Sustainable design is something that always comes up within design, there are countless views as to what makes something sustainable from die hard hippies, to people that will compare just about every product to another with some amazing outcomes. Like stories of a paper cup being more sustainable than a ceramic mug as over the entire life cycle the ceramic cup uses more energy and materials, like detergents to wash it, hot water to clean it and if its in a dishwasher energy to power that too.I guess it depends on how long a ceramic mug can last too as they don’t survive a fall to well. How often you have a paper cup and are you happy to simply rinse out the mug with cold water and reuse it without cleaning it thoroughly after each use. I think though at some stage every consumer makes up their mind as to what is sustainable in their minds and what are the material intensive, environmentally draining products they just can’t live without. I hope to post up more about sustainable articles as I think they help me to get thinking about the impacts on what I am designing.
Over on core77 this article really got me thinking about it all again. Below are a few quotes that highlight what to think of it all. Also the impacts of our little paper cups.
The design response to a wash of green whole systems and life cycle thinking by Simon Lockrey
‘There lies the contradiction between designing for the consumption obsessed market and designing to the core principles of sustainability, where environmental, economic and social aspects are somewhat detached from a consumer driven market.’
‘Take design for disassembly. A designer in an appliance company designs a product for disassembly although there is no effective product stewardship scheme to collect the parts from reclaimed models. The design driven benefit is not delivered, rendering the methodology a waste of time. It is also well and good to reduce the weight of components and thus the embodied energy of the same appliance, however if the bulk of the impacts are generated during use from electricity (like an electric kettle), then the strategy most likely has negligible benefit in reducing environmental load. Likewise by making parts from commonised, recyclable materials, the likelihood is that there is no post consumer recycling stream or infrastructure in place to handle the majority of parts and materials, due to the commercial reality of recycling. This design for environment mentality has long been detached from the benefit it has aimed to deliver upon.’
‘One approach is for design to lower the user’s consumption, without degrading the consumer’s experience. The question is whether the new breed of ‘eco’ products adds to the crisis, or makes a real difference.’
‘The KeepCup compared to disposable paper cup (including coffee) sees a 36-47 % reduction in global warming, a 71-85 % reduction in water use, and a 91-92 % reduction in landfill waste annually.’ This is based off using a paper cup a day.
I hardly ever drink takeaway coffee/hot drinks anyway only once or twice a year, I am also cheap so always have a bottle of tap water on me as I don’t want to by drinks when I am out. Otherwise if in a work environment where you frequently get coffee, it makes sense to keep the cup on your desk and take it with you when you go get it I can’t imagine lugging a cup around with you in your bag for space issues so I can see why there is a big market, it fits in with your routine.
The hardest bit I think about sustainable design are the many critics and voices that have to have their say, it becomes easy to get disheartened. Some people don’t believe in stepping stone products that make some difference and some are extreme and say it result with no waste being 100% biodegradable. Well that’s all I have time for now as homework is calling me to stop being distracted.