The S Word - Sustainability
A lot has been spoken about the subject of sustainability over recent years. I didn’t realise it at the time but as the 1972 Osmond’s recording ‘Crazy Horses’ mesmerised me with its screeching guitars and strange lyrics I was being co-opted into a debate on the environment and sustainability that would still be going on some 46 years later. With the exception of some prominent and powerful naysayers the debate is more or less closed. To put it simply, waste caused by packaging, disposable or short life products is bad because they are damaging the planet and recycling, sustainable materials and durability is good.
The challenge for designers can often be finding enough of the right kind of project. Until recently sustainable design was, to use the economic term, a positive externality. Sustainable design was perceived to be a cost which benefited a third party only. Unfortunately for humanity these kinds of products or designs tend to be adopted at a pace which is slower than society might really need. It’s someone else’s problem, someone else will pay. As a studio we have been working with and educating our clients and prospects on not only the benefits of the sustainable but options for “designed in” solutions for many years.
What has forced change in the market however is legislation. Policy makers pushing the principle of, ‘the polluter pays’, have had a massive impact and now make it easier, or essential, for us to promote sustainable designs to our clients. One great example is the WEEE directive which has helped us push our designs within the electronics market. The requirement for electronics manufactures to dispose or pay for the disposal of electronic waste has driven developments in the market for laptop and mobile phone charging. This change has helped accelerate the market for the charging products we have been creating with Aircharge for instance.
In our opinion sustainability should be is a requirement and not a choice, and when there is a cost associated with not adopting a sustainable route that makes our job a lot clearer. The studio is now designing for clients with clearer and more palatable attitudes to sustainable solutions than ever. We make ‘good’ choices which relate directly to materials, usage, transportation, reuse and disassembly and recycling. It’s a much better world to be designing into than it has ever been.
On a micro level, we work hard in the studio to minimise waste in our own practice. We reuse materials during prototype manufacture. We create virtual models to assess before making. When prototyping we are happy to get into the workshop and rework, reshape and tweak rather than chuck in the bin. Most of us cycle to work on a daily basis and we have even started experimenting with our waste coffee. With these little choices and the introduction of sustainable design in the manufacturing process we see just how important designers are in forming a sustainable solution.