Has anyone ever heard of "Cradle To Cradle"? It's a book written by architect, William McDonough, and German chemist, Michael Braungart, about rethinking (and ultimately remaking) the things we make. They're calling for a drastic transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design. In this book, McDonough and Braungart make the case that "an industrial system that takes, makes, and wastes can become a creator of goods and services that generate ecological, social and economic value." Essentially, the way we've been making things for the past however many years has yielded extreme consequences to our environment. They urge that we must to get back to a model that resembles the rain cycle; when products can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality -- "cradle to cradle" cycles. And in order to do this there must be a juncture between science, technology, and art (design).
Building green has historically been perceived as more expensive and less profitable for developers. However, the opposite is true. While on the front-end these procedures are typically more expensive, if you can ultimately build a high-performing structure that saves the owner money over time, while also being better for the environment and for the people using the building, it's a no-brainer. Likewise, it's also a no-brainer for me to start thinking about graphic design in that way as well. Like Sarah Even stated in a recent post, "When it comes to distribution and my personal feelings about design I really wish there was a way to make it cheap, eco-friendly, AND beautiful." Well, if there's a will, there's a way, right?
As I said before, I think it's all about the intersection of science, technology, and art (design). Being a huge supporter of sustainable design, I think it's our job to work with others in order to find a better way to go about doing things. A great example of this is the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. In this competition, multidisciplinary teams of undergraduate students from all over the world come together to dabble in scientific exploration of synthetic biology concepts with an eye toward real world applications. According to the iGEM site, "student teams are given a kit of biological parts meted out from an official Registry of Standard Biological Parts which they use as components to specify, design, build and test simple biological systems." Participants then present their findings to a selected panel of judges.
The 2009 Jamboree took place at MIT and the Grand Prize winner was the Cambridge team for their work on "sensitivity tuners and color-generating devices that can detect and measure levels of contaminants in the environment". The simple sensing mechanism created by the Cambridge iGEM team came about as a result of multidisciplinary thinking at the juncture of science, technology, and art. Their discovery has the potential to change the lives of tens of thousands of people living in remote areas of developing countries where pollution looms as an increasingly significant threat.
These are exactly the types of projects we all need to take initiative from. Projects in which we work and build relationships with experts in areas other than design; projects where we make products that can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality; and projects that help the greater good, ultimately making our world a better place to live.