Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sustainability: Designing Cradle to Cradle

I should take a moment to promote TEDTalks. TED holds conferences every year with diverse talks in many subjects from the world’s great thinkers.

This week, I stumbled upon the following video. I believe it is definitely worth 20 min. of your time.

The presenter, architect and designer William McDonough, with a deadpan sense of humor, raises several interesting points about sustainability and society’s current and future design philosophy. The talk covers several areas of sustainability, so I will highlight the ones I found meaningfully.

McDonough first states that, “design is the first signal of human intentions”. Just look at the products our species designs and gain great insight into our intentions, much like archaeologists study artifacts to understand ancient people. He points to the example of a child’s toy made from plastic with the warning “contains chemicals known…to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.”

I found the simple example quite profound. Why have we come to accept serious threats to the perpetuation of our species, through global warming, pollution, and toxic consumer goods?

He also describes a project where he took over 9000 chemicals used in plastics manufacturing and narrowed them down to a list one that are safe and recyclable. This allows for recyclable shoes, carpet, and automobiles. Some of McDonough’s architecture projects include green roofs for Ford, and sustainable villages in China.

I will conclude with a powerful quote from his talk, which sums up sustainable design,
“Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world, with clean air, water, soil and power—economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed.”

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

My one comment on McDonough is that he thinks the population can increase almost indefinitely and I don't remember the book playing up diversity of solutions very much.