We’ve all heard the reduce, reuse, recycle (3 R’s) back in grade school but the problem still remains. The working theory we have is that it isn’t enough to just have some simple alliteration to keep things from going south, we need a shift. Here are three things you can do today to help reduce waste when you are designing your next brilliant solution:
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Shift your perception.
Let’s let the infographic speak to this one directly, but in synopsis, it is remarkably simple to take a step back from a system and ask why we do things a certain way. Notice that I said “simple”, not “obvious”. We learn to accept the systems as they are. We forget that we are allowed to bend and stretch processes to make them better fit our needs. Using this approach, we can create amazing systems that are exponentially more efficient and it takes nothing more than stopping to ask “why”! Steve Jobs has a great monolog about that idea that can be seen here:
Once you’ve taken to designing with natural materials, it becomes much harder to use the argument for synthetics. A great example of this can be found on Bakey’s website. Not only do they reduce material consumption, they use a material that can be shelf stable in one configuration and then completely decompose in just 4 days! That’s amazing! Lean on truly eco-friendly materials where you can, just be aware of any process costs that might wind up making it more harmful than helpful. Shipping bamboo is a great example of this. If you had to make a sign out of bamboo, but your supplier was 500 miles away, you’d have to have it shipped to you. This fuel expenditure might be overlooked if it was a eco-friendly material. But if I can walk to the plastic supplier to get the same sign made out of acrylic, while it wouldn’t be the most environmentally friendly option, it wouldn’t use a single additional drop of fuel to make it happen. Keep this in mind when sourcing your materials.
Our natural impulse to not repair something is probably one of the most environmentally damaging habits we have. We think to ourselves, “Well, we broke the thing. The new thing is out, so let’s just get that.” The problem with this is that maybe the thing you are replacing could be fixed with a small amount of time and tape or glue. Rushing out to buy the newest thing, while triggering dopamine receptors in our brain feels amazing, isn’t always the most socially or environmentally responsible way to go about solving the problem. I have a challenge for you. The next time you are finding yourself with a broken thing. Take 15 minutes to see if you can research how to repair it versus going out and buying a new one. We shouldn’t be afraid of letting the objects in our lives show age and history. The scratches remind us of their past. We’ve been conditioned to want new always. If you can shift back to being satisfied, you’ll save the world time, money and resources for other purposes.
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