NOTE: Make sure you read the first three posts (in order!) before tackling the rest, or it could be confusing: Post 1 is Designing the future, Post 2 is Setting up the problem, and Post 3 is Estimating basic requirements.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Designing With Spoons: A Philosophy

Back in college I had a friend who was convinced the only utensil she needed in life was a spoon. She lived by that assertion – hacking away at dry dorm steak, deftly balancing leaves of lettuce, and smoothly buttering her bread, all with a spoon. The rest of us would laugh or shake our heads, wondering to one another about what a quirky girl she was.

It wasn’t until recently that I made the connection between spoons and her interest in environmental science: using only curvy silverware was an exercise in conservation. By reminding herself at every meal of what she truly needed she forced herself to consider what else she could do without.

In designing a sustainable future for ourselves, we must constantly remind ourselves what we might comfortably live without. Would our quality of life suffer if we didn’t jump for that new iPod? What if we stopped watering our lawns every day? Why not grow our own food?

These types of questions should be applied to sustainable design at every step of the way. Happiness is possible – perhaps only possible – without gregarious consumption. If our future pool of available resources is limited then it becomes even more critical to understand our true requirements.

The future is wrought with uncertain challenges, from Peak Oil to global warming to overpopulation. At some point we will be forced to live without many seemingly essential tools of our existence. If we make conscious decisions now, and design ourselves out of an unsustainable lifestyle, our challenges will seem more manageable.

My advice: Design smart, design completely, design for happiness. And make sure to include a spoon.

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