Is the World Really Changing? A Horoscope for World Sustainability
A revised and updated copy of the owner’s manual for the world in the 21st century, WORLDCHANGING, is on my nightstand. Daily I read some new, thought-provoking wisdom, encapsulated by innovative thinkers into quick-read tidbits. Solutions, tools and ideas rise from the pages, eliciting hope for those of us who realize that we have been part the world's environmental problems, but have the will, and ability, to change. In it, you will find an updated “world horoscope” as it relates to people, places and things. You will journey through the latest ideas of independent journalists, designers and thinkers as they describe some of the best visionary ideas for our future on this planet and get a sampling of successes.
The following are a few examples of the great things happening:
1. The Tool Library is alive and well in Portland, Oregon (ranked as the greenest city in America this year), where 3,000 people check out over 1,000 tools available at their three locations. Instead of walking the aisles at Home Depot, anxious to add yet another seldom-used power tool to your growing stash, you can simply go to the Tool Library and they will loan you the tool at no cost! This not only saves you cash and storage space, but also provides a place to donate tools you no longer use. Sharing versus owning is becoming more prevalent, saving time, money and space.
2. Backstories helps trace the source of our goods or services – where they came from, how they were made, what they are made of, how they got here, and who was involved in delivering them to us. Consider a typical laptop computer. According to Sourcemap, its 49 components come from over 20 countries, traveling over 221,000 miles, with a carbon footprint of over 3,300 pounds! Add to this the problem of what happens to laptops at the end of their life, and disturbing visions of little kids stripping components on a junk pile come to mind. The kind of product mapping Sourcemap does may help consumers make better-informed choices to support companies that are trying to lessen their environmental impact.
Similarly, New Zealand’s outdoor clothing company, Icebreaker, has a program called Baacode that gives information about its products' origins. Each garment is tagged with a code which you can enter on their website to learn about the farmers who tend the sheep, the living conditions of the animal that produced the wool, and step by step production. This kind of tool can help companies have transparency in everything from quality to social justice to animal rights.
3. Smarter design from the beginning is the mantra for the Cradle to Cradle philosophy. As we are reminded of in WORLDCHANGING, most of a product’s ecological impact is determined at the design stage. As a macro understanding of innovative design unfolds over multiple pages, we develop a better appreciation for the fact that sustainable design encompasses a multi-faceted approach – design based on adaptability to specific needs, design for durability- yet also for deconstruction- and targeted, collaborative design between the designers and the people who need the products. Fascinating stories of handmade wheelchairs designed for special terrain in 3rd world countries and portable light systems for Mexican nomads highlight the innovation already happening as real-life dreams come true.
The book also weaves stories of hope for solving the world’s water crisis or figuring out how to innovatively react to climate change, as in Melbourne’s “total water cycle management” plan. Read about Switzerland’s “2000-watt society” and Japan’s “Top Runner” program, both of which seek ways to consistently improve their energy efficiency. With the boom in urbanism in both the Global South and Global North, new ideas that not only tame the growth, but also use it to spur efficiencies and better planning, are essential.
The successful projects described in the book demonstrate the ability of people around the world to “think different.” WORLDCHANGING allows you to wrap your arms around the current environmental challenges and successes of the entire globe, page by page. It is a worthwhile read, which will inspire and enlighten. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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