Sustainability in Design

What is ‘cradle to cradle’ design and how can you see this applied in the Graphic Design industry?
Cradle to Cradle design was a term coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970, and made known by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book of the same name published in 2002. It refers to design which focuses on not just ‘minimal impact’ on the environment, but actually on having no impact or even a  positive impact. It does this through embracing materials that are seen either as ‘technical or biological nutrients.’ The site explaining this further expands; ‘technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality and biological nutrients composted or consumed.’  Therefore, Cradle to Cradle designs are not only created using renewable and sustainable practices and materials, but are designed to be disassembled or recovered in order to be reused or contribute to the natural environment.
Some great examples mentioned in William McDonough’s TED Talk include:
-a building which produces more energy than it needs to operate and purifies water
-a car which is completely solar powered, and made from materials that can all be reused or are biodegradable
-carpet which is infinitely recyclable
-a city in which human waste is used to create natural gas, which powers the city (along with solar energy and other converted energy)
So ultimately, there is absolutely no waste in Cradle-to Cradle Design – all components of a product contribute to providing ‘food’ – or resources – for the production of another product, and so on, creating a cycle in which energy is never lost. The obvious reason this is needed in todays world full of consumption and waste is obvious, but this video is really great at demonstrating just how important it is.

In Graphic Design, the concept of Cradle-to-Cradle design can be applied to any extent – but it does take innovative design, and careful selection of design processes and materials. In Wendy Jedlicka’s book Sustainable Graphic Design, she addresses how graphic designers can work to design within the Cradle to Cradle framework. The solutions she suggests include:
-Designing the product using materials which have been made using sustainable practices (via research and consultation with material producers and providers)
-Designing the product to be re-used (the preferable option,)
-Designing for it to be ‘recaptured.’ This can be done through using materials and processes that have been described – ones which ensure the materials used are able to be infinitely recycled for the further production of a range of resources.

In the ‘Creative Gallery on Sustainable Communications’- what ad has the most impact for you and why?

There are a whole variety of ad’s in this Gallery, all which have been designed to create or raise awareness of the many environmental issues out world is facing. I found many of them to have strong and sometime shocking messages, all portrayed in unique and creative ways. However, this one – about really struck a chord with me.
Arctic -  Teaching Kids Ad

It addresses an issue which I have always worried about and considered an upmost priority – preserving our world so that our children, and their children’s children, will be able to appreciate it as we have. I have always spent a lot of time in nature, with hiking, rock-climbing, surfing, skiing, and sailing being some of my most enjoyed activities. I often worry about the effect that we are having on our Earth because of the rate our population is expanding, how much we are consuming, and how much waste we are producing. Therefore, I hope many saw or see this ad, and will also start to consider just how much of an impact we are having, and what the long-term consequences of this can be.
I think it works well to communicate the message by using a simple and somewhat playful concept with a darker message – with an image of a child’s ‘bath time’ manipulated to represent how the arctic could be seen by the time they have grown up. It is confronting, but it does so in a somewhat innocent way.

Another add I found which uses a similar concept, but applied to another issue, is this one, which shows that water is precious for not only animals, but also humans across the world. save waterIt also uses a simple image – one of a goldfish, which is depicted to to rely on water for life in a more obvious way, and uses the image to communicate a darker issue.  It is a simple yet effective way of communicating that water needs to be saved, as it makes people think about not only the fish, but the people who do lose their lives due to having no water whatsoever.

List five things that a Graphic Designer can do in their practice to decrease their impact on the environment.
1. Research your materials used (paper, plastic, etc) to ensure they are created using eco-friendly processes, and that they are recycled, and/or recyclable/biodegradable. This handy tool, (if it came in English,) would make evaluating materials eco-friendliness easy.
2. Design products or packaging to be re-used.
3. Reduce the amount of paper used in the office day-to-day by only printing when absolutely necessary, discouraging mock-ups, re-using scrap paper, and generally being mindful of any resources used, as well as always recycling.
4. Riding, walking, or using public transport to commute to work will allow individual designers to contribute, even if only slightly, to the reduction of pollution and greenhouse gases.
5. In the home and in the office, embrace natural and sustainable products across all areas of daily life – including food choices, cleaning materials, and furniture. Also, conserve energy – meaning having lighting and electronics turned on only when necessary.

Papercut is a local agency who embraces most these practices, including cradle-to-cradle design, with one of their most important values being sustainability and the protection of the environment. They even use energy efficient light bulbs, and compost waste from the staff kitchen.


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