I didn’t realize until I went back and reviewed my first blog that I didn’t write about what I thought sustainability is. I was a little shocked at that revelation. Before this class began, I had always heard about “Sustainability” in previous classes, having taken several Interior Design classes. Every class was the same, “We need to be more sustainable,” or “Get your LEED certification,” or “Be more eco-friendly.” It always went in one ear and out the other. At the beginning of the semester, though, I probably would’ve said that sustainability has something to do with saving the Earth and its resources. As far as sustainable design is concerned, I associated it with “organic.”
We learned in class that one of the meanings of sustainability is “Development which meets the needs of the present without prohibiting future generations to meet their own needs.” I think that sums it up pretty good, but now, having gone through the course this semester, I think that sustainability is much more than “Saving earth.” In my very first blog, I posted about the movie Wall-E which is a movie about a robot that wakes up to an earth covered in waste. All of the humans in the movie were oblivious to the fact that their planet was uninhabitable because of how much they were wasting. That movie pertains to today. We have landfills that are releasing toxic gases because we waste our food, our clothing, our plastic containers, etc. My grandparents are the most sustainable people I know (and I didn’t realize it until this class). My grandma wakes up very early in the morning to bake bread and desserts, when the energy use is the lowest. She reuses her containers whether they be from frosting or cottage cheese. Then, my grandpa gets up and has coffee, and the coffee grounds are used as fertilizer. He goes out to feed and check the cattle that are allotted a precise amount of cubes; while he is doing that, my grandma is burning trash and doing laundry. He doesn’t over-farm the land, meaning, he moves the cattle to different pastures each season and he lets a field sit out each year to replenish its nutrients. They have an energy-efficient washing machine, and during the spring and summer, she hangs the clothes out to dry on the line. They have fans located all around the house so they don’t have to turn on the air conditioners. They only purchase what they need, and very, very rarely do they ever waste food. They are, in my eyes, the prime example of sustainability.
Throughout this course, we talked about biomimicry (the act of mimicking nature), empathic design, and human needs and design activism. My major takeaway this semester was “design something they don’t realize they need.” My LOLA show presentation was on Sherwin-Williams new paint, Paint-Shield. I realized that millions of people are hospitalized each year, and a lot of the time, their stays are longer because of other bacteria on the walls and other surfaces they touch. When I discovered this product, I realized how much of a passion I have for human needs and design activism because this particular paint product eliminates bacteria on the walls within two hours of the bacteria living there. It is definitely a product that the world needs that we didn’t know we needed.
Since I’ve been in college, I have been using plastic water bottles- which made me a part of the problem we now have with landfills. This semester, though, I began taking my water bottles to my parents’ house and refilling them to bring back to school. I also started turning my thermostat up or down, depending on the weather, so it wouldn’t be running all the time when I wasn’t home. I feel that these are ways I can continue to be sustainable without being overwhelmed.
Knowing what I know now, I want to learn more about the major topics we discussed this semester. I know that is broad, but this class has made me want to learn more about everything we talked about. Biomimicry is fascinating to me because I love nature and want to find out more ways to use it to help others. Empathic design and human needs and design activism are important to me because I have a passion for helping others and I can typically understand what they need and what they are going through. Coming into this class, I didn’t know what to expect, so I do not feel there was anything I expected to learn. Overall, I really did enjoy this class, and I look forward to learning more about sustainability during my career.