When I think about sustainability, I often think about people in the grocery store shopping for eco-friendly products. I believed that it was consumers that influenced the need for more environmentally friendly products. While that idea is partially true, this week’s reading “Does the Market Work Better Than Government at Transitioning to Sustainability?” opened my eyes to the other side of consumerism; the market. The reading highlighted the ways in which the market is more influential than legislation when it comes to affecting real change. The government, especially in America, is often deadlocked when it comes to voting on legislation regarding environmental degradation. I believe that a more effective method would be through market regulation. While this idea is often met with corporate backlash for various reasons, a solution needs to be identified and enacted urgently without regard to cost. There are many potential solutions to this issue, and many more types of wicked problems in general, on the wickedproblems.com webpage.
It was fascinating to click through the various topics on wickedproblems.com and read about ways to make small changes to your daily habits that can have a large impact on society. One article that stuck out to me was “On Making a Difference,” by Alex Pappas. My favorite quote from the article was, “We have the troops, but we seem to be lacking the leaders.” This quote stuck out to me because it reminded me of the bystander effect that I learned about in sociology. People have a tendency to believe that the responsibility for action relies on others. They believe that they do not need to act because someone else already is. In the Wicked Problems class, I have found that this type of thinking often extends to the environment as well. We as a society have the capacity to enact positive environmental change together, but we are lacking a leader to set an example.
In more recent years, some companies have been trying to set an eco-friendly example. One of these companies is the popular furniture store IKEA. While most people wouldn’t traditionally think about IKEA’s huge stores being sustainable, “the store in Stoughton, Mass., received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its green status. The roof of the store is covered with 37,000 square feet (6,968 square meters) of plants, which regulate the store’s temperature while absorbing rainwater” (Edmonds, “How IKEA Works”). IKEA has many other environmentally conscious practices such as a fee on plastic bags, which in turn reduces unnecessary consumption of plastic bags. Each store has recycling bins for customers to recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, batteries, and lightbulbs. This is an easy way for companies to encourage their consumers to be more mindful of their habits without all the fuss.
These practices by IKEA may be helpful but I believe that there are more effective methods of problem solving. I believe that future state analysis is more effective at solving wicked problems than current state analysis. While it is easier to collect and interpret data from current state analysis, because it is more readily available, I believe that the data gathered from future state analysis will be far more beneficial to interpret. In a future state analysis, past and recent data is investigated to construct plausible future events. In this scenario, potential solutions can be evaluated and experimented. If problems begin to occur with the solution, the future state analysis is more equipped to adapt.
For my report, it has been fascinating to conduct my own versions of the current state – future state analysis. For some individuals, being mindful of their impact on the environment is very important. Others may not share this same ideal. However, for both of these types of people, what they chose to wear is often not included in their sustainability journey. I know that personally I was not mindful of the clothes I bought until I started my degree at Oklahoma State University. For me, and many others, I choose clothes based on if I could afford that style. This lower price often comes at the compromise of quality in materials and production. Because I bought cheap clothes that were fashionable, right when the trend died it seemed that so did the garment. Then I would go to the store to find another cheap fashionable garment to replace the one that had fallen apart. This type of thinking only encourages the cycle of fast fashion and pollutes the environment. Conducting research for my report has helped me to identify ways to be more mindful of the clothes that I wear and ways to help them last longer. One way that I can help is by reducing the amount of times that I wash a garment. This saves water and energy on a wash cycle and increases the longevity of the fabric. When I do wash my clothes, I will use the cool water setting to also decrease unnecessary energy consumption.