Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sustainab...blah...blah...what?


S u s t a i n a b i l i t y


The problem is that consumers, and often designers, too, are bewildered by what really constitutes a sustainable product. You can't judge it by looking [at it]; you have to know the object's past and future – whether it's made of renewable or recyclable materials, how much energy went into its production, how it's going to be disposed of. It's not objects that are unsustainable, it's the systems that produce them. And designers have to steer their clients towards sustainable systems – that is, if they have the luxury of a client who isn't just after the cheapest, fastest solution. (McGuirk 2011, Sustainable design is wearing thin, para.7) -Let's hope to all acquire these values and be able to dismiss the easiest and cheapest option which are non-sustainable and non-ethical products.


The closest we have come to a sustainability orthodoxy is the "cradle to cradle" solution pioneered by Michael Braungart and William McDonough. According to their mantra, products need to be made fully recyclable so that, once they are discarded, each part can be turned back into itself again. The problem with that logic is that it promises infinite consumption with impunity. Businesses must love it. The drawback of putting so much emphasis on recycling, however, is that it makes us feel virtuous about throwing things away. Disposability – along with its henchman, planned obsolescence – is the real enemy (McGuirk 2011, Sustainable design is wearing thin, para.9)


The answer, it seems to me, is to buy fewer things that we value more: to design products that endure and that we can repair more cheaply than replace. (McGuirk 2011, Sustainable design is wearing thin, para.10)


These extracts in three paragraphs of Justin McGuirk's article Sustainable design is wearing thin that I found on the Guardian's website seems to sum up the concept of sustainability and how people should treat this idea -exactly by consuming less! Buy better quality and less of it. That could definitely even branch over to the notion of organic food and what we physically consume!

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