Sustainable design, be it fashion, home décor, packaging, electronics or anything else, has many guises. There is the unapologetically crunchy: the steampunk-esque hacked tech, upcycled furniture or refashioned clothes that wear their hearts on their sleeves. Then there is efficient design: gadgets that are streamlined to be transported more easily or to have a longer battery life, multipurpose furniture or harder-working clothes. There is also simply transposing ‘traditional’ materials or supply chains for those using renewable or recycled materials, with no-one being able to tell the difference.
Then there is the designer’s design: produced ethically and with a clear environmental or social message, and, importantly, boasting a striking visual aesthetic. Think Anya Hindmarch’s ‘I’m Not a Plastic Bag’ (described by the BBC in 2007 as ‘the must-have bag of the season [that] costs a fiver’) or Katherine Hamnett’s slogan T-shirts (most recently calling to ‘Save the Bees – Sack Paterson’).
Swedish fashion brand Uniforms for the Dedicated has recently joined this club with its Rag Bag, a strong biodegradable plastic carrier bag that carries the message ‘Buy Something New’ on one side and, when turned inside out, ‘Donate Something Old’, with the purpose of encouraging shoppers to donate an old garment for every new item they buy. The bag is pre-addressed and postage pre-paid, making it as easy as possible for consumers to divert both old clothes and carrier bags from landfill. With a bold monochrome design reminiscent of Katherine Hamnett’s tees, there’s no hint of hippyishness but its environmental message is strong.
Another design house, Hu2 Design, was founded by designer Antoine Tesquier, because he wanted to “create a sustainable brand that promoted ‘better living’ through protection of the environment”, explains Hu2 Design’s community manager Jackie Attwood, who adds that prior to Hu2 Design’s birth, Tesquier had once floated down a river in London dressed as polar bear to raise awareness for climate change. “In light of this, it was pretty natural when he started the brand that his art and designs were innovative and sustainable eco-products, that have messages that inspired positive changes for our planet,” she notes.
Among ethically produced typographic wall decals, art prints and T-shirts – with more fashion on the way – are light switch stickers designed to encourage people to turn off the light as they leave a room. The eco-reminders feature clear visual messages, including CO2-emitting power stations, polar bears balanced on melting ice caps and convoluted hamster wheels, to remind users of how much goes into the flicking of a switch. The products are aimed specifically university students and staff, with Hu2 Design partnering with USA-based Green Impact Campaign, a non-profit that brings student volunteers and small businesses together to reduce carbon emissions, on the project.
“We targeted universities, as we thought it would be an amazing place to provide eco-reminders. If these students begin to think about the environment and CO2 naturally in everyday life, they will as they start their future teaching and their businesses,” explains Attwood.
“This is also a place where they meet the older generations, the experts and scientists, that have probably seen climate change happen. Together the two can create the sustainable solutions for problems that affect us all; not just see it as something that is happening, but aim to resolve it too.
“The younger age group also have the power to influence and inspire each other quickly around the world – they’re the social media generation. They respond well to eco-reminders – it’s not a textbook or a lecture, it’s just a picture that just makes you think ‘Oh yeah!’ *flick*.”
The idea of ‘just a picture’ spreading a socially conscious message is key for Do the Green Thing, with the motto ‘Creativity v Climate Change’. In addition to films and podcasts, the organisation invites designers, illustrators, artists and photographers to submit a design for a weekly poster release, sold to raise funds for Do the Green Thing. Using aesthetics to promote environmental causes such as eating less meat and taking fewer flights, the posters are intended to be framed and displayed.
So can design change the world? According to Antoine Tesquier: “Design can certainly help us to reach a better level of comfort, but it is people who change the world. Now, can design change people’s mind?”
Milton Gleser, designer of the iconic ‘I ♥ NY’ logo, hopes so. He has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of climate change using a simple green and black badge design and the message ‘It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying.’ The slogan has been criticised – largely because it is the human race, rather than the planet, that is in grave danger from climate change – but the simplicity of the design itself has generally been praised. Time will tell if it will change people’s minds in the same way that New York won people’s hearts.
Morwenna Kearns is a freelance writer, online editor and PR and social media manager for businesses and organisations running the sustainability and ethical gamut, from fashion to food to filmmaking. She also works within the visual communications sector. Morwenna can be found tweeting as @morwennakearns, blogging about ethical fashion and beauty at GreenGlitter.co.uk and editing environmental business news at SustainableReview.net.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.
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