Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 4 posts and responses...

So everyone should be posting for Week Four and should label their post please...


  1. When reading through Cradle to Cradle this week, I came across the section A Culture of Monoculture. In this section, there is a part about agriculture. The book states that agriculture should be a beautiful process, but instead we have turned agriculture into mass production, which has turned it into a terror. I guess to me I have never thought about agriculture and design as they mix. The design that we currently use for most of the goods coming from agriculture clearly is not working. The book explains that with all the pesticides and chemicals being put into the ground, as well as the natural nutrients being stripped from the soil, all we are doing in creating goods that are actually hurting us. Although this is a foreign concept to me, as the book draws it out, it becomes very clear. I understand that perhaps the reason for all of these problems have to do with the idea of mass production of the goods. We need a lot, and we need it now. But instead of helping ourselves, we are instead hurting the small amount of resources we have left.
    The book then went into discussing Product Plus. Again I have never considered this concept. Yes, i knew that bottles of water are bad for the environment because it proves our cradle to grave mindset, but I hadn’t thought about how the bottles were possible hazerdous to myself instead of the earth. The book proposes a good question when it asks why a designer would think to put these nasty chemicals and treatments into everyday objects. It seems to me that the only way we can change is if we try to cut out the bad things being put into everything. This may sound easier than it actually is. Humans all have habits, and habits can be hard to break. Without the option to break these habits though, we will be forced to continue with the threatening ways we have now. To see a change, I feel we must break these habits. That means going against what is easily accessible. In class someone mentioned that until we are “uncomfortable” nothing will ever change. I completely agree with this statement. Unless people realize what they are buying when they buy a product plus, they will continue to buy that product. If the information is out there though, accessible to everybody, perhaps just one person will reach for their reusable water bottle rather than a disposable plastic one.
    Cradle to Cradle also stated how a lot of materials have these pluses that people aren’t aware of because they are cheap materials. Competition amoung products may be the cause of that problem. Becuase companies are trying to stay competitive with other companies they are continually lowering prices of their products. As these prices lower, the quality also must lower if the companies are to make any profit. It’s hard to say what the solution to this problem could be as of course we all want to pay the lowest price for the best quality possible. Maybe legislation should be passed forcing companies to tell their consumers all of the possible risks and matericals put into each product. The question then is would the consumers care enough to make a change, or would they just continue with their normal lives.

  2. I am responding to Adam’s post:
    Your opening comment has me wondering if you might have misread what the authors of ‘Cradle to Cradle’ are saying or if I am the one who is missing a vital point. I don’t believe, as you said, that the authors mean to say that little will be gained from reducing our use of toxins and reducing our rate of natural resource depletion. In fact, they say that “… reduction is a central tenet of eco-efficiency” (54). To be fair, they go on to say that “… reduction… does not halt depletion and destruction – it only slows them down…” (54). Although a significant amount of change can come from new modes of design, I am a firm believer that reduction must be a guiding principle for any environmental and sustainable movement. The natural environment balances itself by taking only what it needs to survive with miraculously little (if any) waste. Our culture (a culture of imbalance in which we take without giving back) is in this current state of crisis precisely because we continue to deplete every natural resource we can find. While environmental design is part of the solution, it is still based on the assumption that we need to create more things (albeit products that will have a positive influence). We need to reduce consumption if we’re really committed to playing by the rules of nature: take what you need and leave the rest. I would love to see the design and manufacture of cars that purify the air and produce clean drinking water (90). If designers can really make these kinds of products, then I support those efforts wholeheartedly. But reducing overall consumption is part of a sustainable approach that requires no invention, just a paradigm shift.

  3. This is in response to Erin Weber's post from week three:
    I agree completely with the opening to your post. The way that the authors of Cradle to Cradle use fear instead of hope in my opinion is going at the general audience the wrong way. I feel like if they didn’t start out there book with such negative attitude, people who are out of the environmental circle would respond to the book more.
    I also agree with the idea of the large screen being beneficial for DePaul, although I don’t necessarily see it as a first priority and that the screen being moved into the student center or somewhere that it would reach more students would be better for the school.

