Be Sustainable

Activity 3 allowed me to dive deeper in my wicked problem involving water waste in the apparel industry. I learned that the amount of water used for one cotton shirt would provided drinking water for one person for 2 years. I also learned that solutions for this problem are hard to implement because the fashion industry is so global and getting everyone to agree would be nearly impossible.

After reading the article on if poverty is or is not the cause of environmental degradation I believe it is both and neither. I believe countries that are in poverty do not have the resources to mitigate pollution and waste but people in wealthy countries do not see the effects of waste causing more waste to be created. I do not think poverty is the cause of waste, I think the lack of resources, greed, and ignorance are more of the main factors of environmental degradation.

In the TED talk by Leyla Acaroglu, she asked the question “what’s better, plastic of paper bag?” and many of us would believe the paper bag is a better option but in reality the plastic bags used are more recyclable.  She points out the misconception of what is and what is not recyclable and explains how when faced with complexes choices we like easier solutions. She also touches on the point that everything comes form nature and people need to do more with less. I agree, we are greedy and ignorant with the things we need and with the things we want. We need to focus less on our wants and more on the needs of people who can not obtain their needs. Leyla explains that consumption is the problem and design is the solution.

With this idea of doing more with less, I would like to touch on the concept of merchandising and sustainability. As someone who is pursuing merchandising I would like to head into the industry sustainably minded. Merchandisers can do this by purchasing ecofriendly goods; fabrics with natural dyes, decomposable characteristics, and ones that use less water to create.  Merchandisers can also use recycled fabrics to promote reducing, reuse, recycle.

This process of reducing, reuse, recycle was shown through the field trip to OSU sustainability office, recycling center, and upholstery shop. On this trip I discovered all the elements OSU uses to be eco-friendly and minimize their carbon foot print. I was inspired to do more, join programs, and spread the word to the Greek community.

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Mindfulness and Sustainability

Week two we touched on the understanding and application of sustainability and mindfulness. These concepts are important but overshadowed by my busy life style. It is easier to live everyday step by step forgetting the environment around us as well as the people and things around us. After reading the article Mindfulness and Sustainability by Torgeir Ericson, Bjørn Gunaketu Kjønstad, Anders Barstad, I had a better understanding and awareness of the elements of life I was missing. I started being more sustainable by purchasing a reusable water bottle, limiting my plastic waste, and limiting my use of straws. I think in order to be more sustainably minded, people and myself have to approach this transition slowly. A lot of people tend to jump into sustainability practices way to quickly, causing their routine to change dramatically. This can cause people to resort back to what they know because it is easier. People need to alter their carbon foot print slowly so they can maintain it. Being mindful is relaxing and a healthy practice to take on. Being mindful to me is thinking and appreciating what is around is around me. Meditation is a good example of how to practice mindfulness; discovering what I need to change, how I am feeling, and what I want to accomplish. Marc Cohen Ted talk help explain the importance of mindfulness by creating an illustration of wellness and illness in a spiral effect see bellow.

Cohen explains how illness is defined as “it’s about me” and mindfulness is “it’s about we.” These simple but effective definition of the to words help me understand what and how I am feeling. When we are ill we focus on ourselves and when we are well we have more time to focus on others. Cohen shows illness as a descending spiral or “vortex of terror” and wellness as an ascending spiral of bliss. The reason a lot of us are riding the vortex of terror is because we separate ourselves form the universe; “the universe is there; I am here”. For me I am guilty of this because when diving deep into the element of the universe and the vastness of it, causes me to diving in my anxiety and doubt. Cohen explains that this separation is causing an increase in entropy and disorder. Mindfulness is the ability for one to combine oneself with the universe. This relates to sustainability because, for human kind, we overcome entropy by transferring and exporting this entropy to the environment through pollution and waste. He explains what comes in is food and money and what goes out is waste and pollution. He wants people to understand that wellness is what we need to desire instead of coping with illness.

