When I was living in Brooklyn, I had a neighbor with a crazy idea – to grow her own food in her apartment year round. I could see the vertical water bottles she used in her early attempt in her courtyard facing window whenever I took out the garbage. I thought to myself “Britta is crazy. That’s just not going to work.”
Shortly later, I realized that you should never underestimate Britta. (more…)
One of our designers was recently working on a project that required a material with a cold, smooth, high quality feel, and she asked me which was a more sustainable material, ceramic or glass. (more…)
In this special edition of Icon-o-Cast, LUNAR’s John Edson shares a presentation he gave at the 2009 Sustainable Brands conference in which he discussed applying sustainable design principles through a framework developed by LUNAR to the problem of distributing water. (more…)
Confidence is an amazing thing. Some believe it can make athletes more adept, students score higher on tests and people in general more attractive. Those with confidence hold their heads high, speak with authority, are willing to take risks and are less likely to hesitate. (more…)
I noticed these solar-powered parking meters sneak into my San Francisco neighborhood, Hayes Valley, on a busy street lined with design shops, cafes and restaurants. The Civic Center area tends to be a hotbed for green experimentation, and it was great to see innovation that adds value while being good to the environment.
This parking meter finally takes credit cards as well as coins (save those precious quarters for your laundry), and LEDs facing the street indicate whether you've overstayed your welcome. The "more" and "less" buttons apparently allow you to allocate your intended stay.
My dream feature: if lunch is going a little overtime, it simply draws more funds from your credit card, a "pay as you go" model to make city parking a little more stress-free.
Connections – April 21, 2009: The architecture and construction world is years ahead of product design in terms of creating understanding, standards, alternative design solutions and the economic arguements for the value of sustainable design.
In this Earth Day Special, Lunar’s Gretchen Anderson talks with green building expert Elaine Hsieh of KEMA about how building industries have embraced sustainable practices since the first Earth Day.
A friend of mine is very fond of the quote, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” Depending on whom you ask, this morsel of wisdom came from Albert Einstein, Yogi Berra, or Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut. The three of them can fight it out wherever they are, but the point is that things are rarely as clear-cut, or easy, as their defining theory suggests.
I think about this quote in the context of sustainable design from time to time. The theory of sustainable design is a vision for the way design should, and hopefully someday will, be. It’s filled with lofty and noble goals – like comprehensive life cycle analyses run on every system and designs that use only materials that can be perfectly reclaimed and reused as technical nutrients. This theory is admirable, and is nothing short of necessary for the sustainable design movement to be able to achieve its ultimate goal: design that meets today's needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship to harbor, this goal must be constant, unwavering, immobile.
But too often some in the sustainable design community become so entrenched in the theory of sustainable design that they lose sight of the fact that achieving it requires more than just persistence and commitment. Many, although not all, tend to have professions outside of designer or engineer. They are not tasked with creating actual products day to day. They stand in the lighthouse (again, an admirable and necessary position) and criticize the ship’s crew when they tack away from the shore to face an oncoming wave or avoid another ship. “Incrementalism is not the solution!” they yell. “Turning that direction will only get you so far!”
I want to assure those in the lighthouse that the crew knows this. We get it. Every crewmember on this ship understands that, theoretically, the quickest path between ship and harbor is a straight line. But in a storm that theory falls apart, for the crew must account for sizeable waves, wind gusts and other ships. Consumer demand, market forces, and the cutthroat world of globalization combine to make a pretty big storm. The indirect path, while slower, is necessary in practice, and if we head straight for the shore we could very likely capsize or crash.
The unfortunate reality is that, unlike the theory, the practice of sustainable design is full of contradictions, unknowns, bargaining and compromise. So, please keep the lamp burning. Please continue to discuss what sustainable design should be. Your guidance is looked for and appreciated – but understand that getting there takes some strategic steering from time to time.
It was written in 1949 by the seminal figure in ecological conservation, Aldo Leopold. It’s quite a powerful phrase, the simple articulation that man must consume and build. There is no greater asset than our ability to create. It comes at a great cost, but without question, we’re all beginning to better define the ‘right’ manner for this process of creation.
At the heart of the issue lies one fundamental truth: less is more. Less material. Less packaging. Less harmful content. Less shipping footprint. Less impact. Less, less, less… How paradoxical is it, then, that the U.S. Census officially predicts nine billion people will inhabit the planet by 2050 – one third more than currently exist. By definition, that’s a lot more stuff. More products. More packaging. More shipping. More consumption, on the grandest of scales.
At every point, the symbiotic act of creating all of this content will require the skilled designer and engineer: those members of the creation chain endowed with the knowledge and privilege to conceive of, form and specify the manner in which all of this stuff is brought to life. The great ‘axe holders’ of the future.
A few months ago I was having lunch with perhaps the most powerful of the axe holders, Warren Haug, former Vice President of Research and Development, Proctor & Gamble. I asked the pressing question, ”How does P&G deal with the subject of sustainability?” His answer was brilliant in its simplicity: “The public is on board with green as long as two things happen: one, it doesn’t degrade the product and two, it doesn’t affect the price.”
That’s it. That’s the world that P&G and most retail and consumer products live in.
The designers and engineers are then given the mind-bending task of making more attractive goods and making them more cheaply – all while wielding the axe of responsible creation. Sounds daunting, but it’s being done.
Last year HP asked Lunar to breathe new life into the home computer. “Make it more compelling. Give us something iconic…and help us cut costs!” We did all of this, and built sustainability into the equation by consolidating components and simplifying the product architecture.
Last fall HP started delivering the Touchsmart PC, a gorgeous piece that exudes ‘less’ while offering the consumer ‘more.’ We shed the oversized metal box and integrated the CPU and display into a single compact gesture that reduces part-count and shrinks the shipping footprint considerably.
Most notably, the product reduces material usage by 50% (primarily plastic and steel). It has also successfully helped catalyze a paradigm shift in consumer perception of size and desirability. HP is now defining this emerging category as the Single Volume Product (SVP). SVP is a more dynamic solution to the part and feature consolidation that was originally introduced in the All-In-One computer (i.e., Apple IMac).
We’re proud of the work we’re doing, and though it’s never easy, responsible creation can happen when sustainable thinking meets creativity that makes a difference.