“No one ever failed to recycle something because they didn’t like the logo”

9 Feb

Above: floating garbage in the Pacific. Recycling doesn’t work if people don’t actually do it.

We are failing miserably at sustainable design. Or so claims this article, sent to me by my husband this morning.

The author, Justin McGuirk, says that “these days designers have a rather different role as societal problem-solvers, leading the way to a cleaner, better future.” He’s right. Our role has been slowly shifting before our eyes. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this over the last few years; I really think it is irresponsible to thoughtlessly produce loads of unnecessary (and unnecessarily disposable) stuff. Bucky Fuller probably put it best in this famous statement: “Do more with less.”

It is also very important to understand the life cycle of your materials. “You have to know the object’s past and future,” writes McGuirk. He points out that plastic, when kept out of the landfill, is often times the most sustainable material around, as it uses less energy to manufacture than metal or glass.

But sustainable design thinking does not have to equal depravation. “The answer,” writes McGuirk,”is to buy fewer things we value more: to design products that endure and that we can repair more cheaply than to replace.” (Note to husband: this is why my fabulous shoes cost so darn much!) And bland brown cardboard might not be the answer after all. According to McGuirk, what we really want are “things with sex appeal, not ones that look as though they are made of Weetabix.”

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