October 15, 2009 | Design Trends
Today is Blog Action Day, an annual event every October 15th that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. This year’s theme is Climate Change.
I’d like to take this opportunity to speak as a designer, a business owner, and finally just as a human to express about how the threat of climate change affects me, and what I think we all could be doing better.
As a designer: don’t produce so much stuff
I make my money off designing things. Some of these things have more environmental impact than others. A book for example, involves a lot of paper, a lot of (sometimes very environmentally unhealthy) ink, a manufacturing processes that requires a lot of energy, and then shipping this heavy object around to its end user. But, people like books, people want books and people buy books. I don’t think it’s reasonable to think all books should become e-books just to spare the trees. But there are a lot of choices that can be made which do have varying levels of impact on the environment.
Paper: Use less. Choose recycled and/or safe forestry paper. This is a very confusing issue because there are so many conflicting pros and cons to the different methods for manufacturing paper. But whatever you choose, your choice should put some pressure on paper manufacturers to improve the foresting and manufacturing processes even more. You may want to read Sappi’s PDF about Sustainability.
Ink: Research what types of ink your printer is using. Some are using safer soy-based inks without even promoting it, some will only change inks if asked. Avoid varnishes and instead choose aqueous (water based) coatings. Be prepared to pay more for a printer who knows and cares about these things.
Too Much Stuff: Not only can online marketing methods be at least as effective as print-based channels, they don’t involve the resources of a print project. Why give someone a brochure they’ll just throw away. (And on the flip side, don’t take a brochure you’re just going to throw away.). There are times when a hard piece of paper, which can be saved and written upon are the best way to carry your message—save print projects for those times.
I will put in a plug for one printer who I’ve used, Digital Hub in Chicago. I encourage you to check out their services and also read about the full environmental impact of the printing industry. It can be ugly.
As a worker and business owner: live close to work
In 2005 I moved from Chicago to Portland, Maine. One thing I loved about Chicago was the public transportation. But I wanted to live in a smaller city and they generally do not have good bus or train systems. However, choosing a city like Portland which has a small, dense downtown area allowed my family to still only have one car. When we bought our house, we refused to look at any place more than 2 miles away from the urban center. Now, I can bike, walk or run to my office. The office is also centrally located to all the bus lines so employees can use public transportation if personal locomotion is not an option for them.
I don’t have patience for people who complain about long commutes and traffic. Live near where you work, or work near where you live. If you are the business owner set up shop in a central location that people can get to by public transportation or by their own power. Or let employees work from home.
As a human being: it’s more than global warming
It’s hard to believe that there is still debate about global warming, but apparently there is. This is my take… forget about global warming and still 95% of the ideas for green energy still make sense. Even if oil doesn’t cause global warming, it’s still in short supply and in hard to get places; let’s find an alternative. Even if coal burning doesn’t cause global warming, who wants to breathe in that dirty air or see a strip mined piece of land? Even if car emissions don’t cause global warming, who wants to be stuck in traffic or get fat from the whole car-dependent lifestyle? Even if clear cutting in the rain forest is not causing global warming, why not choose to eat locally-raised and better treated animals for your food?
It’s the lynch pin
Climate change is at the center into so many issues. Obesity, pollution, poor eating, shopping as a hobby, traffic, car culture, international wars, politics, terrorism, the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, urban sprawl, the loss of family farms, etc. Climate change swirls through them all, and progress on climate change will affect positive change elsewhere.