Contentment and Waste Reduction

When it comes to sustainability and to the conservation of a natural environment, there is often an overwhelming number of factors to consider. But one that is most telling, or most convincing, is money. Impoverished countries will exploit their own environment to the fullest extent if a profit larger than what they’re already making with resources native to their environment is offered to them. We see this over and over in society today. Richer, more consumer-minded countries will raise demand for a product overseas and, by the power of the invisible hand, these resources will be extracted and distributed for profit. This, of course, doesn’t leave our more vulnerable communities to blame. Anyone would do the same if it means making a profit. What is to blame is the materialistic frameworks that drive it. The invisible hand that convinces poor, resource-drained countries to tear down what environment they have to create more farmland or manufacturing sites is the demand for products that we couldn’t be bothered to make for ourselves. The world is rich if we allow it to be, but the more that we take, the more waste we put back into it, and the more of it that we remove in order to produce what we already have, is going to and has already taken its toll. 

Our reading sought to answer a question considering whether or not poverty was responsible for environmental degradation, and I think this is an extremely unfair question because if it weren’t for the excessive demand of rich countries, there would be no need in the first place. It’s amazing to me to see how the more we have, the more we want, and the more industry tells us we need when those needs have been met from the beginning. Instead of buying into materialism, or trying to pass blame for the state of our environments, it’s become  increasingly imperative that we are able to find contentment in what’s already here. The ability to use what we already have to its absolute fullest potential is a leading component in the movement toward a post disposable society. Maintaining an item’s value after its initial use is a vital step to reducing waste, and something we are all well capable of. Leyla Acaroglu raises a very interesting perspective regarding her ideas for a post disposable society. As far-fetched as it seems to begin eliminating single-use products, it’s not entirely out of reach. She proposes that we have the power to minimize waste through thoughtful design. When products are designed to minimize waste, demand will decrease simultaneously. 

Not only does design affect the way we interact with the environment, it also influences the way that we experience it. Biophilic design seeks to connect the user with the natural, local environment. Introducing the organic environment into built spaces has the ability to reshape the way society approaches conservation. Rather than existing individually and placing the built, developed society above the natural, biophilic design integrates the two and allows one to acknowledge our coexistence. This is crucial for molding a new mindset around conservation.

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