The Future of Sustainability

As I walk through a big city surrounded by towering buildings and beautiful flashing lights, it’s easy to get caught up in the awe of such spectacular structures. What I do not normally think about, but has been brought to my attention during my time in Wicked Problems, is the significant harm that this man made beauty is inflicting on our delicate environment. Then, it becomes easy to see the haze covering the clearness of the sky from the pollution in the air, and the flashing lights begin to look more like a warning. In the market reading, I learned that buildings use a large amount of energy and produce much of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which has a disastrous effect on global warming. On a positive note, the world is transitioning into the use of “green buildings”, but legal and financial battles are still being fought to make them the standard for all buildings. The complex obstacles in the way of fixing the problem contribute to it being a wicked problem.

The wicked problems website provides a description of what exactly makes a wicked problem so complex. It lists ten characteristics of wicked problems, making sure to note that just because a problem is hard to solve does not necessarily mean it’s wicked. In summary, a wicked problem has deep connections in social and economic issues, and requires persistence and effort from many different occupations, not just designers, to manage (wicked problems cannot be completely solved). One wicked problem I am exploring is excess waste produced by construction and demolition. This problem in particular is wicked because of how different each project is resulting in many different types of waste. I, personally, am having a hard time thinking of ways I can help this problem on my own because I am not personally invested in construction. I do know that small efforts, like reusing materials and making purchases from organizations that use recycled materials, will make at least some difference.

One company I have decided to research is Adobe, a technology company leading the movement towards sustainable business. Adobe believes that business transparency is important and has made their sustainable and social impact available. One example of their efforts to environmental sustainability is their report that 76% percent of their employees work in LEED certified spaces. Along with that, they have efforts investing in people and communities by donating to nonprofit organizations. If more companies follow Adobe’s lead, the movement towards sustainability will be great and we would likely see relief towards some of the wicked problems plaguing the world today.

In the end, I have learned a lot about the impact that designers can have on the environment, when it comes to construction and beyond. The readings done in class as well as research are providing insight into various systems (far more than I realized)  involved in what it takes to live sustainably.

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