aren’t paying attention. And the worst is when they just don’t care. 

     Cultural change is a wicked problem. The six characteristics of wicked problems are: vague problem definitions, variable solutions, solutions have no end point, solutions pose irreversible effects, solutions require unique approaches, and they are urgent! As “The 11th Hour” points out, all environmental problems are now urgent. Every day counts. But culturally, we are dragging our feet. Why? Media exposure could be better. But also because we are constantly distracted. Not just by trivial things like consumption and social media, but with our everyday lives. As the article “Mindfulness and Sustainability” from Ecological Economics points out, it’s hard to care much about things so vague and intangible when your basic needs aren’t being met, which seems to be the case for a lot of people in Oklahoma. Maybe I should cut them a break.

     By comparison, our dependence on fossil fuels seems straightforward. We are currently in the very early stages of the inevitable transition to renewable sources of energy, like solar, wind, hydroelectric, thermoelectric… There are a lot of choices. There is a clear end point, which will be when we squeeze the last drop of dead dinosaur goo out of the ground. If it actually comes to that. Dependence on fossil fuels seems like a tame problem to me. The wicked problem in this situation is our political leadership being so strongly influenced by corporations that our politicians no longer exist to represent us. They fight economic battles for corporations that back them, like marionettes. Honestly like whores, but that seems a bit strong-worded for a school blog post. It feels accurate, though. I’m going to keep it. This is a massive problem, further complicated by corporate-owned media influences. In spite of all this, I believe change is happening. In my local election primaries, there were two amazing candidates- I wanted them both to win! Probably a democrat still won’t win, but I’m excited that I met a politician that I would want to represent me, not just the usual lesser of two evils. It’s obvious on a national scale that people have had about enough of corruption, too. I guess we’ll find out in November. This is certainly setting up to be a huge deal for a midterm election.

     When I first got into sustainability, I thought I would make more of an effort to recycle. Try composting. Get CFLs. Don’t purchase bottled water. Like, ever. I had no idea the rabbit hole I was about to fall into would change the course of the rest of my life. The old adage holds up- the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. Trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle can be a bottomless pursuit. If a wicked problem is something that has a vague definition and is complicated with no easy solution, trying to live a sustainable life can be a wicked problem itself. Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better, then do better.” That’s what sustainability means to me now. There is so much to know that I actually forget a lot of what I’ve learned over the last few years. But I do the best that I can, until I know better. There is something severely broken at almost every turn in America (and other places, I’m sure, but I feel a heavy responsibility as an American.) I regularly find out that something I buy or use is actually harmful either to my health or the environment or, more often, both. But then I find the right thing to buy. Or even better, I find that I really don’t need to buy it at all. I stopped buying the cheapest option and starting investing in stuff that I hopefully will only buy once. I vote with my dollar. And slowly, one change at a time, I make a bigger and bigger difference.

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wicked – really?

yes really

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number 2

what is mindfulness?
i believe that mindfulness has two different perspectives
 the first is the idea of controlling your thoughts and being able to be happy through your own thoughts, or being calm, mad, concentration.
the other idea of mindfulness to me has to do with how we treat the earth, how we use our resources and how we replenish what we have used. how we can change our usage to conserve our parts of the earth more effectively.
I decided because of mindfulness, that i was going to do my final project over each persons usage of the world. how we each take more than is necessary  and if we were to live small lives within the material aspect that in return our life would be more fulfilling.
living small is on such a small scale that the majority of the world still thinks that living large is the key to living happily.
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Sustainability NOW!

When we are thinking about the relationship between fashion and sustainability, we usually do not think of it as a good relationship. Because fashion is all about what is the latest fad is and what is trendy at that point in time. It can be very wasteful and harmful to our environment. But it does not have to always be like that. We could make fashion a key element to making our world more sustainable. Fashion is extremely popular and everyone wants to jump on the new trends. So, when designing clothes, we can use more recyclable fibers and fabrics and if we designed clothes with a sense of humility and realization that fads come and go we could use the newness and materialistic values that fashion provides into a more sustainable way of living.

