These days, it seems like you always hear about the value of venturing outdoors and “getting back to nature.” To most of us, nature is a concept, something that exists outside of the urban landscapes in which we spend the majority of our time. But in reality, human beings and the things we create are an integral part of the natural world. The material we studied this week emphasized the importance of understanding that we are not separate from nature, and that our decisions can have a negative impact on the health of the planet as a whole.
Our first reading, Janine Benyus’ Closing the Loops in Commerce, provided an interesting perspective on how our species can remain in balance with the other parts of our ecosystem by utilizing the ideas behind industrial ecology and biomimicry. The ten survival strategies that the author described enhanced my awareness of all the challenges that we face in trying to create a successful society without harming the environment. Many of our habits, such as over-relying on natural resources, generating high levels of material waste, and putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere have thrown us out of balance with the rest of the natural world. Changing these behaviors will be an essential factor in remaining in balance with the biosphere and making our society more sustainable.
Scheuer’s article about the Life Cycle Assessment offered some specific solutions to the obstacles we are currently facing. A life cycle analysis of a built environment can help designers and building developers diagnose problems that contribute to unsustainable practices like unnecessary energy use. I think that this process is a big step in the right direction – in order to amend our detrimental behaviors, both designers and end users need to take a closer look at the components that go into our homes and commercial locations. Interior designers in particular can have a lot of influence over the systems and materials that are incorporated into these environments, so those of us who will have careers in the interior design field will be in a position to change things for the better.
Using the carbon footprint calculator allowed me to examine my own habits and see what I could do differently. I don’t contribute to greenhouse gas emissions through transportation since I don’t drive, but I am above the national average in terms of recycling and waste. As a busy college student, I probably buy prepackaged food every day, so I generate a lot of trash! This is a behavior that I could easily change – instead of buying nearly all of my meals on campus, I could do more cooking at home and cut down on the level of plastic and paper products I throw away.