At the beginning of this course, I defined sustainability as using fewer resources. To me this speaks about our current sustainability crisis in America today. We have all heard about the concept of “green” and the benefits of “buying local” and also the “global warming” crisis from current events. However, I learned sustainability is so much more.
Sustainability is about extracting fewer resources in products or processes; it is about reducing, reusing, and recycling. Reducing the amount of consumption we have created, reusing or repurposing those products in different ways than was intended, and recycling those products that can no longer be used. The population needs to start taking less of the resources that will renew themselves, and start planning for the future.
I think being aware of the current state of the environment is not enough. Most people have heard the stories of global warming and either choose to believe them or not, but we need a push, a paradigm shift, of society’s way of viewing the environment and sustainability. Making sustainability “cool” for this younger generation will start this rapid movement. The younger generation, or the Millennials, experience life in fast-pace, moving from the next cool thing to the next. Trends wear out as fast as we can create them. This is the challenge sustainable designers need to face, how to make sustainability a lasting trend.
Empathic design encompasses this concept of “sustainable design,” where products are created with the user in mind. Emotional attachment to the object creates this fear of disposing. This is one way products can become sustainable. However, this does not solve our consumption problem. In the United States, the economy is built upon capitalism and consumption. If we create empathically designed products, this does not stop people from buying more. We need to break the habit of overconsumption if we want to make an impact at all.
I think what I was most interested in was local consumption. Producing goods with locally sourced materials, as well as in local manufactories, creates less transportation costs. These transportation costs are the biggest costs in the construction industry today. The price of transportation cannot only be seen in dollar signs, but in carbon dioxide pollution as well. If we produce locally with local materials, it can significantly decrease building costs.
Along with local consumption is the sustainable concept of biomimicry. This is a sustainable way of looking at design. If nature can create these amazing systems that are “closed loop,” then we should be able to copy these mechanisms for our own processes and products. Closed loop processes are processes that are continuously taking the waste from another product or process and putting it to use. This, along with using renewable energy, like when plants conduct photosynthesis and harness the suns energy, can help designers create products and processes that are good for the environment.
I valued this course highly because it not only made me aware of the current situation of the environment; it made me excited about the sustainable future. I learned about new products and innovations that are available or that are still in development that can create a sustainable future. I plan to continue this research, and use these sustainable practices I learned in designing interiors or products when I go out into the field.