Am I the problem with sustainability? Yes, yes you are.

A wicked problem is a problem that is impossible to solve. In today’s world it is impossible to get everyone on the same page about an issue. The issues that we face today, we often like to ignore. Before taking this class, I rarely thought about the environment or what I am contributing to its slow downfall. I never took the time to think about the endless amounts of money I spend on these fast fashion websites on a regular basis. I never took the time to think about the carbon footprint, not only that I leave, but that corporations, industries, and a consumer driven society are leaving behind. Intellectually it was harder for me to understand the wicked problems we discussed in class. I would ask myself questions like: Why isn’t anyone doing anything to prevent these problems, and why, if this is such a huge issue in our society, have I not heard more about it? The wicked problems that we face today are right in front of us, but us, a consumer and instant gratification driven society, choose to ignore the signs. This issue begins in the minds of all of us. We have been wired, by society, to constantly want the newest, shiniest and most advanced version of something we already have. It can be difficult to understand these problems emotionally. Because of the amount of wicked problems in this world, I think people choose to not understand the world as it is in an emotional way. If people truly let these problems into their heart and processed them emotionally, these problems would not be as wicked as they are. 

These issues have sparked a particular interest for me because I am currently a fashion merchandising major, and the unsustainable background of the fashion industry is one of main topics we have discussed in class. Sustainability is essential to the future of our society, but yet, nobody seems to understand the harsh reality of the state of our environment. We began the semester with an introduction to global warming in the means of a movie: The 11th Hour. This film discussed various industries and the impact they have on our environment. While watching this film I remember asking myself the same questions. Why do these processes exist if they cause so much irreparable damage? How are people so unaware of their contribution to the downfall of our environment? Global warming is a serious and wicked problem that is on no path of return. What will happen if we do not steer our way onto the path of sustainability? How many more degrees does the earth’s temperature have to rise before people everywhere recognize this as a wicked problem? Will it be too late? This film sparked an interest in me that I did not realize I had before. I work at a clothing boutique and when we get new shipments of clothes, each piece of clothing is wrapped separately in plastic. Once we are done hanging up the new arrivals, we have trash bags full of plastic packaging.  I have caught myself before wondering, how much plastic does this fashion company go through in a day? A week? A year? It must be an outrageous amount of waste being created. 

This class allowed me to really evaluate the carbon footprint only I leave and create a greater mindfulness for myself about the things around me. I achieved some of this mindfulness through the use of meditation. Although it was tiresome at times, it was revealing to take 20 minutes of my time to just sit and think. Often we are on our phones, watching tv, or listening to music. I cannot remember the last time I simply sat, with no background sounds, and just thought, and contemplated things, and took some time purely for myself and my mind. Learning about these wicked problems has been eye opening and confusing at times, but now with a greater mindfulness I am able to become more aware of how I am contributing to the rise of these wicked problems. 

However, as I have said, the topic that really made me consider how these problems could truly affect me, was when we began discussing the fashion industry and the impact it has on various environmental issues. As I plan to go into this industry one day, it really made me contemplate how I will have a positive or negative impact on the environment through the use of this industry. What can I do in the future to not escalate this problem even further? What can I do to move others towards the path of sustainability alongside me? I will keep what I have learned in this class with me and credit it for the current and renewed mindfulness I now have.     

 With my new sense of mindfulness, I plan to go forward with a new outlook on the way others and myself affect the things around us. We need to develop humble and compassionate responses to these wicked problems because without the right response, the problem will only worsen. To have a humble approach towards these issues, one must first understand what that means. To be humble in design means that one must sustainably create things that will last for as long as they are needed for with the understanding that they will need to be replaced eventually. The realization that we cannot stop innovation and evolution is important because we must remember that something better will come along and the consumer will purchase it. This is why sustainability in creating all these new items is so important. Whether it be a new piece of clothing, shoes, the newest iPhone, a new washing machine, or literally any other luxury we have in our everyday lives, they will all be replaced by a new luxury eventually. Having this mindfulness will guide me towards more eco-friendly and sustainable companies in the future because although I am just one person, I can still make a difference, and if everyone had this mindset, we would not have the wicked problems we have today. We can all start somewhere. I could talk to my boss about more sustainable fashion brands we can carry, or I can start separating my recyclables at home. It could even be something as small as picking up a piece of trash you find on the sidewalk or taking the time to donate your old clothes instead of throwing them away. The mindfulness I have improved the most is my awareness of the world around me. I am now constantly aware of the ways that I can positively or negatively impact the world around me and it is up to all of us to make the right decisions.      

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