Looking Back, Moving Forward

This was a wonderful course! I learned so much in ways I wasn’t even expecting. I was anticipating this course to be ‘telling’ course like most others, where students are told how sustainable design works, what it is, and what formula to follow. This was an ‘asking’ course, where the students are asked to think critically and share current point of views. This course didn’t just challenge passive thinking, it exiled it. This was one of the most enjoyable classes I have had in a long time and I could rave about it for days! Of all the vital things I learned this semester and will carry with me, the greatest of these is aggressive thinking.

While ‘aggressive thinking’ sounds, well aggressive. I mean a multitude of things by this, such as:

  • Critical thinking (Take a shot {of water of course} every time I use the words ‘critical thinking’! They’ll be a bathroom break at the end) 🙂
  • Ask questions of social accepted realities
  • Ask questions of yourself and your own preconceived notions
  • Develop your own opinion, your own position
  • Stay open minded

I have always had an interest in sustainable design. I spent many years camping as a kid and have a respect for nature I don’t often see in others. That’s not to say I’m any more knowledgeable than others going into this course or that my life is more ‘green’ than others; it’s just my personal level of interest. It’s always been an area I’ve hope to specialize in. My personal definition of sustainability and sustainable design has grown exponentially.

I no longer view sustainability as simply reducing environmental impact by one measure. I see sustainability a life cycle cost assessment spanning every part of the cycle of production, from front end resource extraction to end of life disposal. Sustainability is far broader than I previously thought. Sustainable design has complex issues and social hurdles beyond financial concerns.

This week’s reading discussed the knowledge base necessary for sustainable design practices and the idea of specialization. When I was a freshman, my initial thoughts on sustainability leaned toward no specialization in design to include a sustainable design subset. Shouldn’t all design be as sustainable as possible? However, I understand the author’s point of few and now think specialization is necessary. I am still unsure of how viable it would be to have a division in the field or if our economy would support two areas of interior design. I firmly believe all designers should have a foundation of knowledge on environmental issues and how their field contributes to the problem.

I will graduate with a certificate in Environmental Studies with a Sustainable Design focus. This is the only specialization close to sustainable design that the university offers. I’ve only had to take about three additional classes. I’m in an Environmental Sociology class that is riveting, depressing, but highly relevant and throughout the semester has even overlapped topics with this DHM course. I believe the combination of classes have really enhanced my knowledge of sustainability issues. It’s a very complex concern with obstacles that read far beyond the design sector. Yet, such a course is not related to becoming a design professional. It’s part of my interest and my desire to expand my knowledge on environmental issues, so it has served me well. It supports the concept of specialization in sustainable design because vast, broad nature of sustainability.

Even with two intense courses on environmental concerns, there is still so much I do not know; not only in societal terms, but in design as well. When I picture what a sustainable design degree path would look like, I see more environmental science based courses than design courses. It would be the reverse of what we have now in a linear interior design path. I do feel this course has provided me with a good knowledge of environmental concerns directly related to the design field, and an ability to think critically in the vital issues I will face heading into the professional field.

Throughout the course, we have been asked to epiphanies on this blog. I have really enjoyed being able to read what others have come to learn and share thoughts and questions we may not get to in class. From the first week, I was surprised with what I had learned. Our first article on Easter Island was really an eye opening. It was a “Why didn’t they see what they were doing (to their environment)?” quickly followed by “Why don’t we see what we’re doing (to our environment)?” We got to explore the later question when we learned about future consciousness shortly after. It really brings to a head one’s owns shortcomings in thinking about the bigger picture, at least for me it did.

We’ve explored the role of design professional in making changes in the buying options provided to consumers, as well as the obstacles to making changes to an economy of consumption. With all the epiphanies of the semester comes an overall awareness of thinking more critically. We explored empathetic design, product longevity, life cycle cost, and the impact of product waste. For me, from the first article to the last, my final epiphany is about the way I think. Even in our last article, the author discusses her thoughts on the process to making sustainable design decisions. I’ve have been encouraged to evaluate (well, everything in life) on a deeper level. It all goes back to critical thinking for me.

At the beginning of class, I will admit, I was a bit peeved at the lack of knowledge and concern my peers seemed to have toward environmental issues. I was judgmental to say the least, but I have real come to realize my own shortcoming in understanding the topics we’ve covered. This unaware, lack of concern, tone is more of an issue with our social culture than it is a defect in any one person. I do hope that all of us leave this class with a greater since of responsibility for continuing to explore sustainable design issues in our fields after having been exposed the breadth of information we’ve explored this semester.

I need to stop. I feel like this is getting really long and starting to be repetitive. On a personal note, I will say I feel revitalized in a way. I’ve had lots of ups and downs on my long journey to a degree. The last year or so, I felt I was floating through a broad major with little direction as to my goals beyond a diploma. When I was considering universities to attend, I had planned out my degree and specialization, and even looked up the class I would have to take all before receiving the financial aid notice. I was going to go the way of sustainable architecture/ environmental science (I can’t remember the exact name for it because it was a different university). This course has brought me back to an interest I haven’t felt connected to in years. I’m excited to continue to explore sustainable practices in a professional work environment, and I wonder where it may lead.

Here’s to the future being LED bright.

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