  4. Adam Rosenquist week 4 post:
    When reading ‘Massive Change’, I found it extremely interesting when the idea of density and cities being beneficial for the environment came up, mostly because throughout school I’ve heard how cities have such a negative effect on the environment. The idea to me completely makes sense however in the idea of saving space for nature, in that in a denser city consumption can be shared, as well the ability to walk instead of drive. Michael McDonough says that the enemy is suburban sprawl, which I also agree with. However, I thing that someone who lives in the city compared to a person who lives in the suburbs, may do more as an individual that affects the environment negatively. Though the density is a good thing, I think the fact that there is only ‘artificial nature’ in the city and that people live such fast paced lives that they fail to recognize what impact they may have on the environment. So though cities may be better for the environment, I think that bringing nature to the urban environment, sort of like in the suburbs, would have an impact on how urban people recycle or how ‘green’ they go.
    The reading about waste and the product that can be 100 percent decomposed or reused was the most promising chapter I read. The Model U, a concept car by Ford, that can be entirely reused and instead of becoming waste becomes nutrients for soil, is something that I believe that all manufacturing companies should try to be achieving. Companies like Catherine Grays The Natural Step could be very important in helping companies transition into making these products. I think that with all the new technology and ideas, as well as the crisis we’re facing, it is possible to have multiple major companies transition into more environmentally friendly practices, and hopefully smaller companies will follow in their footsteps.

  5. Week 4 Post

    I did a great deal of thinking about our discussion after Bob Janis spoke regarding the idea of placing people in programs to regulate their consumption, etc. I have very conflicting emotions about this notion. I really do not like the idea of a “big brother” type of society with someone else, who most likely knows nothing about me or my life, setting guidelines for and monitoring my normal daily activities. However, I also feel that this may be the only method possible in order to see effective change in how much is consumed and/or wasted. Because unless people are forced to live a little less comfortable (which I believe it is not actually about comfort, but rather laziness), they will not change their lifestyle. Additionally, many people believe that the smallest changes they could make in their individual life like recycling, using less water, unplugging electronics, walking the mile to school rather than driving, etc., would not make any difference because no one else is making the same changes. Subsequently, we need a collective change in our lifestyle as a society so people can actually observe the positive results thus, would most likely want to continue on with an existence of less impact [on the environment].
    Therefore, I really liked another student’s idea about regulating the consumption of student’s who live in campus housing. It would be easier to manage and supervise than any other housing I can imagine and it would be something student’s would have to agree to before deciding to live in the dorms, so there would not be any legitimate complaints, etc. Also, the students could be provided with the information/statistics on how much of a difference their regulation/moderation was actually making (maybe compared to students at other universities). This would really make an impact, encouraging students to continue this type of lifestyle after they moved out of student housing. Also, it would be beneficial for them to get into these habits and patterns before they move into their own place and have to start paying for all of these utilities themselves (and realize how expensive it is)!

  6. I like the idea and examples of "eco-effectiveness" in Cradle to Cradle. If a product blends function with ecological goals, it should be bettr than products that ignore their impact on the enviroment, or those that try to be a little "less bad" but don't work well or seem lame. His metaphor of changing styles of books in interesting. My bookshelf is full of the traditional style of book that depletes trees, carbon, and is not very biodegradable. I have also seen the more environmentaly friendly style of books on thin paper, with dilluted ink, but which are hard to read. When I get catalogs designed this way, I usually won't even look at them. The Cradle to Cradle book is presented as an eco-effective alternative. It is attractive, easy to read, waterproof. and can be recycled in one step. I did notice, though, that the book is very heavy, and wondered if it costs more to ship (using more fossile fuels) and if people would really like all of their books to be so heavy. They didn't go into electronic books, since this was written a few years ago and Kindles and other types of electronic reading were really available. I am wondering what the rest of you think about this. Are electronic books a good eco-effective design, since they use no paper at all? Or, do they have all of the toxic materials of computers, and would be hard to recycle?

    I was also interested in the section on planning growth so that it occurs in a healthy way. I thought it was interesting that they mentioned Mayor Daley's rooftop garden on City Hall, and a movement to build more rooftop gardens. It made me think of the Chicago bid to have the 2016 Olympics. This would obviously require huge growth in a number of ways, including adding buildings, more traffic in neighborhoods, etc. I saw an ecological comparison (today's Chicago Trib)of the the 4 cities trying to get the Olympics, and had some reactions. First, I think it is good that the impact on the enviroment is being considered. This might not have been an issue in the past. I wondered if the figures could really be accurate, and how they could be compared. For example, Chicago promised that all electricity would come from renewable resouces. How do we know this would really happen? Tokyo would build 2,500 acres of green space. Tokyo would also have the marathon runners wear green shoelaces for green awareness. Green awareness is important, but should shoelaces be on the same list as things like renewable energy? I would really like to hear everyone's opinion of the Olympics in Chicago, especially the environmental impact.

