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Is Sustainability a Sacrifice?

February 22, 2010

I am currently taking a materials and sustainability course at Georgia Tech. Last week we had a discussion about whether or not sustainability is a sacrifice. For example — does sustainability sacrifice creativity and design?

I was surprised that many students thought that sustainability DOES compromise the design process. Without naming names, one student said negatively affecting the environment (with new product and mass-manufacturing) was justified because it meant we were evolving technologies and intellectually growing as a society. My answer — If we are evolved and intellectual, why can’t we think of ways to still move forward as a society without destroying the very planet we live on. Anyways, I feel the exact opposite. I hope all designers do — designing for sustainability is definitely a challenge, but it in no way should stifle the advancement of ideas and innovations — instead, sustainability might lead us down a new path.

I can understand why people feel like living sustainably means reverting back to primitive ways when technology and mass production did not exist. Yes, that was one period of time where people lived more sustainably. Reducing our consumption and production of products is one way to live more sustainably — but what if we just consumed biodegradable products or produced products with wind powered factories. You don’t have to be “green” and cynical!

I have so much faith in future designers/engineers/architects/visionaries. I know that if we are optimistic and keep our creative and innovative juices flowing that we won’t have to sacrifice the norms of our current society to be green. We will think up ways to live sustainably AND advance technology — those two realms are so closely interconnected to me. I just hope that future designers are up to the challenge! Because my class last week got me feeling pretty pessimistic.

If future designers are not optimistic, then how will they affect future consumers?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. tobeanova permalink
    February 22, 2010 22:58

    krystal – i totally agree! it is not a matter of sacrifice, it is a matter of creativity. it is a crazy difficult problem to solve, but that should only discourage people who are not willing to think beyond what has already been done. Guilt shouldn’t drive people backwards, it should propel us forward…

  2. Andy permalink
    February 24, 2010 04:04

    It seems like individuals with the attitude that designing sustainably inherently requires a reduction in design quality are simply unwilling to step up to the challenge that designing sustainably entails. Sure, it’s easier to design something without thinking about the long list of factors that contribute to making a product/building/whatever sustainable, but like Krystal I have faith that there are really good designers out there who are up to the challenge. It’s happening right now; google search ‘sustainability without sacrificing design’ and you get nearly 7 million hits.

  3. Farzee permalink
    March 2, 2010 13:25

    Negative feed back just makes me think of all the inventors who walked this path without giving up and later was so appreciated; just because us humans do not adopt to changes without emotionally doing battle within ourselves and come to the conclusion that it is more of a yes but still a struggle to accept what we can’t see as helping ourself and the planet in a huge way.
    You go girl!

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