Sustainability sounds like a quick and easy fix to making our world a better place to live, but in Leyla Acargolu TED talk, she assures you that changing your ways to a more sustainable lifestyle is actually really hard. People just think that you can just get the eco-materials, but it’s actually a lot more complex than that, because at some point everything comes from nature. It’s not what materials you use, it is how you use those materials that really has the greater impact on the environment.

If we can figure out how to use our resources in a more sustainable, environment friendly way, we can cut back on our Environmental Degradation. Environmental Degradation is the loss of environmental quality from things such as pollutants, improper land use and natural disasters. Poverty is believed to be one of the main causes of this because the poor are forced into unsustainable practices; conservation of the environment is considered to be a luxury. In undeveloped countries they have to focus more on economic development. But, there is a way to improve both, economic development and the environment. If we could give the poor control over key environmental resources and offer a way to protect the current assets that they already have then we could help them in their sustainability journey. There is a way to balance sustainability and economic development.

There is also a way to balance sustainability and fashion. In the line of work that I want to go in, fashion, there are so many non-renewable resources being used. These resources are killing our environment! Many people in the fashion world are unaware of it too. So many non-reusable fabrics are just being thrown out and polluting the earth. But, if we focus more on the TED 10 way of designing we can eliminate some of the pollution that we suffer from. The TED 10 are 10 different ways to design more sustainable things, such as, design to minimize waste, cyclability, to reduce chemical impacts, to reduce energy and water use, design that explores clean/better technologies, that takes models from nature and history, ethical production, to reduce the need to consume, to dematerialize and develop systems and services, to design activism. If we focus on these things when we design, and make them the new fad, we can make the practice of fashion a more sustainable one.

Coming into this class I was not very sure what sustainability even was or how to include it in my everyday lifestyle. But, now I am confident that I know what sustainability is and how I can incorporate it into my daily life. I find myself recycling more and making sure that what I am recycling is what is supposed to be recycled, I am more conscious about how much water I am using, and I am more aware of reusing the products I can, instead of just throwing them away. I think that what made all of these things stick out to me more was that I realized how terrible of shape our world is in today. And that if we do not change our ways, it will just continue to snowball downhill. If we do not change our ways to a more sustainable practice, then our world will be no more.

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Wasted

The things we went over this week were very interesting to learn about and help further our knowledge of sustainable practices. The first article, Fashion and Sustainability, focused on how to reduce consumption. Consumption is the biggest factor opposing sustainability. In America, we are encouraged to replace things often and stay up to date on the current trends. Promoting fast fashion is detrimental to the environment. We need to emphasize that the way to creating a sustainable culture requires a reduction in the ecological footprint. Fashion does not need to be discounted as something that can be environmentally friendly, showing people how to reuse old clothing, build a closet of mix and match basics, and repurposing items is a simple answer to keep people from trashing things quickly. It is also important to encourage people to support ethical companies that pay fair wages to employees and create his quality, long-lasting items.

Fashion can be applied to Leyla Acaroglu’s TED talk also. She goes over life cycle thinking and assessment which is an analysis of how something goes through its life. For example, we can look at a belt. The belt can be made of leather which came from an animal, was the rest of the animal used for meat, food, or wasted? Then the belt is purchased at a large chain store that could promote underpaid or child workers in a third world country, is it promoting an unethical practice and killing an animal that is rotting away in a field? Then over time, the belt gets worn down and eventually thrown away. Where does it go? Anaerobic landfill? If so, the belt is tightly compacted with all of the other waste with heat, releasing methane gas into the atmosphere. If it was disposed of in a more naturalistic way it would be less toxic than methane gas, only emitting carbon dioxide, which is still bad. So, the life cycle assessment of this belt would be pretty poor, which is how most of the items in America are disposed.

