My Sustainability Journey- It’s Only the Beginning

Thinking back on week 1 of this course and comparing it to today, I have gained a stronger understanding of “sustainability.” I no longer see sustainability as a word- it’s a lifestyle. Sustainable choices, in this time and age, could be considered a conscious effort initially. Eventually as you make more and more eco-friendly choices and behave in more resource-preserving ways, it all becomes so much easier to do. Then, it just becomes part of your daily life, just like going to the gym, or going to class, etc. I now define sustainability as a way of life that continuously strives to make the world a better place for the present and the future by making choices that help the environment.

Some of the most important learning I had from the class came from the concept of modifying behavior. I know we touched upon this in various modules from the course, so having this brought up over the course of the semester really helped to ingrain this. I do my best to consciously modify my own behavior, but I do know that having inventions that could modify my behavior would be very beneficial, and also modify the behavior of my house guests.  Before this class, I admit I would do pretty bad things like taking long, hot showers and turn the A/C on in cars while having the windows down in springtime…bad, I know. Now, when I turn on my A/C in the car I always set my A/C to off, so I have to consciously turn it on. Simple, but it’s altered my behavior and I consciously recognize when I’m doing it. Often times, I just think “I don’t need A/C, I’ll just use the windows only this time.” I set an alarm on my phone now before a shower so once it goes off I have to get out. All these things are really simple, I know,  but I’ve cut down my shower time from about 25-30 minutes to 15 now because of this. Like I said above, they’re small changes to my habits that are now becoming the lifestyle that is sustainability.  Thinking back, it’s been fun thinking about all the modules we have learned and relating them back to how they can be applied to create useful designs people will want to buy. When you think about it, even as a buyer or designer, if you buy/sell/use a sustainable fabric or service, you’ve actually modified behavior. Maybe before you were using a less sustainable fabric or service, but after consideration you’ve opted for the one that is more eco-friendly. My LOLA show from March can be used to delve more into this broad example. Spider Silk, my topic for the concept of biomimcry, is sustainable and can be used as fabric. If a designer opts to use this silk rather another fabric, they’ve made modification to their previous behavior that now helps the earth. Exciting and cool, right? It’s so simple to do, but can have such a big impact if everyone strives to think about how their actions impact others, the earth, and even their own quality of life. And, even going back as far as empathic design, if you make sustainable things that cater to the user, they’re even more likely to modify their current behavior, especially if the product meets their needs better than a non-sustainable product.

This may sound random, but I do wish we had been better taught (at least as merchandiers) to be able to handle more business-to-business (even business-to-consumer) interactions where we could better pitch sustainable products. Of course, for upper management cost and price are always at the helm of every decision. So, I wish we had been armed with approaches to better face the corporate skepticism that comes with the adoption of sustainable products/apparel/textiles/etc. Maybe I should have paid more attention in my sales management class…Regardless, I wish there was a way we were able to actually illustrate and show others that sustainable products/concepts/designs/ideas/etc are worth the investment. I know some of my friends and classmates in DHM really enjoy the creative classes, but for me I take more of an analytical, strong business approach. A majority of the applications for sustainable designs were extremely creative, and some very futuristic. I found myself throughout the class wondering how these could really be implemented if you were sitting in a boardroom having to make a major decision for a company (to be fair I do this in basically all my classes).

In the future, I aim to take all this knowledge from the course with me in hopes to improve the transparency of supply chain management. I’ve mentally paced back and forth through tons of different things to do after college, but I’m thinking sourcing and supply chain management may be where I end up due to personal interests and language skills (maybe even sourcing in eyewear industry, I do love have a love for glasses). Even if we can just include more information on a clothing label about manufacturing or about fiber content, that would be a start. Every little bit helps. I think even adding a sustainability component into ethics training for businesses would be a great start as well. Sometimes focusing on price means you sacrifice human rights, environmental rights (stripping the land of its resources), and more that measure beyond the price tag.

There isn’t anything in particular I would prefer to learn, per se, about the concepts we’ve learned in class; rather, I want to stay more connected and up-to-date to inventions and innovations in the modules we talked about- biomimicry, industrial ecology, empathic design, etc. I feel like I’ve played catch up in this class, as I had just learned about these concepts for the first time this semester. Now that I am on track and armed with the basic knowledge of what sustainability is and how I can make more sustainable choices, I want to stay informed and adopt new behaviors as they develop. Going back to eyewear, I read an article yesterday about 3D printing (and using them to create eyewear was mentioned). I will be interested and concerned to see how 3D printing is handled on an industrial scale, because using recycled materials for these printers would be great versus wasting more raw material(s) to make products. This is one particular development in our industry I am very interested in following in the months to come. We have the abilities and power to make amazing technology, but at what cost? If all the materials to make new designs and inventions and innovations to better our lives all come from raw materials, we’re essentially taking one step forward and ten steps back. This utter carelessness makes materials even more scarce, and poses even more of a challenge for the earth to continue to maintain and heal itself from our destructive hands. From this class, not only do I feel like a more informed student, but a more informed future professional and consumer as well.

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