Michael Kritzer has done an interesting thing for client Buell Motorcycles by designing a shipping crate the bike purchaser can turn into a workbench. And a pretty smart one at that. Well played. Mr. Kritzer has more sharp work and smart business intentions up at Habitco. Via core77.
I came up with a new word today. I was overcome by anxiety as I often am when confronted by a mountain of relatively uniform waste. So much could be done with it! If I only had a brain! If only I could intervene before it’s picked up by sanitation, headed for the landfill or even a recycling facility! So much energy could be saved! So many children’s lives made whole! Oh the humanity…. All this anxiety born of the need for better design interventions. And thus was born “designxiety.” And I started typing this post, totally ready to take the stage and be crowned for my genius contribution to the land of modern etymology when I decided to check the Google. Five hits as of today. Oh well. As we say in kindergarten, “I made it up for myself!”
Did I ever tell you about the time I wrote Stairway to Heaven?
I was caught by several things in todays article in the Times about 200,000 individual solar panels being mounted on telephone poles across New Jersey, but two facts stood out. First, I was surprised and pleased to learn that my neighboring state is second only to the green almighty California in its commitment to alternative energy and solar in particular. And second, the people of New Jersey are reacting to the panels dotting the landscape with cries of aesthetic outrage and defense of the bella vista. I didn’t know they had it in ‘em.
Personally, I fall in with the article author’s allusion to the artist Cristo, seeing these rectangles of shiny deep azure as a fun, if abstract, addition to the scenery. But the notion that our pristine mess of signage and telephone poles is being sullied by efforts to clean up the planet is a real hoot. It reminds me of Robert Crumb‘s Short History of America.
“Click to embiggen.”
Just saw these beautiful big cuts of reclaimed bowling alleys on the Build It Green website. I would really like to sink my teeth into this stuff. Who needs a conference table?! Two weeks ago I was at the Columbus Ave Shake Shack with my son and noticed that the tables and counters are branded (literally heat branded) with the Shake Shack logo (see second image), the logo of the local fabricator Counter Evolution and another brand saying the wood came from reclaimed bowling alleys (see third image). First thought, good for Shake Shack for building green. Second thought, good for Counter Evolution for building a smart business with a good product and attracting sophisticated clients like Danny Meyer. And third thought, bummer that our nations classic bowling alleys are being ripped up!! But I repeat: Who needs a custom conference table?!
Friend and colleague Ed Morris of Canary Project has a piece in Metropolis online calling for more sustainable practices in the publishing industry and giving some examples and suggestions. The above image is from the back of Green Patriot Posters, a collection of posters promoting awareness and action on climate change that he and Dmitri Siegel published last year (and to which I contributed some work). The Green Patriot book was itself a strong effort to print more sustainably as its back cover indicates. Ed is a great voice for environmental awareness and I hope the powers that be in the paper publishing industry are listening. With costs for digital production means down and costs for traditional printing rising, it’s their game to lose.
As if Blue Bottle Coffee were not already about as cool as it gets with their incredible roasts and brews and foams and wild apparatus behind the glass there on Berry in Williamsburg, they had to go that extra step and be as green as possible with their cups. New cups are 100% compostable with a bio-degradable plastic lining, and the lids are compostable too (maybe made from corn?). Good on you BBC. Love you guys!
It is a growing concern of mine that publications from the product design community continuously tend to focus on innovations in form, style and lifestyle influence, attributes of products that are central to their perceived value by us users, but that are really only a small part of the story of their measurable impact as tools. The sustainability movement has raised critical awareness and has increased the chic value of the conservative utility of new products, but what remains of concern is that we are still talking about innovations and new products, i.e. more stuff. So one thing I’d like to do more of here is celebrate quotidien, existing and (from my perspective) unsung heroes in products and product design. Probably that will mean just the products themselves as most of them will not be glamourous enough to have afforded their innovators any notoriety, but so what, it is better to do good than to be thanked. So with that said, let’s begin…. And let’s give thanks along the way.
Over the past year and a half, my two and a half year old son and I have been bathing every evening before his bedtime, and as he grows taller, we let the water level get higher. But as the water level rises, so does the amount of water lost to the overflow drain toward the top of the tub. For months of filling and refilling I stared at the overflow and listened to the sound of wasted water, remembering my own father’s lament at the same. I remembered what he brought back as a solution and decided it was time to hunt one down myself:
The bathtub overflow stopper is a remarkably simple, single part device that uses suction cups to surround and seal the tub overflow and restrict drainage through a hole that can be positioned anywhere around the drain’s perimeter.
To date I have not measured the amount of water I save each bath but I would guess that it measures in the tens of gallons, equal at least in displaced volume to me and my son combined. The packaging says it will allow 60% more water into the tub, or save you 60% of your water use without it, but my tub is quite old and unusually deep and long, so that number is going to be smaller. I have a 150 gallon hot water heater and know that without the overflow stopper, over the course of a typical 30 minute bath in our big old tub, after refilling a few times to keep from freezing our shoulders we started to lose peak hot water and I could feel the dilution of cold into the hot water tank coming through the line. So I can guess that we were approaching the 100 gallon mark per bath. Insane. Over the course of a week, that nearly reaches the basic water rate in Brooklyn set by the DEP which is “$2.61 per Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF which is equivalent to 748 gallons of water.” With the overflow stopper, I don’t lose water to the overflow and I don’t refill the tub anymore. I am guessing I use half as much water per bath. That’s only a buck and a quarter per week, but it’s enough water to fill two Hipporoller water carriers– per day! If I could divert that water to the needy I would. For now, I am grateful for a simple solution to a huge waste of water.
And bathing with family is fun.
Couldn’t resist. (So modest.)
Here are some better shots of the graduated trash bin, part of a ploy to get consumers to waste less or at least be more conscious of how much goes to waste. It puts your waste on display. POWER=WASTE. This is a luxury item, a big piece of glass. It takes a lot of money to show you care. It’s expensive. It’s bling. But it promotes sustainability. It’s sustaina-bling.
This Friday, December 7, 2007, I am presenting my master’s thesis entitled Conspicuous Conservation: The Rise of the Sustainable Class to the industrial design department at Pratt. It’s been three long semesters on this puppy. I’ll soon have a link to a pdf of the document for any one who wants extra punishment over the holiday break. So keep an eye out for that one. In the meantime, here’s the blurb I send out when someone asks what this thing is about:
This thesis explores how product design is used as a currency for demonstrating social power (conspicuous consumption). It looks at ways of reducing the amount of waste created as a consequence of this phenomenon; and it looks at rising environmental consciousness in consumer trends. It proposes “transparency” of the entire production chain as a model for sustainable design and manufacturing. It further proposes that transparent sustainability will become a new form of social ostentation that helps drive the sustainability movement (conspicuous conservation).
So there it is in a nut shell. My products are done. I cannot show the product that deals most directly with the transparency mentioned above yet because it may go into production soon– very exciting– and so there’s proprietary information and logos and stuff and I could get into trouble…. But the second product is below. The graduated trash bin draws attention to waste, showing off the sustainable awareness of the user. And being glass, it forces more careful behavior regarding what we “throw” away. You don’t want to break this thing. It’s really expensive. I’ll need to reshoot I think; the sandblasted graphics aren’t popping yet. It’s a prototype….