Encouraging students to think about how design will help combat climate change!

David Attenborough has been hammering it home to us for years, even Prince Charles has banged on about it for decades! Bill Gates is investing millions into technology to support more efficient, clean energy, even if the man in charge over there is in denial and arguing it’s fake news! AND we see the British Government at last taking the lead and passing a commons motion to declare an ‘environment and climate emergency’.
WWF’s Living Planet Report stated that in just over 40 years, the world has seen almost 60% decline in wildlife across land, sea and freshwater and is careering towards an unbelievable decline of two-thirds by 2020! – In less than a generation.
As those in power start to listen through the activism of the people and a realisation that climate change is something we need to worry about, school children worldwide, inspired by the teenager Greta Thunburg, have rallied to join the campaign.

As educators, we need to support this in the everyday activities of school. In every subject and every action the school takes there needs to be an understanding that we need to participate, both as individuals and as collective organisations in doing our bit!

D&T is in a prime position to motivate and inspire young people to investigate, develop and promote new ways of combatting climate change. Product design is where we can instil the absolute requirement of circular products. Where we put as much emphasis on end life as we do the aesthetic.

Industry has been slow to move, politics and money hampering faster progress. But a fresh wave of technological innovation is deepening our understanding of tough environmental challenges and giving us new ways to solve them. We are seeing new approaches to measuring and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane;Scientists have also figured out a way to feed electricity to microbes to grow truly green, biodegradable bioplastics. We have already found alternative ways of powering vehicles, such as with electricity, but this needs scaling up with investment in infrastructure and much more efficient batteries battery-charging technology.

Food is another area where new technologies and ideas are needed to feed the 7 billion people on the planet. We know that 25% of the world’s global emissions come from production of food! And a part of this is meat consumption – the growing trend of vegetarian and veganism is but a drop in the ocean and alternatives such as lab-grown meat and meat substitutes might seem like the stuff of science fiction, but we must take this seriously. (Beyond Meat)

And it’s not just about new technologies and ideas. The fashion and textile industry has begun to wise up to the fact we can no longer support fast fashion. The water usage in growing dyeing, finishing, is already common knowledge and reinforced by the likes of TV personalities such as Stacey Dooley. The amount of fuel used to produce and ship textiles around the world is vast and yet we see the astonishing waste of clothing that has not seen the shop floor, sent straight to landfill or burnt(fashions dirty secret – and Burberry isn’t the only one)– this is untenable!

We must re-educate consumers to pay a bit more, buy less, repair, recycle and keep for longer. But this means industry needs to produce less, better fitting, higher quality products that are either, repairable, fully recyclable or biodegradable. Young designers need to be trained to understand it is part of their role to ensure circular design – what will happen to that gorgeous red polyester dress when your customer has done with it?

Some of the bigger brands are taking it seriously and waking up to the fact it is as much their responsibility to ensure their products do not continue to contribute to climate change.
Product development has to be circular, with the end life an essential part of that loop. Adidas has produced a great example of this called the Futurecraft.Loopshoe. The shoe is made using a single recyclable material, eliminating the need to disassemble before recycling. Adidas then accepts the shoe back from the user when it reaches the end of its life, to recycle into another shoe.
An intelligent and clever use of a variable structure, using the same material for specific purposes and the brand taking 100% responsibility on the recycle treatment of the product at its life end.

Our next generation of designers and engineers must be taught at an early age, to understand the full cycle of a product , including its end of life disposal.
The future of product design must include the end use and disposal, not just the aesthetic, need and fit for purpose. The future loop is the closed loop.

Refs:
https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2016
https://materialdistrict.com/channel/sustainable/
https://www.beyondmeat.com
https://news.adidas.com/running/adidas-unlocks-a-circular-future-for-sports-with-futurecraft.loop–a-performance-running-shoe-made-t/s/c2c22316-0c3e-4e7b-8c32-408ad3178865
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/burberry-burns-stock-designer-clothing-fashion-industry-environment-a8454671.html

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