12. Sustainability – Not as Far Out of my Comfort Zone Now

I looked back to three and half months ago to see what I thought of sustainability. My definition at the start of this all was that sustainability is “enhancing processes to extend the lifespan of a product, production, or resource through modification of practices in regards to safety and environmental well-being.” While I don`t necessarily think this was off, I can now see it as more than just a flouncy definition though.

Sustainability is designing while thinking of the end. It`s taking in to account the full life cycle of the product and working in ways that cause less harm to people and their environments by combining improved elements from all three pillars of sustainability- sociological, economical, and environmental. It`s understanding what all three of these sectors need and trying to meet them in the best, complimentary way. Having a well-balanced process within these three areas can prove to be the most beneficial for businesses and their consumers when looking to the future.

From the beginning, I`ve admitted to not having much knowledge in green practices. Sure, I`ve recycled, I`ve known that water wasting or fast fashion is bad, and that the process for making clothing isn`t always the most healthy, but other than that I never really was curious enough to branch out and look at sustainability. I`ve also said from early on that I`ve thought changing people to be more sustainable has to be personal. If it`s something that doesn’t affect them, they won`t really act on it. Sustainability is being able to take these financially sound, green methods and being able to relate them to the market to get people to actually adapt to them.

Some practices we do, I hadn`t even thought of it as being sustainable because it`s just something that`s already been implemented in to what I consider regular everyday life. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether it would be better for brands to not try to spend and push so much marketing on advertising the ‘greenness’ of products, but instead just implement these sustainable processes in to their products without all of the fuss. A lot of people aren`t comfortable with changes, so trying to make a product seem so new, different, and green might have the opposite effect and alienate them from using it further. If anything, this class has made me really try to think of the mindset of a consumer and how they may feel or what they really need when trying to design for them.

It was touched on in class when sharing with one another about our final thoughts from this course, but for me personally, I think Biomimicry was what stood out and interested me the most of all of the modules. It`s such a simple idea that I never really thought about before (or if I was doing it, I wasn`t aware there was an actual name for it). I don`t consider myself as an innovator. My ways of thinking are critical and pretty realistic, so the development of new ideas isn`t what I would consider my strong suit. However, I think looking towards the applications of biomimicry can be a great solution to that because you are taking what already exists and simply building on it, not necessarily creating something new from thin air. The fact that these instances of nature using these ways to survive has worked for hundreds of years already provides some credibility to the capability of them to be successful. As someone who likes a lot of colors and prints, I`ve been attached to most things related to color theory, and this was no different.  I do make clothing/accessories sometimes so it`d be nice to be able to reflect more on that down the road in future designs, actually being aware of any sort of mimicry I may be doing. In one of my past blogs (Blog 5. Chameleon Couture), I discussed the possibilities of color changing clothing to add interest and possibly elongate their lifespan, relating it back to how chameleons can change their colors. Chameleons have always been one of my favorite animals so applying knowledge of how they function to design properties would be really fun to look in to more.

I also liked the concept of the Design Probe Packages and when completed sufficiently it is really interesting to just see how different someone`s same day is from your own. I think it also brought attention to the importance of actually speaking to your client about what they want because sometimes you`re missing out on the details by just trying to figure out context clues from the package. While they seem really beneficial for a good outline, perhaps using them to get an early understanding of a client, it also shows the importance of really discussing with and knowing your customer when buying or designing with their specific needs in mind.

I`d like to see what can be done in the future in regards to changing the business practices of these larger companies that are not complying to more sustainable practices yet. While learning so much has been great, there is still an obstacle of being able to implement some of these techniques in to our futures. For those that are developing their own businesses, it may allow more freedom to implement these changes. But for those of us that plan to work for a large, pre-existing company, it`s a lot more difficult to change their business practices for the benefit of the environment when you don`t have the power to do so. We can at the least change our habits in the home, but in the case of changing big business, there is still a long way to go for that. Sometimes it feels like a motto of mine at this point with how much I refer back to it, but as I`ve said, it`s always easier to point out the problem than find solutions for it. I can`t say I`ve come up with a way to fix it, so it may be the fact that there really haven`t been totally viable solutions yet, thus making it hard to talk more about that within the course at this point.

Overall, I entered this class without much interest or understanding about methods of sustainability, yet I definitely feel I`m leaving with more knowledge of the situation. It was interesting to be exposed to something I wouldn`t have particularly looked at before, and see just how many brands are out there that are trying to be sustainable for the sake of improving quality of living not only for our present selves, but for everyone and everything in the future.

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