The 2009 O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference had a strong sustainability theme this year. One of my favorite prognosticators, Worldchanging Executive Editor Alex Steffen keynoted last Tuesday with some simple and clear rules for the future of sustainable design.
Background: About half the population of the planet is under 35, with most of them live in the developing world. They are looking at how we the affluent live as a model to emulate. (!) We know that if everyone lived like the average American, we would need 5-6 planets to sustain us all. It isn’t really fair to ask them not to do the things we do so….. we gotta look at how we make and consume things very closely if we don’t want to par-boil the planet.
Steffen suggests we lead by example following a few sensible rules for the design, production and lifecycle of the things we consume.
From Inhabitat, products should be designed to be:
We need to have more transparency in all aspects of our society. This means holding not just our elected officials and corporations accountable, but also holding one another accountable. Alex called for greater product transparency (where are things made, by whom, using what materials?) and touched upon the surging field of water and power monitors as encouraging people to consume less resources. If people know more about the products and services they consume, then they will make more sustainable choices.
We need to develop smarter systems that cut down on “stupid waste” and change the way things work. Smart solutions include establishing a price on CO2, installing smart grids and electric vehicle infrastructure, and pay-as-you go car insurance.
Dense and well designed communities are the singe best investment that we can make in the US. If our communities are more compact we’ll save money and materials that would have been spent on roads, buildings and power lines, drive less, and have more time to spend with our families and friends.
Rather than treating natural flows as problems we should use them to improve our lives. Instead of investing in mechanical air conditioning and ventilation, we should design passive houses that work with the sun’s cycles. Other solutions include rainwater harvesting, lunar resonant streetlights, and biomass energy generation.
Products should be designed to last and be easily repaired, tools and other goods should be shared, and we should follow cradle-to-cradle design principles such as design for disassembly and product lifecycles that continue past their initial form.
We need to re-consider and re-make what real happiness is, be more contemplative of obligations that go beyond ourselves, and get better at sharing innovations across borders.
More at: Inhabitat