Whenever I buy textile products, I generally don’t think about what fibers they’re made of, how they’re treated and dyed, or what happens to them after I dispose of them. Reading The Materials Maze by Bonda and Sosnowchik reminded me that these are issues that should be thought about carefully if we want to cut down on the alarming amount of waste that we produce. As I studied the reading’s in-depth information about how material goods are made, I was struck by just how many questions we have to ask ourselves about not only our manufacturing and disposal processes, but how we should evaluate the performances of those goods. I think that average consumers are resistant to the practice of questioning so many aspects of material production and consumption, mostly because it’s very complicated and consumes a lot of time and energy. However, I think that each of us has a personal responsibility to know what goes into our material goods, especially considering the fact that manufacturers often use harmful additives like toxins and endocrine disruptors. Those of us who will go on to work in the design field will have an even greater responsibility to avoid investing in detrimental products and production methods.
Robin Roy’s article about product-service systems was thought-provoking because it presented some ideas that could promote a shift away from the traditional system of ownership. Many people have expressed some hesitation and uncertainty about the effectiveness of this concept since it seems like most consumers want to own material goods for themselves instead of renting them. In spite of that, I believe that the basic idea of marketing products that provide a result or function to meet our essential needs could potentially help us curtail our use of resources. I think this objective needs to be put into practice in more areas of the design industry so that we can test its effectiveness. If we make product-service systems simpler and more available, we may find that consumers are not as resistant to that change as we currently think they will be. Our biggest challenge in this regard is just figuring out how to create PSS business models that benefit both the trade industry and the end users.
Hearing Erin Leitch talk about her work at the Biomimicry Institute was one of the most compelling parts of last week’s sustainability journey. It is interesting to see how a perspective of sustainable design is being implemented in a practical, structured way. Her presentation made me realize that designers are not the only professionals who will help humans respond to issues such as global warming and deforestation. In order to adapt to the changes in our environment, we will need input from people of many varying backgrounds and disciplines. Our role as designers will be to learn how to collaborate with others and bridge the gaps between different mindsets.