I would define sustainability as existing in a way that is mindful of the earth and her limited resources and trying to minimize the negative impact to earth, while also striving to improve the situation for the future. Sustainable design is creating something useful that requires the least amount of new resources and does the least amount of damage to earth.
My concept of sustainability has changed some from the beginning of the semester because now I understand how many different factors are involved when it comes to taking care of the earth. There is politics, greed, indifference, empathy, needs, and hope, to name a few. I used to think that sustainability was just about not polluting and not using chemicals. I now know that there are so many things to consider just in our daily activities that have an effect on the earth, either for the good or for the bad. Like what we choose to wear, how we chose to care for what we wear, how often we wear it, how long we will own it, how we will take care of it, are we attached to it, do we need it, how does it make us feel, and what will we do with it when we are finished with it. And that’s just getting dressed in the morning.
One of the most important things I will take away from this course is hope. Hope that it is not too late to save the earth, that humans can change, and that I can work towards change by starting with myself. Once someone told me that I make nice things, but rich people like things that are organic and made with natural fibers and dyes, and maybe I should try that sometime. So I thought that if I used organic fabrics or natural fibers I was doing my part to be sustainable. Pretty soon, that’s all I used was organic or natural fibers. I never considered how much land and water organic cotton consumed, or what farmers were paid for their cotton. I never thought that growing wool produced greenhouse gas. And I didn’t really think about the carbon footprint for shipping those fabrics and fibers all around the world before they arrived at my local sewing supply store. I thought that if I stayed away from all man- made fibers, because they’re made with chemicals, I was doing a good thing. I had not considered that some of those man-made fibers used recycled materials instead of raw materials, or that those fibers didn’t require land mass to be produced. Now I know that there is no definitive answer as to which fabric or fiber is the “best”, or most sustainable. I know that there are so many factors to consider, and it is up to me to do my research and weigh all the factors before I choose. So I can start to change by being more present and informed in the decisions I make every day. By being informed, I can inform others, and that’s a good place to start. Through this course I have been given hope that there are people who care about what is happening to the earth, and I have been shown how just one person can make a difference with creativity and activism!
Something I want to continue to learn about is empathic design. I want to create my own products that incorporate empathic design, helping to optimize the lifetimes of the products I make. I have always made things with the intention that people would like them so much they would hand them down through generations, as long as they lasted, and now empathic design has taught me co-design – another way to get people attached other than just aesthetic properties. Another concept I want to pursue is zero-waste pattern making. I had my first experience with this while preparing for our final design slam, and found it to be a lot of fun. I plan to try this again, when time permits. It was very good for encouraging creativity, as well as maximizing resources.
I think the sustainability course is a great introduction to so many different avenues to pursue; it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just to dip your toe in the water, to pique your interest, and see what really catches your attention. I wish there were more courses to explore sustainability, like classes to actually practice sustainable design; sourcing local materials, designing products with local flavor and cultural representation. Since there’s not, I will have to find my own way, but I have a good foundation now.