When we first began the semester, I equated sustainability with recycling and the use of natural or recycled materials in life and design. I assumed that we would talk extensively about creating LEED certified spaces through the use of energy saving and earth conscious materials. I was shocked to discover that it was much deeper than choosing bamboo flooring and organic cotton for my design projects! In fact, I feel like this knowledge has not only influenced my design, but to an even greater extent, it’s influenced my personal thoughts and habits!
I’ve learned that true sustainability is design that seeks to mimic nature in how the space functions—not just in how it looks. Nature provides a fantastic blueprint for creating a system that doesn’t just drain our resources, but uses a closed loop where materials and production produce waste that can be used as fuel. In fact, this might have been the concept that was most revolutionary to me. I find myself throwing less away, and trying to think of ways in which it could be used again and in a different way than before. I loved the reading that pointed out the fact that nature never recycles leaves back into leaves. It recycles them to be used as fuel for the process of growing and developing other and more living things! Fantastic.
The most sobering truth I learned is that if we keep on our current track of using and never replenishing, we will not be able to sustain ourselves much longer. Because greed and consumerism play such a huge part in our wastefulness and thoughtlessness, a true, cultural paradigm shift must happen in order for lasting change to occur. This paradigm shift must include big-picture thinking—the ability to see how what we are doing currently will affect future generations, and to not be caught up in the short-sighted perspective that can occur within the “daily grind”.
At first, I was overwhelmed by the cultural changes that must occur to really make a difference for the environment. But instead of feeling helpless and doing nothing, I decided to do what I can toward sustainability in my home. Lasting change is usually achieved through small manageable steps, and those first few steps for me have come in the form of energy and water savings. I’m slowly switching over my lamps from compact fluorescent to LED, making sure that my air conditioning is turned up when I’m not home, and not ever leaving the water running unless necessary. I also plan to start a countertop composter to reduce waste as soon as possible.
Another concept of sustainability that was especially interesting to me was that of design activism. Our job as designers is not only to solve problems for our clients, but to educate them on many things. One of those things should be how our spaces affect the environment, and what we can do to become citizens that are more long-term conscious. In order to induce change in the client, it will be very important for me to be personally passionate and knowledgeable about the issue so that they can absorb some of that energy and knowledge. In order for me to be