Designing great experiences need not be at the cost of the environment, and with sustainability now an everyday topic, it is important to apply sustainability to design. That is for your designed experience to not just look good or feel good, but to be good.
Sustainable design is becoming part of our everyday life and as we move toward a more environmentally conscious mindset, changes are being made whether we are part of the shift or not. The U.S. General Services Administration has established environmental management goals and updated sustainable design principles. Closer to home, we have The Centre for Sustainable Design (CfSD) sharing and contributing towards the expertise of sustainable innovation and product sustainability. The Centre does research, develops, and disseminates understanding of present and future sustainability impacts and solutions related to innovation, products, technologies, services, and systems through projects, training, events, networks, and information.
In our previous blog post, we discussed ethical design , and as important as ethics may be, we believe that in upholding the respect and rights of people, so too should we apply similar importance to the rights and responsibilities of our environment. That is where sustainability in design comes in.
Sustainability begins with products, both big and small. By ensuring that products are sustainably sourced should form the bedrock of an organisation. And whilst it is a true obstacle course in making sure that your company is completely sustainable, taking small steps can lead to giant leaps over time.
The exact lifecycle of a product can be masked in red tape, fine print, and gory details and it, in many instances, takes great sleuthing abilities to fully track the production, transport, and people behind the products you’re sourcing.
There are a variety of organisations dedicated to sustainable production. For instance, Blue Patch has a directory service to assist designers, and the public at large, in finding sustainable products.
Steady year-on-year growth of over 50% has increased rapidly since the advent of the global pandemic. And as we look at the data, trends are appearing by ESI Africa.
And whilst it may seem costly at first, to ensure that our sourced products are sustainable, especially for start-up design studios, it becomes highly profitable in the long run. McKinsey has released a detailed study encompassing insights into the profitability of sustainability.
“The sweetness of a cheap price is long forgotten following the bitterness of poor quality.”
Sustainability should, by all definitions, include quality. In our industry, products should be long-lasting, durable, easy-to-repair, and most importantly, beautiful. Products that are cheap today will undoubtedly become costly in the future.
To put this in context, if we find a desk at a bargain today for £20, we will be keen to make the purchase. However, at that price, we can safely estimate that it will not last for over two years – due to cheaper quality of product, cheaper labour, etc. Our nature is such that if this desk breaks, rather than inconveniencing ourselves to repair this desk, we will then venture out to buy a new one. And if we do the math, at £20 every two years, over twenty years, we will spend an average of £200 on that desk – this is without considering inflation rates, changes in the production and supply chain or even the prolonged ‘bargain’ price as the promotion is sure to end.
In the same breath, by spending £150 on a quality product, of which you are certain will last at least twenty years with only minor maintenance, then you have saved upwards of £50 without us even considering the additional savings from interest, inflation, and so forth.
In this example, the best desk is precisely the one produced in smaller quantities, by an expert craftsman, with top quality and perhaps even recycled materials. Of course, the initial cost will be higher, but it will be the desk of legacy, one that will be passed down from one generation to the next.
Consider not just cost, but waste as well. Several desks, broken, discarded, unused add to our already overfull dumpsites. One desk, other than withstanding the onslaught of time, prevents such a landmass problem. And while this may seem small, combined efforts can reduce mountainous negative impact upon our environment.
Sustainability may seem pricey. It may even be more expensive initially, but the rewards that follow, whether it be in the form of financial profit, peace of mind, or generational legacies are priceless.
We have, ingrained in all of us, a desire for great bargains, cheap products, quick rewards – and whilst the marketing world has done its job well on our psychology, it is up to us to continuously remind ourselves about the future.
Sustainability is fast becoming an industry standard, whether we like it or not. In a few years, we might revisit this blog post and smile to ourselves at how much the world has changed and be glad that we were part of that change.
As the world moves towards environmental consciousness, with everyone’s focus on sustainability, in a few years, everything will be sustainable. However, the onus is on us to not stop there and to do more, to be more.
It isn’t enough to just consider the environment through our products, but to relook and evaluate the type of world we are currently living in and the type of world that we want to experience. We will explore more avenues of consideration in our future blog posts as we continue our learning journey.
The fact that you are here, now, in many ways speaks of your interest in our goals. Reach out, even if it be via a simple message on LinkedIn. Together, we can make a difference.