Sustainable, unobtainable – is it just too hard?

By Lorrin Windahl.

Sustainability is a minefield of myths and misconceptions. It is a complex world of factors that change from project to project, product to product. Each product is unique in its make-up and impact on the environment. No two products are the same when it comes to their manufacture, usage and end of life. Therefore, the same thinking can not be applied to every project. This is the bane of the sustainable designer’s existence.

Leyla Acaroglu, in her TEDtalk last year, discussed this very topic. She was succinct and concise in her explanation of the intricacies and complex nature of this beast that is sustainability.

From my experience even after conducting an LCA study, it is sometimes difficult to interpret the data and make the right decision regarding the environment. There is not always an obvious direction and often a comparative model is required to measure the differences. But with a new product this can be difficult to do accurately and is overly time consuming.

Add into the mix the fact that many clients often want the cheapest, fastest-to-market product. They have no interest in the product being more sustainable, as Acaroglu mentioned in her talk, and therefore it is often difficult to sell any changes to materials or manufacture that might derive from an LCA study.

So is it all worth it? Is it a fruitless exercise to improve our product’s environmental footprints? Does it really change anything? Well, I think it does and I do think it is worth it. After all, I strongly believe it is our responsibility as designers to ensure that we minimise the impact our products have on the environment and to ensure that future generations can enjoy the planet as we have done. If we don’t take responsibility, who will? And when? Even though it is often an uphill battle, any attempt to reduce a product’s impact means that we are moving in the right direction – however insignificant those changes may be. And it’s important to keep in mind that it isn’t just about physical change to a product, it’s also about changing the way we think too. And once our mindset has shifted then I think it will become a lot easier.

Do you think it is worth it?

Top image courtesy of recycle.co.uk.

One Comment on “Sustainable, unobtainable – is it just too hard?

  1. Hi!

    I came across your website and really enjoyed reading through it. I wanted to see if you were open to guest contributions? I currently work for Modernize.com and we’re looking to contribute to websites and blogs that write about home improvement & home decor.

    Here are a couple examples of recent articles our writers have written:

    http://modernize.com/home-ideas/3802/4-ways-find-qualified-home-energy-auditor
    http://modernize.com/home-ideas/3930/hottest-solar-energy-facts

    Let me know if you have a topic in mind and we can get started right away.

    Thanks,

    Kevin

    Like

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