Blog #3

In the first lecture of last week, we discussed industrial ecology quite a bit. We learned that it was a type of application for industries to use all manifestations of biomimicry in their operations and to focus on reducing environmental impacts and to increase natural capital while still continuing on their normal day to day operations. I thought this aspect of sustainability was important, first because it affects any type of industry in our world, and also because as people in industries we will be able to lessen and perhaps even stop unsustainable practices when incorporating biomimicry into the industrial world. I also liked the slide that said “buildings can be created anywhere, using what is locally available; very adaptable to any climate.” It is true, and it also gives buildings a chance to be proud of where they are located and embrace the culture and natural surroundings the building is located in! although we discussed the Denmark facility as a real world example of industrial ecology, I researched and found what is called the Cleaner Production Centre, which “[promotes and facilitates] the ‘greening’ of the 1,200 businesses located in Burnside, eastern Canada’s largest industrial park. The services the Centre provides include: promoting materials and energy conservation through audits; searching for technologies to improve resource use efficiency for business clients; facilitating packaging waste reduction through waste audits; and identifying and facilitating waste and energy linkages between firms. Industrial ecology relationships will be promoted by the Centre, in part, by the creation of a waste exchange” (http://newcity.ca/Pages/industrial_ecology.html). This specific instance of industrial ecology caught my attention because it really does grasp the idea of industrial ecology AND promotes it in an already established industrial park.

In Michael Pawlyn’s TED talk, “using nature’s genius in architecture,’ he discusses three main ways to transform both architecture and society into a sustainable beauty: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun. like many have talked about already, the closed-loop system is very interesting and simple, yet another section of sustainability that is hard for us to grasp. By finding a purpose for items over and over and over so that they don’t leave the “system” and don’t just get disposed of. I really think we could continually use this in the future so that nothing is ever disposed of, so that waste really does equal food.

Also on Tuesday, we talked about an article called “Closing the Loops in Commerce,” which began by eluding to a redwood forest when discussing how to run a business, thus tapping into industrial ecology. He also gave real world examples of inspirational stories that we can use when running a company or industry while also incorporating industrial ecology. Three that I really like were: optimize rather than maximize, use materials sparingly, and don’t foul their nests. All three of these really resonate with me, and I really think it’s because they all really pertain to interior design. For example, with optimize rather than maximize, the article itself says “one of the reasons ecosystems are so resilient is that they aren’t doing anything in a hurry.” In terms of interior design, this makes sense because a lot of times architecture firms are always trying to build as many buildings as they can, when really we should be focusing on the optimization and way the buildings and interiors are created instead of trying to meet a quota. The better we design buildings, the less materials and energy we virtually have to use and we will also take less materials to fix it in the future. To expand more on this through the “use materials sparingly,” we learned through the article that organisms build for durability and don’t overbuild, so why can’t we? We are arguably the most intelligent organism on the planet and have past and present examples of what to do and what not to do in terms of design and creating new things. And finally, with ‘don’t foul their nests,” we learned that organisms in nature have to live in the same areas that they create things in, so it makes sense that they keep it tidy and protect it. Once again, why is this so hard for us to grasp? We need to understand that we only have one planet, that’s it. And with that, if we don’t start taking care of the planet we live on, we won’t have anything left.

In the second lecture of the week, we talked about nature-centered design and how waste is food. The five principles that were discussed in terms of a nature-centered design are: pay attention to unique qualities of site and place, direct and indirect money, mimic nature’s process, honor every voice in the design process, and make nature visible through design. Out of all these, I really like the “honor every voice in the design process.” It seems like a simple statement, but I think when we are in the moment of designs, we tend to forget every aspect that plays into the design process. The more time we tale to honor all steps, the more cohesive the design will be and therefore the more efficient it will be. In the lecture, we also discussed cradle to cradle, which states that a product needs to have EVERY part of it be able to be upcycled or repurposed, so that none of it is put into a landfill to sit, and cradle to grave, which is the opposite and lets products be disposed of and never used when we are done using it. We also played a group version of jeopardy, where we put what we learned and observed from lecture into words and explanations to prove we understood the material, which was helpful in grasping statements and terms.

As a real world example of how to incorporate cradle to cradle into the real world, we were given an activity to create a bed that doesn’t need all the heating and energy required to make a metal framed bed. My group came up with the idea of using pallets and an old door, sort of a random combination that ended up working smoothly. We simply took premade pallets that weren’t in use anymore and used those as the base, took weak parts of the pallets out and use the nails that held the weak part together to attach the door (used as a headboard) to the base, as well as attaching the two pallets together. It was a pretty simple design, but a large movement in the right direction since we weren’t using metal at all, and took pre-existing materials and products that really would just be thrown away and made them into a masterpiece, upcycling them into a new and useful product!

After calculating my personal carbon footprint, my results were 22 tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is surprisingly under the US national average. Still, I think that number is huge for a single person! Most of mine was from home (10), followed by driving and flying (7), food and diet (4.1), and then recycling and waste (0.7). The driving and flying percentage doesn’t surprise me, since I know emissions are really high with gasoline and fuel. This number definitely makes me want to be better about the way I handle my lifestyle in terms of my carbon footprint.

As for my current ways of recycling and reusing, I would say I recycle way more than I reuse. I always sort my trash to be separated between trash and then plastics/cans/cardboard boxes/glass so items that took a long time to produce and that can be recreated are given that chance. Even with big boxes and glass, I make sure to take the time to take those items to the sorting center in Stillwater so they don’t just get destroyed. I honestly don’t really reuse products as much as I know I can. I will try to baby step towards this skill, perhaps even by taking old cartons or containers and use them as containers that I use over and over in my own home.

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