Waste, waste, waste, our world is filled with it! It is not hard to believe when you really think about it! How many times do you take our a huge plastic bag filled with food, packaging, paper, foil. chemicals, and whatever else? I know I probably take a trip to the dumpster at least three times a week if not more and thats from just me and a small dog! My waste is just from the consumer side too, Im not producing tons and tons of product using endless amounts of energy, chemicals, water, and extra unusable pieces made in production. Can you just imagine the amount of waste from factories that do not practice any kind of recycling or reusing methods? In the article Sustainable Waste Management Systems by Jeffery K. Seadon he makes a powerful statement about waste saying “Waste is a result of inadequate thinking. The traditional approaches to waste management of ‘flame, flush, or fling’ are outmoded customs which have resulted in an unsutainable society.” I think that Seadon frames this statement perfectly, the methods in which we dispose of things is in a poor manner regarding the well being of our planet and those living on it.
“Whatever is naturally here is all we have. Whatever humans make does not go ‘away’” In the article waste equals food by William McDonough and Michael Braungart the concept of cradle to cradle is constructed. This means that from the beginning of the the design process we could decrease waste by create products with only biodegradable elements so that once a product has reached the period where it is no longer usable or the consumer is done with it, the product could be put back into the earth and help it not harm it with chemicals or such. Cradle to Cradle also means that once and item is in its end stage it could be recycled or reused to become something new essentially making it to where nothing resulting in waste. “To eliminate the concept of waste means to design things- products, packaging, and systems -from the very beginning on the understanding that waste does not exist”. another very well put point in the Waste Equals Food article. As designers, both apparel and interior, if we don't make the concept of waste and option and adopt the values of the cradle to cradle method there will not be any worries of harming the well being of our planet and sustainable design is achieved. How can we as designers go about adopting the cradle to cradle method though?
I think the most important way designers can adopt the cradle to cradle method is by “identifying all the substance contained in the product and how to reuse them, separate them, or return them to their ‘spheres’” as mentioned by Ann Thorpe her book. The Designer’s Atlas of sustainability. This means that if we as designers research and know exactly what makes up our product we can control what it will achieve once the product reaches its final stages of use. Designers have great organizations to reference to like LEED and GOTS which set standards for sustainable methods as far as reuse, recycling, and deigning. These organizations are a great tool for designers and set wonderful high sustainability standards but the problem I see with these is that, from my understanding, they are not mandatory in design. They are an optional standards to use, which for those not concerned about sustainable design don't even have to regard being held to these great standards. If the standards brought on by these organizations could be made mandatory in some shape or form I feel like a design paradigm shift would be universally possible.
For those designers that consciously design which sustainable morals there are ways that we as designers can reuse product that are at their end use for consumers and that we might not have designed ourselves. We can do this with two concepts, recycling and reusing. Recycling is when a product it separated, and or reprocessed at fiber level to make a new product. Unfortunately there is a non ideal type of recycling called down cycling, in which a product is still created new from old recycled products but the value of the new product is less than that of the original. Ann Thorpe points our in her book that sadly this is the main type of recycling that takes place. The positive recycling method is called up cycling. This is when a product is made new with and old recycled product but its new product value is worth the same value or more than the original product. Up cycling is obviously the most ideal type of recycling! As far as the reusing method this is when a product is reused at about the same form as the origingal product. The reused product is not decomposed into the fiber stage in anyway it is simply more modified and cleaned up.
Luckily for us interior designers I think the concept of up cycling thorough reuse is a lot easier to achieve in our field verses the apparel industry. This is because all kinds of home items such as furniture be fixed up through some cleaning supplies, paint, and fabrics. I have personally done this with several pieces in my home. I have turned an old dresser into a unique personalized buffet in my kitchen through some spick and spanning, a few coats of paint, and some new hardware. I also was able to take an old door from a dump site and turn it into a wall tree/mud bench by cleaning, painting, and adding new hardware and an attached shelf. These items that I found were ready to go in a land fill but by using the reuse method I was able to increase their original value though up cycling. My examples are just a few ways other designers, and even consumers in general can accomplish. There are craft sites all over the internet dedicated to up cycling all kinds of products that could other wise be sitting in landfills. Below is a video of how design assistant Julia Black up cycles hidden treasures from thrift shops and old products that could otherwise seem useless by the reuse method.
So in the end the concept that is most important is that the end has no end. With product having no end how can there be waste? If there is no waste how can we be harming our environment? If we aren't harming our environment then we are achieving sustainable design aren't we?