Continuing on the topic of sustainability, I watch the movie the 11 Hour. This movie was a huge realization of what the world has become and how we are gradually and more rabidly destroying it. This effect on the world started during the industrial revolution when steam engines and fossil fuels were discovered. This discovery allowed a huge expansion in the area of technology because nature was now converted into a resource. This discovery caused people’s mind to think of limited growth and expansion. It sparked the idea that “people are separate from nature,” which is a serious fundamental misconception that has cause majority of our issues. What surprised me the most from the film was it stated that people think we are going to kill this planet, but in reality the planet will survive, and we will not. The movie highlighted what we need to do differently and after watching it I am determined to limit my carbon foot print and help save what we have left.

Activity 2 help me understand a wicked problem I can help solve in order to help save the planet from my industry. In activity 2 I discussed the wicked problem of water waste in the fashion industry. Ton and tons of water is being wasted on the production of clothes and in order to prevent this I think companies need to think more sustainable and lessen their water usage.

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Truly Wicked

Over the duration of the course we have been discussing wicked problems and their characteristics. Throughout my sustainability journey, I have become increasingly interested in the premature disposal of furniture. I was unaware of the impact our world has on the environment and the truth of the matter is that consumers are not the endpoint. The things that we consume must go somewhere, which in this case, furniture has an overwhelming contribution to landfills creating a lasting and potentially unsolvable problem for the environment. Some things that I have found while completing Activity 3 is that organizations and large corporations that utilize office chairs, cubicles, and desks contribute a large portion of the furniture waste and there are many solutions. One solution that I found interesting because of its uniqueness is that Kathey Pear made a online recycling network for new or struggling businesses to buy old office furniture. Other solutions to this wicked problem that is similar to the previous solution is the IRN matching the surplus of furniture that schools, corporations, and other organizations have with the needs of nonprofit organizations that utilize those products in disaster relief or economic development projects. I notably found this one to be one of the best shots we have at decreasing substantial amounts of wastes in landfills and on the streets. The problem is getting others on board, in households, corporations, and authority figures within the government that could truly launch this movement.

When I read the ‘No’ reading on the correlation between environment and poverty there were a few takeaways that increased my understanding of the capability the government has on the issue of sustainability in changing social relationships and development strategy implementation rather than the markets influence. Firstly, before this class I never put the two together as cause and effect, however, poverty may be directly related to environmental degradation and vice versa. Although I don’t believe that these are directly related they definitely contribute to one another significantly. This makes sense because environmental conservation is considered a ‘luxury’ that those with low income can not afford leading them into a vicious cycle that is hard to solve, they are forced into unsustainable practices because their lives are at stake. But one solution that may be the best would be globalization. Since those in poverty are having to heavily depend on the natural resources, decision making and politics are widely considering this because in addition their living conditions are being threatened by pollution. From the documentary that we watched in this class it almost seems unsolvable because we are heavily focused on the growth of our economy, sharing the wealth and our resources may be a hard pill to swallow for those large corporations and organizations doing well in the economy but we need to realize as a society that our time is running out.

From the TED Talk by Leyla Acaroglu, she discusses a type of thinking called life cycle thinking in which products or resources that we consume go through processes that lead to the end point of their use typically within a landfill and that throughout these processes the natural environment is effected. Through this discussion she also discusses biodegradability and the myth behind what many companies are trying to sell to consumers. If you were to choose between paper or plastic, which do you think would be better for the environment? You would think it would be paper right? Wrong if we do not dispose of these products correctly, the truth is not everyone in society is mindful of their individual impact. These things end up in landfills and instead of degrading like they would in a natural environment they actually degrade differently and produce methane because of the anaerobic atmosphere which consists of little to no air, compact, and hot. This contributes to climate change 25% more than the release of carbon dioxide gas emissions, essentially creating a double negative. So are we really doing anything about climate change? We must create a more unique solution to these problems which she reveals that we have in place some facilities that use this methane instead of fossil fuels to generate power, but without proper disposal we are worsening our condition rather than fixing them as we believe. I honestly didn’t know about this until this TED Talk and it will make a difference in my sustainability journey and what I choose to believe is right for the environment.

