Just the Beginning

Well with the semester finally coming to an end and my knowledge of sustainability is just beginning. I would say I am immensely more informed about the concept of sustainability than I was at the start of this semester. Before I took this class I thought sustainability was just another word for recycling, but in fact, the meaning is much deeper than that. Sustainability is based on the principle of everything we need as humans for survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly on our natural environment. Sustainability is incredibly important to making sure we have and continue to have the water, materials and resources to protect human health and our environment. Sustainable design wasn’t even in my vocabulary before this class. Now if I were to think of sustainable design I would think of designing a physical object with sustainability in mind. Sustainable design looks to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources and minimize waste. How does this relate to my major? From the article, Fashion and Sustainability, it states: “Fashion, suggests a passing trend or fad – something transient, superficial and often rather wasteful. It is the opposite of longevity.” How can I make my work in the apparel industry sustainable? Well then the inevitable happened; I had these so called learning epiphanies throughout the semester.

Let’s start from the beginning in my journey of learning epiphanies throughout the semester. It all began with the lecture over “Demand for New Thinking” and discussed the topic of a paradigm. The collective mental mode made up of our values, beliefs, assumptions, etc. I found this very interesting as I could see how it related to sustainability. So many people live up to their specific paradigm. It takes ourselves to find a way to change this collective pattern into the concept of a sustainable lifestyle. Then I learned the importance empathy has on design. If sustainability is driven by a pattern of thinking and behavior, then couldn’t we incorporate empathy into this pattern? In order to empathize with the user, the designer must take into consideration that empathy is a necessary quality for developing products that meet customer needs. The learning epiphany was the more emotionally attached one is to something, the longer they will own it. Society buys more and throws away less because of the emotional attachment theory. Products made with empathic design makes them much more sustainable.

Further into the semester I learned for the first time of the concepts of biomimicry and industrial ecology. Biomimicry uses nature as a model. I thought that was fascinating as you can really learn a lot from your surroundings. By simply observing nature, we can emulate natural designs and processes to innovatively create sustainable designs. Industrial ecology uses nature’s principles as a model. The focus of industrial ecology is on reducing environmental impact and increasing natural capital. I also took my very first carbon footprint this semester. My total estimated greenhouse emissions were 17 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. Sadly, this was 10 tons below the U.S. National average. This was kind of a wakeup call for me. I definitely now am more conscious about using efficient light bulbs for my house and how much I drive my car. Lastly, I learned about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It’s a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. I thought it was really remarkable the different ways you could make a building sustainable. For example, recycled cotton insulation instead of fiber glass is an efficient use of materials.

As you can tell I learned a lot this semester. Knowing what I know now, I want to learn more on Biomimicry and applying it to the apparel industry. It’s a unique and sustainable way for design. I think the apparel industry could really expand in this area. There wasn’t really anything I expected to learn in this course that I actually did not learn; only because my knowledge of the concept of sustainability was so limited. I had a great time this semester expanding my knowledge and informing me of new ways to improve my industry for the better.

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