Returnability (reusability) | Personal | Lisa Hocraffer

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Reuse is a personal decision, but one that affects all of society. Consumers have to be willing to work harder and spend more to purchase products that last longer. Most people who do not use reusable products or recycle don't do this because it is inconvenient (Schiller, 2010). To change this cycle, designers and manufacturers need to give consumers the facts by creating commercials, advertisements, and point-of-purchase displays that demonstrate the annual personal savings from using reusable items. This campaign could also describe the average annual waste from specific non-reusable items per consumer. As designers, we need to motivate people to use sustainable practices. We need to make reuse personal to consumers. That is the only way to make a permanent change. As designers we need to hold ourselves personally accountable for the projects we work on and the designs we make.3-plastic-cup-earrings.jpg

        As a society, we need to make reusability easier. One way of doing this is by expanding local reuse programs. College campuses are particularly suited to broader reusability programs. Every year around move in and move out there are staggering amounts of useable furniture, appliances, and school supplies that are thrown away, abandoned, or left to be ruined in the rain. A little known reusability program at the U of M works to solve this problem. MIMO, the Como-area free store, operates during the months surrounding the start of fall and the end of spring semester. MIMO takes in furnishings, keeping them safe from the elements, and provides a place for students to come and get furnishings for free. MIMO builds on the idea of thrift stores and second-hand boutiques, which are another great option for reusing items.

         Thrift stores and second-hand boutiques provide an affordable way to practice 4-shirt.jpgreusability and still have new things, or at least things that are new to you. The popularity of vintage clothing has made thrift stores a trendy place to shop. This image shift is making reuse fashionable and sustainable. Concepts like this make reusability an issue people can get on embrace.

         Some designers have made themselves personally responsible for combining reusability and fashion, bringing this topic into focus for consumers and adding credibility to reuse. Elizabeth Seward works to bring reusability into fashion by writing Do-It-Yourself directions for the website. Some examples of her ideas include making earrings from plastic cups, jazz up an old shirt, or make lip gloss from beets. Reusability doesn't have to be hard, which is why designers need to make it a personal goal to do to make sustainability more reachable.2-lipgloss-319.jpg
         Reuse--personal yes, but key to helping to prudently use the world's resources. As designers, we have the opportunity to serve as leaders in helping make the world a better place through reuse by helping consumers make that personal decision.

Works Cited

The Como green village. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Schiller, Ashley. (2010). Why people don't recycle. Retrieved from

Seward, Elizabeth. (2009, June 26). Diy tinted beet lip gloss [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Seward, Elizabeth. (2009, June 30). Make your own t-shirt: empire waist with a personal touch [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Seward, Elizabeth. (2009, July 1). Reuse those plastic cups as earrings [Web log message]. Retrieved from

1 Comment

I think reuse can also be encouraged on the commercial side. I've heard the claim that most recycling (except aluminum can recycling) is actually less efficient than just producing new corresponding materials. For businesses trying to maintain a bottom line, it often wouldn't make sense to pay more for the recycled materials unless they can convince consumers to foot the extra cost. However, as designers we can affect the way various materials are reused. For example, milk jugs are actually not "recycled" in the strictest sense of the word — they are considered unsafe for reuse in food products. As a result, the plastic material ends up being downcycled into various objects, such as children's toys. Yet they could be upcycled and used in high-end merchandise such as (insert your idea here). Being used in upscale products would mean higher margins that would allow for manufacturers to use the more expensive recycled material. And maybe the thought of using milk jugs in upscale merchandise is a bit bizarre, but perhaps the reason for that is simply that designers have not experimented enough with the material to endow it with any sort of appeal.

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This page contains a single entry by Lisa Hocraffer published on November 8, 2010 10:59 AM.

Convenience - Personal Agenda - Manon Ibes was the previous entry in this blog.

Distribution -- Social Agenda -- Sarah Even is the next entry in this blog.

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