I believe that biophilia is something I wish the entire world would partake in. Biophilia is the affinity of human beings and other forms of life or also known as a love of life. This practice, similar to mindfulness, could create an opportunity for a more sustainable world through design and many other forms.

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Design Responsibility

While researching more about construction waste related to interior design, I’ve found out that construction waste contributes greatly to the pollution of the land, air, and water. At the beginning of the class, I wanted to research and write about construction waste specifically in the hospitality industry. The reason I wanted to write about that topic specifically was because I’ve learned that hotels are the most frequently renovated building type. Hotels constantly aim to have updated interiors, so every few years they demo and redo the interiors even though their current finishes and furniture are in good shape. Because many materials can’t be sustainably recycled, the industry ends up producing a lot of waste. As I looked into researching the topic more, I found that there is very very little research done about waste from the hospitality industry. Because I had trouble finding that information I decided to switch my focus to construction waste in general. The broader topic is more of a complex wicked problem. One of the reasons sustainable construction and demolition is not widespread is because it is very expensive to use the more complex sustainable methods.

The reading on the connection between poverty and environmental degradation focused on the way poverty adds to the pollution of the earth because people do not have access to sustainable systems and ways of life. People in poverty are not responsible for the effects on the environment they contribute to because there is no other option. After discussing the article with my group in class, we thought that people that are more privileged like in the United States are the ones that need to carry the burden for a more sustainable world. Developed countries lead the world, especially in technology, and what we develop here will affect the whole world. If we can create sustainable technologies and practices to share with less developed countries, it can help to solve the problem of unsustainable practices all over. The idea of designers developing products for better green end use was the main point in Leyla Acaroglu’s TED talk. She is a designer and consultant who works with companies to have a more sustainable practice. The main point in her TED talk was related to the reading about poverty and environmental degradation because she emphasized the importance of designing for a better world overall. An example that she gave in her talk was of a tea kettle that she helped design. Rather than making the kettle cheaper and more marketable, she helped to design it to hold less water and use less energy, so that the end user can use it sustainably. It is important to recognize that the responsibility of sustainability does not just lie on individuals to make small changes, it is most important for large companies and organizations to push for sustainable practices.

One way that I can help design for a more sustainable future is to use biophilia in interior design. Biophilia is an appreciation and affinity for the natural world, and in interior design that translates to using certain techniques to take inspiration from nature. Biophilia can be useful and effective because it connects a person more to nature even in their architecture. As we talked about earlier in the class with mindfulness, if people are more connected to nature, they will feel more of a responsibility to care for the earth instead of harming it. Another advantage of biophilia is using established design patterns that are naturally efficient and work well for human environments. Incorporating biophilic design in interiors and architecture can elevate a design and make peoples’ experiences in the built environment much better.

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What I’ve Learned

Throughout this class I have been studying the topic of post-consumer waste. I have learned that this issue is incredibly important due to the fact that we are a consumer-based society, meaning we live to buy, use, and throw away. This only becomes an issue when you couple it with the fact that many people do not dispose of their consumer goods properly, efficiently, or sustainably. It’s a tricky problem to solve because there is no way to automatically change the way of life of millions of people. People will only change their way of life (i.e. how they dispose of goods regarding the environment) once their own personal pursuit of happiness is threatened.

The poverty reading taught me a lot about how our personal bad habits when it comes to sustainability can affect the lives of those who live in poor areas. We don’t realize how our actions could potentially threaten the lives of people thousands of miles away. It also brought to light how our impact on the environment destroys those poor areas.

