Less Stuff, More Time

This past week in lecture we discussed industrial ecology and recycling/reusing. I thought that I knew a lot about recycling and reusing, but after hearing the lectures and discussions this week I found out that I still have a lot to learn. The concept of cradle to cradle was new to me, but I think it seems like a really good idea. If producers could use cradle to cradle products, rather than cradle to grave, that would make recycling an easier and more efficient process. In general, it seems that taking on an industrial ecology mindset would be the best way to accomplish a cradle to cradle society. Industrial ecology is the process in which there is a never ending cycle of use. A product is produced and goes through its entire life cycle, just to end up back where it started. An example I found on http://www.pnas.org/content/89/3/793.full.pdf says that Mitchell was looking at how to make the transportation and storage of potentially harmful chemicals more ecological by making them apart of the industrial process. They believed that success with this was very high from every stand point.

When looking at my own contribution to recycling/reusing/carbon footprint I know I have a lot of room to improve. I think for me there is just the mental block of “old habits die hard.” I did not grow up in a home that was focused on recycling and bettering the environment so I am having to learn these habits after I already had set habits that are not the best for the environment. I will say that this class has been a great motivator. I notice now more than ever when I am doing something, or acting in some way that is not sustainable. I believe that the more time I spend learning how to be sustainable the more likely I will be to be more sustainable. My carbon footprint number was 27, which is not as horrible as it could have been, but still offers a lot of room for improvement. I think just filling out the information alone gave me a lot of insight for what all play into a carbon footprint. I am generally pretty good about watching how much electricity I use daily, but I can definitely be better about water usage and what type of lighting I am using.

The TED talk this week was really interesting to me. As I said in my last blog, I really enjoy learning about biomimicry and different ways that we can be more sustainable by mimicking nature. I thought that Michael Pawlyn had great energy and had a way of making biomimicry sound really exciting. I think watching him and Janine over the past couple of weeks has really inspired me to look into biomimicry more. The part of his talk that I found the most interesting was the ideas they have for deserts. I was not aware at how much our deserts are shifting, but it makes total sense that it is necessary to get nutrients back to those deserts so that the whole planet does not become an arid wasteland. I thought it was pretty impressive how much research they have already done on this topic and how they even had a plan for what to do with the extra resources that will come from refurbishing the deserts.

Janine Benyus Reading

  1. Number 5 in the Janine Benyus reading was one that stuck out to me in particular. It says, “Use materials sparingly.” I believe that this is one of the greatest struggles in American society today. Not only do we love to have A LOT of stuff, but we love to use a lot of stuff. Food courses are large, things are sold in bulk, and using water/electricity is as simple as flipping a switch. We are not brought up in a world that says “use materials sparingly.” I think that understanding and implementing a concept of designing for multi-function and adding strength without bulk would greatly benefit this nation, if people were willing to do their part along the way.
  2. Number 8 on the list is also really thought provoking. I especially like that it says that whatever is taken from nature is always put back. I thought that was a really powerful point because its not something that I think about very often. Everything on this earth comes from nature in one way or another and ultimately ends up back in the earth, only this time it may not be beneficial to the earth at all. If we were able to create products that would biodegrade back into the earth and be of benefit, then the balance would not be nearly as off.
  3. Number 4 goes pretty hand in hand with number 5, but I think it proves a different point. Number 4 shows why Number 5 is so important. If we are to optimize rather than maximize then we would in return use materials more sparingly. But again, the issue here will be to get people on board with making the change. Americans are especially comfortable with their belongings and getting people to understand why it is important to have LESS of the stuff we love is going to be a large challenge.
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