Blog 9—Design Activism—What Brings Heart Change?

The problem that has been sticking in my head as I’ve become more educated regarding sustainable practices, is the difficulty of getting others to embrace change in their personal lives. More laws and regulations can bring about behavior modification, but without a paradigm shift, or what I like to call “heart change” people will simply “feel coerced, which can lead to an even greater resistance to change” ,as authors Fletcher and Grose state in their book, Fashion and Sustainability, Design for Change. People do not like to be told what to do by outside forces, and must make decisions for themselves in order for the change to “stick”. I believe that people are more easily convinced when the following things are in place.

  1. Sufficient education on the subject
  2. Emotional Engagement
  3. Being part of a network or group of individuals with similar interests
  4. Personal, hands-on involvement in the change

So I must ask myself, how can I, as a designer, facilitate the things above? Can I begin to measure my success by the amount of my social impact rather than my paycheck? T. Brown, in his book “Change By Design” believes this type of design thinking is what “sets us up to create sustainable, systematic, long-term change.”

Educating the client is the easy part, but how can I create emotional engagement? A few of the things that come to mind is to take interest in the client as a person. What do they love? What is the story behind the objects in their home or office space? Creating an emotional bond between client and space is very personal, and I must be empathetic to each client as an individual. In order for the client to consider a more sustainable lifestyle, suggested changes must fit in easily with their passions and routines, so a cookie-cutter approach should be avoided. As I learn about my client, perhaps I could assist them in joining an organization, or purchasing things from a sustainable company in which they share certain values. By narrowing down the plethora of sustainable organizations for them, the client may be more likely to have some personal involvement—another key to lasting, joyful change.

Ok, so enough about them! I personally have become much more conscious about changing my habits.  I’m more careful to turn off lights, turn down heat/air, switching to LED bulbs, only washing clothes when I have a full load, and hanging clothes to dry as much as possible. My next step is to research countertop composting, and finding a donation site. Rather than getting overwhelmed with massive life-altering change, I’m staying small and keeping it manageable so that I can stick with it and not burn out! When I completed “My Habbit” on changinghabbits.com, I realized that I have a long way to go before achieving the “ideal”, but was also encouraged to read that I have already begun to implement some of their suggestions.

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