Few professions have borne more responsibility for both harming and bolstering the cause of environmental sustainability than designers.
When ever you see a horrendously environmentally damaging piece of landfill tat you know a designer has had a key role in its development, just as when ever you find an energy-efficient, biodegradable, recyclable, easy to maintain device you know it is the designer's ingenuity that has made such a sustainable product possible.
So what can designers do to ensure their blueprints always deliver the green products or buildings that are increasingly in demand?
Well, Allan Chochinov over at design news website Core77 has a few pointers in the form of a 1,000 word sustainable design manifesto.
The ten point plan sets out the guiding principles that Chochinov believes the design sector needs to follow if it is to ever "stop making crap" and break the cycle of unsustainable products.
In particular, he calls for a return to screws rather than glues, arguing that not only will this make it easier for people to fix and repurpose products but also give consumers a better appreciation of how green products.
He contends that concealing a product's workings in "a solid state prison" results in "people fundamentally not understanding the workings of their built artifacts and environments, and, more importantly, not understanding the role and impact that those built artifacts and environments have on the world. In the same way that we can't expect people to understand the benefits of a water filter when they can't see the gunk inside it, we can't expect people to sympathize with greener products if they can't appreciate the consequences of any products at all".
Similarly, he laments many industries' penchant for over design - noting that we "don't need a battery-powered pooper scooper to pick up dog poop" - and also urges designers to embrace environmental metrics, insisting that "if you've determined that it may be impossible to quantify the consequences of a material or process or assembly in a design you're considering, maybe it's not such a good material or process or assembly to begin with".
You can find the rest of the manifesto here.
It may not be the most comprehensive set of sustainable design guidelines but it certainly sets out some of the key principles that should be guiding design projects at environmentally responsible companies. And if they don't suit your sector drawing up your own sustainable design manifesto or guidelines is bound to be a worthwhile exercise.
In the meantime it is pretty depressing to look at some of the products around you and try and work out how many simply wouldn't have got made if even one or two of Chochinov's basic tenets were applied. Personally I'm looking at a massive paper clip and wondering who on earth the designer was and if there is any way I could email them the manifesto.
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