Illustration: The Magazine of Yoga
Green Eyed Monster
We can build products with inherent sustainability. Making people feel bad about themselves is a bad strategy short or long term.
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
Conversation: Ruth Farmer
Practices: Tiffany Beard, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Bridgette P. La Victoire, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Joanna Tebbs Young, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Eric Dalke, Goddard College IMA scholar
Practices: Sed Dickerson, Goddard College IMA scholar
Website: Goddard’s IMA Worlds of Change Blog
Earlier this year we had a powerful Conversation about progressive education with Ruth Farmer of Goddard College. Ruth, a co founder of the BFA Creative Writing Program at Goddard, is currently Program Director for the Individualized Masters Degree.
In February, we followed up with Ruth during the winter residency of the IMA program and met graduate students working on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary theses for which they are developing methodologies. They shared their inspiration for their work and described the communities where they are bringing their expertise.
Sustainable by design
Susan Maier-Moul Josh, you told me a great story about your thought process! You were saying that you noticed some things are green even though they are not so-called “green products”?
Josh Pollock Most “green” products are a tough sale, they are often more expensive, less effective or hard to use. To sell them there is generally some sort of guilt involved, the implication (true or not) that if you don’t buy the one in the green box you are destroying the planet.
There are plenty of products out there that are not marketed as being “green” but they use less energy than what they replace.
For instance cooking food in a microwave generally saves energy over using a stove. No one bought a microwave to save the planet, they bought it because of how fast it makes food hot.
I think this an important distinction in design to consider. The environmental movement spends so much time trying to educate people about things that may not be what they are interested in.
I think climatology and life-cycle analysis are fascinating, but people like me need to keep in mind that most people don’t find those things all that interesting.
How can we motivate people to want to make more sustainable choices without making them feel bad about themselves? That requires an entirely different approach, one that is a lot harder to find, but making people feel bad about themselves is a bad strategy short or long term.
More than just sustainable. Better.
Susan So your thesis is that “green” doesn’t have to come with the trappings of “green” – that maybe the change we need is to get on with products that have green matter-of-factly built in. You’re proposing the technology already exists to make greener products – to design sustainable from the ground up.
Josh In the long term, we need radical change to curb green house gas emissions, so “green” can’t be a separate category of things, we just need better things. We need a lot of new products that are more than just more sustainable, they have to be better.
To me the way to design for sustainability is to focus on why the practice of using some sustainable products works for people and with others there is such friction. Sometimes it is bad product design, but often it is wrapped up in larger issues. I’m trying to understand what defines and changes the patterns of how we use the things around us.
Susan I shared Lisa Gansky‘s meshing.it with you because I find Lisa’s cultural value proposition – that the future of business is sharing – incredibly visionary. It strikes me as relevant to what you’re trying to instigate. Did you find anything there that might be useful or helpful?
Josh I did find it helpful, this new sharing movement is important, not just because it can reduce the amount of things we consume, but because of the way it can bring like minded people together.
As I tried to explain before, people like me, those who want to do this kind of work, we often assume everyone thinks like we do and that is dangerously narrow minded.
Starting a dialogue
Josh (continuing) So with my research, in order to avoid being limited by my own bias, I hope to involve others in my research, to draw from their points of view.
When you read about participatory design there is a debate about whether or not involving consumers in design will lead to more sustainable designs. I don’t actually care so much about the answer to that question, I’m more interested in why people are proposing sustainable or not sustainable.
What I hope to do, and I must say I am just getting started, is to start a dialogue about why these things work or don’t work for people. I’m hoping to start a website and face to face interactions that aren’t about climate change science, or guilt tripping or what not,
but are about identifying things that work and brainstorming strategies to increase participation in niche practices.
I think the internet, through concepts like “crowd sourcing” could literally make us smarter by allowing us to work together and form a unit smarter then any of our individual intelligences could ever be acting alone.
We are not going to drastically cut emissions by changing a few things using old methods, we need new ways of doing things first and I think crowd sourcing could be a great one of those new methods, so I’m looking to design some innovative framework for brainstorming and discussion.
I’m not sure yet what form that will take, but of course I would like to hear from people. I will soon be starting a new blog on this and other subjects at www.ComplexWaveform.com and I hope others will be willing to discuss this further there.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.