Throughout this week, my thoughts kept going back to myself as a young child standing in the gas station gazing at all the candy, wanting and wanting and wanting. A phrase my father always uses, “you want it but you don’t need it.” (Here’s the part where I would then throw a temper tantrum) There’s a difference between need and want, and I bet we can all guess which one is more important and more sustaining. Besides the story of when I was little, I have never been one that loves shopping. I don’t enjoy staring at clothing that I can’t afford or gazing upon shoes that I know I cannot walk in. I like what I have and I make what I have work. Shouldn’t this be the mindset not just for purchasing clothing, but for buying/remodeling homes, purchasing items or furniture, consumption of food, wishing we had the new technology or automobile. If we could be happy with what we have, we could create a more sustainable world. But this isn’t the case; manufacturers have to produce, retailers have to sell, and of course, we “have” to purchase. I say this in quotations because we don’t necessarily need the things we purchase. It is our culture to always desire the new thing and to own more and more.
One way to help the retail and design market to be more sustainable is through human needs. The reading, Max Neef’s Taxonomy of Human Needs was an interesting and eye opening read. I would not have a problem doing the “Great American Apparel Diet”, because stated above, shopping isn’t my thing. But if you think about it, not many women can say the same. Shopping has become a hobby, even a therapy, for some women, and even men in the American culture purchasing more and more to own the best and to own the newest style. I was not very amused by the “Little Brown Dress” where a woman wore the same dress every single day for a year. I understand that she used different ways of self-expression, but to me that was a little over the top and a dramatic way to get the point of human needs across.
Another way of designing sustainably is design activism. Honestly, I thought I had this topic in the bag when I was doing the reading, but once I attended class on Thursday, I became very overwhelmed. There is so much information about design activism that I don’t know if I really understood the actual definition and concept. I even think that Dr. Armstrong said there are many ways to accomplish design activism. I’ll do my best; design activism is “an attempt to disrupt existing paradigms found in shared meanings, values and purpose to replace them with new ones.” This definition that Dr. Armstrong shared made me think about how I can use that in my field of study, which is interior design. Active design is something that I am very passionate about. I am all about being active and staying healthy, so why not let that happen in every day life, whether it be at home, school, or in the workplace. One way this can be accomplished is by designing a facility with the stairs in a place more convenient for one to take, while “hiding” the elevators. This encourages people to be active and to spend the extra energy on walking up a set of stairs, which may be the only physical activity some may get in a workday.
There are other forms of design activism, including these examples: Disaster Relief Housing, Katrina Furniture Project, and Waste For Life. These really stuck close to my heart because I support an organization called “3 Strands” and own several of their products. This organization works to positively change lives by investing in sustainable initiatives that fight sex trafficking. The women that are rescued from this awful life are given a job where they work 8 hours a day making bracelets, go to counseling, and even receive food and shelter. These bracelets are unique because these rescued women make them all and sell them around the world, where each woman signs her name on the tag that comes with the bracelet. Their motto is, “We are stronger together than apart-one strand is weak, but three strands woven together into a cord is strong.”
As an individual, one may think they will not make a difference contributing to a more sustainable world, but like the women of 3 Strands, together, we can make it happen.