Leyla also emphasized her hatred for refrigerators. People waste 40% of their food in the US because it is overlaid on other food and then it expires, joining the belt in contributing to the methane gas in the atmosphere. Yay! Behavior changing products; challenging the way people operate machines to only use what we need. Products that are designed for consumer use then are disassembled for alternative uses once the consumer is done with the product or needs to replace it. A major question to be asked following Leyla’s TED talk is how quickly can 7.4 billion people on the planet move to a post-disposable future?

The poverty reading was one that was hard to pick a side on. I don’t believe that people living in low economic conditions are the ones who contribute the most to an unsustainable environment. I definitely think wealthy people are higher contributors because their money is more disposable than someone who has very little money. I believe that people living under this economic line are much more winning to reuse things, repurpose things, and get the most out of the things they have. If you don’t have money to afford more food, you’re going to make the most out of what you do have.

I have been invested in sustainability and merchandising and how it can become sustainable merchandise. Also in respects to my proposal for activity three, how we can prevent animal extinction by overtaking their environments. If we merchandise things in a way that if people do litter the object (which they probably will because people are lazy) that it will degrade over time or even become food for the animals surrounding it. I’m learning that animals are constantly being declared extinct, usually tropical animals and oceanic animals and sea life. Our unsustainable lifestyle is killing the animals of the earth that have been here longer and have never done anything to deserve the brutal treatment we have given them.

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Fashion or Waste

First off, the reading was extremely helpful to me as it was closely related to my wicked problem that I am researching. I loved the points that it made about the term “fashion” and how it relates many things basically just meaning they were the current trend that people liked. That was so very relevant to my research because it defines the reasoning for the fashion industry’s extreme wastefulness. Tossing the newest trends out constantly as they are replaced. Finding the quickest and easiest way to make the newer trends more mass produced. While through all this, they are wasting materials, resources, and energy. Each of these building up and destroying the Earth that the people wearing these items live on. So, back to the article, it mentioned how a lot of advertisements are just encouraging this toxic way of life. In fact, all advertisements are based on pushing the newest most current “fashions”. This related to the story of stuff a lot too, considering everything she mentioned about “fashion” and how you can never keep up because advertisements are constantly pushing the new styles. While in the background of all of this the world is being broken down piece by piece. People are so caught up in the rush of things they don’t realize how much happens when they discard the old fashions or all of the environmentally destructive processes of making these new styles. 

My favorite part of Leyla’s Ted talk was her obsession with the fridge. I had never thought about how wasteful they are just giving so much opportunity for waste. It is so true though, if only had a limited amount of space id be more careful about what I kept and discarded. Hearing talks going over that makes you reevaluate everyday items and how you use them and how so many things can cause waste. If you think about it dressers and closets are the fridges of the fashion world. Some are just built so big that you keep filling them up more and more. This is all related. The fast fashion is the food going bad. Constantly replacing thing after thing. Its a never ending cycle of overwhelming waste. 

Biophilia is one of the most inspiring things in the world to me. I have an obsession with nature and seeing it used in so many different views is very eye opening. You see how others relate nature and the human world. The eco design aspects are wonderful ideas. All of these I feel are related to mindfulness. They can help humans focus on meditation and personal health. It is a reminder of the Earth and everything else growing and living around you. 

As for the poverty topic I read the passage over the yes side, but every bit of it just seemed like pure ignorance. I feel like the no side would have better points and reasonings because in all honesty. Those in poverty are struggling to even survive. How are they really expected to change how they live, if they are struggling to even live? Being in this class has made me see both sides of the story. As much as I completely believe that we need to change the world, I also believe it is very hard considering how insanely giant every single one of these issues are. And the fact that these people are barely able to survive and are causing so much harm to the environment just makes me lose hope. If the statistics are really saying that people in poverty are causing enough to be one of the major causes then thats an even bigger problem. That means we have to fix poverty. We have to be able to help them and fix that in order to fix the environment.  

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