Sustainable Enlightenment

From the first day I signed up for this class, I knew I would enjoy it. I have always been interested in sustainable practices, specifically in design. I used to associate sustainability and sustainable design with “reduce, reuse, recycle.” That was what I said I thought it was on the first day when we were asked to define these words. However, after this class I have learned that sustainability is so much more than this. Yes, perhaps a nutshell of what to do, but we delved so much deeper into the actual meaning of this. Sustainability is “a way of life, caring for our world that gives so much to us through social and environmental facets.” It is not just going green, but also using creativity and empathy to create, design, and maximum utilization of our current resources. There are so many different ways to use sustainability in everyday life and our lack as a society of knowledge and care for this subject is destroying the world that has done so much for us and our survival. I now see sustainability as a lifestyle, constantly making choices to make the world a better place and doing those little things really does make a big difference, even if it does not seem like it at the moment.
One huge epiphany that I had never considered is the vast amount of energy consumed during the care of a garment after it has already been produced. I had always just assumed that the production of clothing was the most wasteful part of the lifecycle and tried to find clever ways to solve this issue. However, after realizing how much energy is used, I have definitely made sure that I wash my clothing and run my dishwasher less, make sure loads are completely full before cleaning, and trying to reduce energy used during the drying process.
Another aspect that surprised me was when we had to calculate the amount of CO2 emissions we personally release each year. I had no idea that so many random things, such as eating meat, was a part of CO2 emissions. I think that incorporating behavior modification is the primary way to change the negative effects we have on our environment. I try to consciously do things that are more sustainable, such as walking whenever I have the option or turning off heat/AC if my roommate and I will be gone for the day, or hand washing dishes to run the dishwasher less, but this class had made me realize just how vital this is to changing my lifestyle.
Probably one of the biggest realizations I had is how much food I waste on a daily basis. I like to eat at home because it is healthier and saves money. I buy a lot of fresh produce, meats, bread, milk, things that must be refrigerated and have a fast expiration date. Since I have bought in bulk, a lot of it goes bad and as a result, I have to throw it out. I have always thought that it is unfortunate because it is a waste of food and money, but I never considered how unsustainable it actually is. Now that I realize the negative effects that this has I have been greatly reduced the amount of food I throw out by freezing leftovers that will not be consumed immediately and reducing the amount of produce purchased at one point in time.
Taking this class inspired me to create a completely upcycled denim senior collection. This was a really challenging and fun experience that forced me to think creatively and critically. We did our final project over this idea with a company called Denimpact, and as a result I did a lot of research on waste produced during the life cycle of a garment. I would like to continue learning about this and create new ways to reduce or eliminate much of this waste during the entire life cycle, specifically during care. Before this class, I thought biomimicry was an interesting concept but never knew exactly what it was or what it was called. I would really like to delve deeper into this concept and learn how to incorporate this into apparel design. I am aware that people have done this but I would like to explore new and endless possibilities. I will continue to learn and grow in sustainability and I am excited to see what I can do to make this world a better place.

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