After thinking of all that I have learned on my sustainability journey this semester, I realized that although sustainability is a complex web of issues and concerns, my own definition of it is fairly simple – I would describe the concept as maintaining a balance between human processes and environmental ones. Sustainable design is a method we can employ to achieve this goal, which will help us remain in equilibrium with the planet that hosts our species and enable us to survive in the future. This perspective is not too different from how I perceived sustainability at the beginning of the course. However, I believe that my view of these concepts is now more human-centered than earth-centered. I now understand that phrases such as “save the planet” are not really about saving the planet but saving ourselves from the detrimental effects of our own actions. Our environment is highly adaptable and constantly changing, and it will almost certainly outlast the human race. Our fate as a global society is less certain, especially if we refuse to adopt sustainable alternatives and perpetuate our patterns of rapid material consumption.
One of my most significant epiphanies from the semester is that while some of our unsustainable habits seem impossible to change, they can be tackled if enough people care and are educated about these behaviors. Perhaps the best example of this is our reliance on fossil fuels. When we viewed the global warming documentary The 11th Hour, we learned that this dependency is the root of many of the sustainability challenges we are currently facing. Decreasing our use of fossil fuels seems like an insurmountable challenge, but it is also a very specific goal that we accomplish if we dedicate ourselves to it. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise, and we have a prime opportunity to alter the system of production and consumption we are living in. Having a defined objective gives me hope that people will start to feel less lost and more determined to change something that is doing us such a massive disservice.
Whether or not sustainability becomes a major theme in my career as a designer, I feel that the things I’ve learned on this journey have provided me with a useful foundation for understanding a lot of the key issues surrounding sustainability. Some people believe that our efforts to create a more sustainable future are merely a trend, just a “flash in the pan.” Despite this, I think that sustainable concepts and designs will only become more relevant as communities all over the world start to realize how necessary they are. I don’t see the movement going away, particularly since problems such as pollution and climate change are becoming more and more critical. Now that I am familiar with so many theories and applications of sustainable design, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to contribute to the sustainability of our culture. In the future, I would like to learn more about some specific ways in which I can lead a more responsible and environmentally friendly life, both personally and professionally. What can I do to reduce my ecological footprint and prompt designers and manufacturers to adopt sustainable processes? And how can I encourage individuals in my everyday life to become more conscious of how their lifestyle choices impact the world around us?