My Sustainable Journey Blog 3

This week in sustainably we started with talking about industrial ecology and biomimicry. Industrial ecology is using nature’s principles and lessons as a model to increase market competiveness and stability with less impact. The main focus of industrial ecology is to reduce environmental impact while increasing natural capitals and can still implement elements from biomimicry. Janine Benyus poses an important question when think about biomimicry and industrial ecology, she asks “what would nature do here?” and “what wouldn’t nature do here?”. I feel that is the first important step in using biomimicry. Michael Pawlyn had to use that thought process when designing and developing his greenhouse in his Eden Project. He stated that we need to make increases in resource efficiency, change from a linear, wasteful way of using resources to a closed looped model, and to change from a fossil fuel economy to a solar economy. In his Eden Project, he developed a greenhouse that’s end product was lighter than the air inside the green house. He used biomimicry to find a solution to not using glass for a lighter structure. He used pollen grains and carbon molecules to develop the structure of the building. The design reminded me a lot of the “fat free design” used by Ross Lovegrove to use less materials and resources for a more sustainable design. That concept relates back to the Closing the Loop in Commerce reading we had and the lecture we taught in class to use materials sparingly and to optimize the materials for their best use. Another important tenet form the reading and lecture is to remain in balance with the biosphere. In nature, everything that is removed is always put back like in a closed loop system similar to cradle to cradle.

Cradle to cradle is the concept that a product is designed to function efficiently and at the same time designed in a way that it can be broken down at the end of its lifecycle and that every part can be upcycled or repurposed. C2C is a really cool concept to me and I wanted to know more about it so I went to and looked at their winners of the fifth cradle to cradle product design challenge and found a chair that is designed like origami from one single sheet of fully recyclable polypropylene material. The Plano Chair has durable living hinges that allow the sheet to take its final shape, and a single material type makes production and material reclamation easy. The concept of that chair and C2C is really innovative and could change the way that a lot of products are designed and I believe can drastically help the environment impact that furniture manufacturing has on the environment.

Recycling is very important for our environment in many ways. Upcycling is creating new products from old, unusable or worthless products making the new products that are worth as much or more than the original product. Down-cycling is creating new products from old, unusable or worthless products and these new products are worth less than the original product. I want to get into recycling more and notice when products I use are recyclable or not. I went to the new North Dining Hall this week to eat lunch I was very impressed that the bowl they gave me my food in was made of recycled materials and could be recycled again, but I was disappointed when I noticed that there was not a spot to recycle my bowl. They had four trashcans available near where I sat and not one recycle bin. Hopefully they will get some or change a few trashcans into recycling bins soon! Speaking of recycling, for our interior design activity my group quickly discussed how to reuse recycled material to make a visually pleasing and environmentally friendly bed frame. We discussed the idea of not using a frame at all and using recycled wood to make a platform or old shipping crates to make a platform for the bed to be placed on as you can see in the sketch below. That would be reusing materials in an interesting a unique way for a fun space. You could also use the recycled wood for the head and foot board of the bed. Another way to use recycled materials if you’re not into the idea of wood and want a more modern look is to use old plastic bottles melted down and formed into a bed frame. Either of those options would be a more sustainable option than the bed that is made up of steel and aluminum that uses energy to heat, mold, and press the iron to mold it into various components that comprise the bed.

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