If you’ve read our previous blog, you know that industrial design has been around for a long time — long before the term was coined, and long before anyone who was designing or making stuff was too terribly worried about how that making was affecting the planet.
How’d This Happen?
Mass consumerism took off after WWII, with advancements to assembly lines and increased product availability that resulted in everyday people being able to buy all the things. Where previously you had to have a decent nest egg to afford many non-essentials on the market, mass production meant cheaper goods, which meant goods for the common man. But as scientists and environmental groups quickly realized, this wasn’t so good for the Earth.
Think of all the disposable products we use on a daily or weekly basis. Even if you’re environmentally conscious (and that’s awesome, we love you for it), chances are you still toss things on the reg. Over the past month, have you used Q-tips, single-use coffee pods, a takeout container, facial tissues, or anything that had more than the minimal required packaging around it? Don’t feel bad — we all do it. And ANCORD isn’t here to police your habits. We’re here to help along the manufacture of goods that aren’t disposable, so that next time, you have options!
The Modern Manufacturing Mess
Even beyond the products themselves, an awful lot of waste is intrinsic in the manufacturing process. Take the clothing industry, for example. A 2017 study found that the fashion industry is responsible for 4% of the global carbon emissions. While that’s not the second most-polluting industry, as many like to claim, it’s still kind of lousy. A number of brands have even admitted to burning their overstock to keep their threads exclusive.
Industries like furniture production produce waste in various ways, including overproduction of cut pieces and whole products and using large machines for steps such as drying painted pieces, despite having only a small number of orders.
Things Are Getting Better
All that’s a bit of a downer, but it’s also not news that many companies and even industries, as a whole, are working to reduce their footprint and the amount of waste they produce. One way of doing this is by changing the products used: switching from plastics to glass for bottled drinks, for example, or choosing more sustainable steel, which can be recycled over and over, rather than those with toxic components like mercury.
Companies have also started thinking about their manufacturing processes. Some fashion corporations are making an effort to use all or most of their fabric scraps, rather than tossing them, or offering to repair and resell customers’ old merchandise.
Shoe companies are stepping up, from Adidas’ new line made with recycled ocean plastic to Nothing New’s foray into footwear built from 100% recycled material. Ford (car manufacturing is another very wasteful industry) reports that two of its models are 80% recyclable. Governments are pushing for sustainable manufacturing across all industries, arguing that adopting these methods increases operational efficiency and builds “long-term viability and success.”
Some organizations have been preaching improved sustainability in manufacturing for decades, but it’s only in the last 20 years or so that the concepts have really been driven to the fore of global conversations.
Starting Strong to Finish Strong
In 2002, an architect named William McDonough and a chemist named Michael Braungart wrote Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The book has been dubbed “one of the most important environmental manifestos time.” The authors argue for an updated design schematic based on three principles:
1. all products can be made into other products,
2. manufacturing should use clean and renewable energy, and
3. recognition of the importance of diversity.
The writers show how design and creation of products can improve our world, rather than exclusively add to the trash.
It’s clear these concepts are embraced by more than just some hippie academics, too. Even more than a decade ago in our Industrial Design studies, entire courses were dedicated to incorporating sustainability into our future careers. We were encouraged to recognize our inherent responsibility: to help bring about the systemic changes essential to keeping our world from imploding.
As designers, we should also be a voice of reason when it comes to deciding what needs to be replaced or improved — gone are the days where we mindlessly make new stuff to replace old stuff without actually improving the useability or longevity of the product.
Our Commitment to You and the Earth
That’s why sustainability is woven into every layer of ANCORD. When we work with our clients, we’re always focused on how we can best support other local businesses, and we limit the amount of material we need to print by keeping our presentations digital whenever possible. We keep up to date on the hottest materials, production processes, and manufacturers that’ll ensure your project is as eco-friendly as can be.
We take our peripheral energy consumption and footprint into consideration, too. We walk to almost all our meetings and keep the amount of plastic, single-use products we purchase to the barest minimum, both personally and professionally.
We believe sustainability should be front of mind, all the time. Have an amazing idea and think we’d be a great fit? Reach out to us through one of our many digital contact options, and let us help you create something lasting, impactful, and good for our planet. Cause we only have the one, right?