We’re living in a ‘take, make, waste’ consumerist world and it’s not good. It’s a huge problem for the planet. Which means it’s a problem for all living things, including us oh so intelligent humans.
Our landfills are brimming with stuff that hasn’t been designed or made for a sustainable world. Even our streets, rivers, oceans, soil, the air we breathe are all affected by poor, thoughtless design.
Digging into the earth’s resources to produce badly designed stuff that a tiny percentage of people are profiting massively from, is perhaps the very definition of unsustainable.
Thankfully we have things like the Sustainable Development Goals, B Corps and the ‘Circular Economy’. And the hope that good design will help to get us out the mess.
But it needs to happen fast.
Which needs everyone who can get involved, to get involved.
The day I made a product for my bathroom…
I have a small bathroom. And I wanted something for my shower that wouldn’t always be there, the way a shower curtain and screen always are.
I made a ‘shower blind’. I bought a normal roller blind, a cheap shower curtain which I cut to size and sewed onto the bottom of the roller blind fabric.
I put it onto the ceiling above my bath and rolled the shower curtain fabric down when I was in the shower. When it dried, I would roll the fabric up out of the way.
I then went on to develop the idea and eventually made and sold shower blinds online. I made it using PVC as I *thought* it was better because it was more robust and would last longer.
I was wrong.
Even though the one I used was ‘phthalate free’, I had to find other, nicer materials I could use.
The day I was introduced to ‘nurdles’
It was a typical wet and windy day in the West Coast of Scotland. I travelled by train to Ardrossan Beach where I met up with some people from SAS — Surfers Against Sewage — to do a beach clean.
The leader of that beach clean was a Marine Biology student and she pointed out these tiny plastic pellets that were lying all over the sand. She had a sieve with her which she used to show me them more clearly.
I was shocked.
These tiny plastic pellets, produced by plastics companies were being washed up onto the beach after finding their way into the sea.
I travelled home knowing what I needed to do.
I closed my little online shop and vowed that if I was going to start a business, or sell products, they couldn’t and wouldn’t harm the planet, humans or animals.
The day I started to discover sustainability and the circular economy
This was when I found myself going down rabbit holes on the world wide web.
I discovered sustainability, the circular economy, Cradle to Cradle and the wonders of biomimicry.
I knew I had done the right thing.
The day I realised I was a ‘designer’
I was on an Ellen MacArthur Foundation webinar two weeks ago when I realised I had essentially designed something for my bathroom that solved a problem for me.
Whilst it may not have been a sustainable or circular design, it prevented many shower curtains from going to landfill. So slightly better than what I could have been doing. And it made my bathroom look and feel bigger. Result.
On that webinar, one of the very knowledgeable and respected speakers proposed that;
“design is a profession” and “if we change the system, the patterns will change as well…”
What if ‘design’ wasn’t a just a profession? What if we were all ‘designers’?
What if we all got to design the world instead of ‘consume’ it?
I’m absolutely not trying to detract from the complexity and reality of professionally designing a product — especially for circularity. I have first hand experience and I know exactly what that involves and I don’t have the skills to do it.
We need qualified design professionals to bring ideas to life.
But what I do have is a problem solving mindset. And the ability to think my way to a solution. Most of the time.
Does that make me a ‘designer’ of sorts?
What I’m proposing is…
If we are to change the system and change patterns and change how humans live, do we need to shift from a world that’s overcrowded with ‘consumers’ to a world that’s drenched in ‘designers’?
What if all humans looked at the current world with the mindset of,
“I can’t buy this because it will end up in landfill, how can we fix that?”
That would be ‘designerist’ thinking and not consumerist thinking.
I’m going to leave this article here and write a follow up piece exploring this a bit more because I think it’s an important question for us to deliberate.