  7. After listening to the three great speakers we have had in the last two weeks, I felt it appropriate to comment on some of the things that have been most influential in the way that I approach sustainability and design. After reading the glass architecture article and listening to professor Millan speak I decided to take her suggestion and go experience the Garfield Park Conservatory for myself. The entrance of the conservatory is somewhat interesting, I was not immediately blown away by the vastness or the overwhelming smell and look of the conservatory, but more so by the thoughts it invoked. I had a very strange sense of calming that often happens when I escape the city, yet none of the anxieties of leaving home, it made me wondering if this was possible in my everyday life. This seemed to stand out to me as the largest issue between the urban environment that we live in, and my own disconnect from nature. While Chicago is green, and has many parks, it still does not take full advantage of the resources provided by outdoor spaces and gathering places. The passage highlighted by professor Millan, regarding architecture and culture being one in the same, struck home with me. When looking at the urban planning of Chicago the city is undoubtedly beautifully designed, but there are no places which foster community gathering from all sources of the city. In light of this the lake does a great job of naturally bringing people together in the summer time, but there are no structures or community pieces that bring the lake, culture, and design together. It seems as though it would be an optimal place to take advantage of high traffic and beautiful scenery to build more awareness regarding environmental design and sustainable living.

    The other thing that struck me about our speakers is the way in which DePaul operates as an institution. The school seems to have a highly involved hierarchical structure that is inflexible and resistant to change. The most shocking comment made last week was that of the annual spending on “greening” of the campus. Only two thirds of the money spent towards environmental sustainability in the last year has come from administration that makes $500,000 of the $350 Million that currently exists in our endowment. It seems as though the students and faculty have made a push for more allocation towards green spending, yet the institution has pushed back. The question is whether DePaul is a for profit company or a non-profit education institution. I feel as though doubling enrollment since I have been a freshman, cutting student housing, and raising tuition all point to former.

  8. During the last few minutes of class on Tuesday we touched upon a very important question: What is comfort? This question is quite similar to another I’ve been wondering for quite some time: What is quality of life? The answers to these questions are not universal which is what makes them so frustrating… and so delicious to contemplate. On the surface we have the obvious material markers (such as having adequate food and shelter) along with some easy to recognize emotional indicators (such as being happy and feeling safe). Of course defining “adequate” and “happy” is where things, once again, become vague and confusing. McDonough and Braungart remark that “for many of us used to a culture of control, nature in its untamed state is neither a familiar nor a welcoming place” (85). Essentially they are saying that our culture does not equate nature with comfort or quality of life. You must be thinking “wait a minute- quality of life is breathing fresh air, a walk in the forest and a swim in the ocean”. I’m not saying that we don’t like all of those things, but we like our nature on the side, not in and around us directly. The idea of living in a truly natural environment terrifies most people because we have been raised in a culture that sees nature as an enemy to either destroy or dominate. While we dreamily associate a high quality of life with the ability to “get out in nature”, few of us would say that comfort is living in a tent, sleeping on the ground, in close proximity to hyenas. As long as we can control nature (by keeping it separate from ourselves), we are happy to keep it around. It is this kind of thinking that has prevented a viable sustainable movement. I suggest that what we need in addition to products that are designed to help the earth maintain it’s natural balance, is a redefining of comfort and quality of life. While we all agree that we could use less “stuff”, there has been a dearth of conversation regarding the definition of “stuff”. In class we touched on how difficult it is to even regulate the temperature in a building because people complain about not being comfortable. For instance, if buildings were designed to only allow for a temperature that was copacetic with the surrounding environment, perhaps we would start to understand our role in nature. I believe this was the point of the bio-dome that was not heated or cooled, and yet it was always warm enough and cold enough. It’s time to stop defining comfort in terms of what people need and begin seeing what works for the world.

  9. we are looking at a lot of cool photography regarding consumption in my Environmental Philosophy class. I am sure many of you have heard of Chris Jordan (especially if your a Colbert fan) so I thought I would suggest checking his website out