Blog 3

One of the major takeaways from this past week’s lecture was better understanding the difference between biomimicry and industrial ecology. I have been introduced to the topic of biomimicry multiple times before starting this class; however, I had never heard of industrial ecology before. Industrial ecology may utilize biomimicry; however, its main goal is to reduce environmental impact while increasing natural capital. One example of this practice is the Oberlin College in Ohio that I found to be very interesting. As an interior designer, we are constantly striving to think of innovative, yet sustainable ways to design for the future. This building is perfect inspiration because it is aesthetically pleasing while simultaneously helping the environment. Construction is created with scrap materials, appropriately positioned windows to maximize sunlight, solar panel roofs and much more and these are all realistic aspects that we, as interior designers, can take into consideration when designing for the future. I hope to take the lessons learned through industrial ecology and biomimicry when I go out into the real world and ask myself before every design decision I make, “what would nature do here”?

Now when looking at Industrial Ecology, we have to start to take into consideration the important of a closed loop cycle. Michael Pawyln’s TED talk focuses on the important of a closed loop cycle and the positive impacts this will have on the future well being of our environment. Just like how the Oberlin College takes wastewater and treats it to be reused as toilet water, Michael Pawlyn emphasizes on how important it is to take waste and use it efficiently. Nature learns to take waste and use it as nutrients somewhere else and it is critical that we, as humans in a diminishing environment, learn to do this as well. One way that he mentions that we have learned to use waste and reuse it is called the Cardboard to Caviar project. This is a closed-loop scheme which takes restaurant waste, turns it into horse bedding, feeds it to worms who in turn are fed to fish whose caviar eventually ends up back on the plates of the restaurant.

The idea of cradle to cradle is a popular practice and should become a way of life. It is the concept that a product is designed to function efficiently and at the end of its life, all parts can be repurposed or reused for something else. The three tenets of cradle to cradle include using current solar income, celebrate diversity and turn waste into food. When turning waste into food, there are two different kinds of metabolisms to touch on; technical and biological. In biological metabolism, it takes nutrients that are created in the biosphere. They serve a purpose to humans and when they are no longer needed, they return to nature to feed environmental processes. On the other hand, technical nutrients come from human created industrial processes. These products remain in a closed loop system and keep being reused for human purposes. Learning about technical metabolism was eye opening to me because I automatically assume that most of the products that we create are bad for the environment because of the processes that we use. However, there is a way to minimize the amount of toxins let out into the environment as a result of our manufacturing processes. For example, in a closed loop system, products may require toxic materials to be created; however, if we learned to keep them in the loop it is beneficial for the environment. If we just reuse the products we have already created instead of use more toxic materials to create the same products, we are slowly saving the environment.  

Unfortunately, I have not always been a big follower of recycling practices. Ever since I started taking this class, I have become more motivated to start taking into consideration the well being of the environment. I do have a recycling bin in my kitchen and I make sure to recycle all materials that can be, instead of be lazy and throw them in the trashcan. As for clothing, when I find clothing that I do not like anymore, I have tried to find ways to re-amp them to current trends. For example, I have many t-shirts that I do not wear anymore and I found ways on Pinterest to cut them up and allow them to fit the trends that I am trying to meet right now.

One life principle that really stood out to me is “using materials sparingly” because I am able to utilize this principle in the field of work. As an interior designer, is it important that we take advantage of all the space that we are given to work with. With that being said, space is not unlimited so it is important to optimize everything we are given. Multi-functional products are critical for success in interior design because people like to purchase one thing but get multiple benefits out of that one products. For example, we have created couches that also pull out to be a bed or we have wall cabinets and storage that hide a bed inside until it is ready to be pulled out and used (very beneficial in small patient hospital rooms for visitors). I hope to look more into this life principle and think up more ways to benefit the environment while moving forward and growing as an interior designer.

It was helpful to be with other interior designers during this activity because we all think the same way when it comes benefiting the environment through our field of work. As for the bed frame that we are to redesign using one of the waste to food metabolisms, we thought of a technical metabolism. Many times shipping crates are thrown up and not reused when there are many ways to reuse that wood. A new trend that can be aesthetically pleasing and take waste and put it into design is to use these shipping crates as a bed frame. Many people are already doing this. We were not given much time to think of much more but it is important that we think with a cradle to cradle mindset when it comes to the design process.


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