In Leyla’s TED talk she discusses how everything comes from the environment, but it’s what we crate out of it and how we use it and dispose of it that ultimately effects the environment. She came to the conclusion that neither paper or plastic is the better option. Neither are biodegradable, but for some reason we’ve been taught that one is superior than the other in terms of sustainability.

Merchandising and sustainability go hand in hand in my opinion. Merchandising is creating and selling good for consumers, and sustainability is the act of disposing it in a way that doesn’t harm our environment. In order to solve sustainability issues we need to first find better solutions to the flawed merchandising systems.

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Rethinking Sustainability Blog #3

My wicked problem that I have been studying is the effects of textile dye waste. I went into these projects expecting to find articles and research reports that said information that I was already aware of. Often times I assume I understand the extent of these issues, but after much needed research I found that not only am I not considering all aspects of the issues, I am learning parts that I had never considered before. A question that was presented not only in my research but also consequently in class; What role does the less privileged have in sustainability? 

Throughout my research on chemical dye waste, I found that many of these wicked problems are industrial and are not easily avoided. Its choosing between 2 evils. In my poverty reading I began to understand the issues surrounding the poor and their habits to sustain themselves. Their habits that justifiably give them a better way of living is causing long term effects on our earth. No one is to blame, because in fact it is all of us. But it is important to recognize a particular portion of the problem. many would say, including myself, that if we can reach out and provide the tools to fix issues pertaining to the less fortunate, other issues will fix themselves as well. 

Leylas TED Talk was truly inspirational to me. I actually brought up some of her topics such as product designs effects on the earth to my mom. It was extremely interesting to listen to her potential solutions to waste. Something that she often repeated was “everything comes from the environment, it’s how you use the materials.” Her idea that it’s how you use the materials is brilliant. She spoke about how the materials often are not as bad as how we put them together and dispose of them. 

The TED 10 was a very interesting topic to learn about. TED has many resources pertaining to sustainability in textiles. The topics they discuss are Design to Minimize Waste, Design for Cyclability, Design to Reduce Chemical Impacts, Design to Reduce Energy and Water Use, Design that explores Clean/Better Technologies exc. These are all very relevant topics when it comes to sustainability and TED provides many detailed descriptions of solutions. I learned that a zero-waste garment can be made. It introduces the idea of strategically cutting fabric and recycling all waste. This would create a slow design process but longer lasting clothes. 

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Blog 3

When exploring my topic of fashion pollution during activity 3 I was very interested. I’m learning how the fashion industry really affects the environment and why it’s such a difficult problem to solve. It has become the second largest polluter in the world, producing 20% of wastewater and more greenhouse gas emissions than international flights and shipping combined. I fall directly into the category of those that are buying 60% more clothes than necessary and keeping them half the time. I’m definitely going to be more cautious about my shopping and encourage my friends to do the same. 

Before reading the article about poverty I never realized that poverty had a connection to sustainability. Poor people use natural resources in unsustainable manners, because it’s their only source of income. It should be our job to educate them about sustainable practices so they don’t run out of resources as fast.

In Leyla’s TED Talk she started with a point that came as a surprise to me, neither plastic or paper bag is better than environment. I’ve always been taught that choosing a paper bag is more sustainable but biodegradability is just a material property, it doesn’t mean it’s better for the environment. This really makes me want to start bringing reusable bags anytime I go shopping so I don’t contribute to our society being wasteful. On average 40% of fresh food is wasted which is the equivalent to $165 billion per year. This number was crazy to me because it shows how much the economy and environment affect each other. Leyla said consumption is the biggest problem, and design is the best solution. This TED Talk really opened my eyes to everything around me and makes me more conscious about my actions. 

Biophilia is the love of life or living systems. This is important to sustainability because you look at the environment in a different way. There are many benefits to using nature as a form of therapy. It’s compared to a phobia because there are connections we subconsciously seek with the rest of life. Biophilic designs incorporate natural lighting and landscape features to build a healthy environment for people. I would love to see more of these designs in future development. 

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