Are We Really Doing Enough? Sustainability and Design in Today’s World

July 22, 2019 3 Comments

Are We Really Doing Enough? Sustainability and Design in Today’s World

Most people living in today’s world think about sustainability and recycling in some way. You’ve probably seen the image of the turtle with a plastic straw in his nostril, or noticed plastic water bottles at the last conference you attended in a way you wouldn’t have before. Safe to say it’s on many of our minds (some might argue they’re being bombarded by these messages).

But, are these micro-moments or marketing strategies having any real impact on our behaviour? We sat down with Mariel, senior product designer thinking about sustainability to chat about sustainability and waste. 

What do you make of the new ‘sustainability’ or ‘zero waste’ movement?

Overall it’s great, but sometimes it feels like we’re just swapping out materials for materials (e.g. plastic straws for paper straws) rather than thinking about changing actual habits around consumption and waste. It’s easy to dispose of things even when they’re more sustainability made because we think “oh, it’ll get composted anyway.” But when we think about waste as an industry, it’s not necessarily jsust about creating alternatives, but also asking ourselves – how do we create less waste in the first place?

We’re humans and we will use resources/consume things by the nature of existing, but waste doesn’t necessarily have to have a 1:1 relationship with consumption. 

How can people be more resourceful with the things they already have?

My dad grew up in Chile and one thing he always asks us is, “what else can we use this for?” It taught us how to think about the full cycle of products we use. Jars are an obvious example – when you buy a sauce or apple sauce, you can store other things like grains or pasta in them after you're done.

But one other thing specific to food is around things going off or rancid. When it starts happening instead of throwing or even composting food, I try to pickle or even freeze things to make bread later.

“No matter what material we’re talking about, the disposability thing is not sustainable."

Convenience has become king, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of natural resources and the environment.

So, what do you think needs to change?

Obviously we've made a lot of progress. But it’s a systems issue, and it might be more about changing habits and learning how to operate differently, rather than keeping the same habits but trying to replace the materials with “less harmful” ones. That’s in quotes because we often don’t see or know of any of the consequences of what we might perceive to be good.

I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the luxuries we’ve gotten used to. If we’re not aware of them being luxuries, then it will be hard to ever change habits.

In general, I'm excited about the product and packaging innovation that's to come, but that doesn't mean it's not worth being aware of existing habits and behaviours.



3 Responses

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November 09, 2019

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November 09, 2019

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