Chapter 7. Sustainable

Reduce environmental impact

CONCERNS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY ARE PREVALENT IN MODERN SOCIETY, intertwining problems from various areas of the public sphere including health, social justice, and the natural environment. There are many definitions of what it means to be sustainable, but perhaps the most straightforward is the idea that we should avoid doing things that make the world worse tomorrow than it is today.[247] Unfortunately, due to the interwoven complexity of human problems, and individual agency of the various stakeholders involved, there’s no obvious or definite way to achieve this simple prescription.

In this chapter, we will focus primarily on ecological sustainability and how designers can have a positive, or at least less harmful, effect on the environment. We now live in what scientists refer to as the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch that signifies the time period in which Earth’s ecosystems have been significantly impacted by human activity. The beginning of the Anthropocene is often pegged to the first Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, when mass production and rapid technological expansion led to increased pollution and waste, and soaring population growth. In many ways, design has been complicit in the environmental damage of the last century, working hand in hand with business to create novel and innovative products that made life better in the short term but failed to consider the long-term future of humanity. Designers often think ...

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