Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Sustainability, Eco-friendly, bio-degradable, ethical

I am currently researching the perceived notion of sustainable design. In particular within the mass-consumption market of day to day lifestyle products. I am particularly interested in is the categorisation of products. Words such as 'sustainably sourced', 'made from recycled materials', and 'bio-degradable' all seem to give the impression that the companies producing these products are 'ethically' aware and some would lead you to believe they are in fact helping the environment. Advertising campaigns from 'Triple Velvet' with their planting three trees for every one tree they use and 'Lenor's' concentrate range that has helped reduce the amount of packaging of their product's and so allowing more products into one shipment and so reducing the amount of lorries on the road.

On face value these all seem to be strongly ethically balanced ideas. But is this true? and what do these really achieve? For the company it may help their profit it could also improve there brand values within the outside world by 'green washing' over things, but ultimately they are a lesser evil. They do not really answer the big question they still use virgin materials and ultimately once the consumed part is used the rest goes is perhaps recycled into a lower grade product and then goes into landfill or is incinerated, or is put into landfill straightaway. 

So while this may prolong the consumption of the plants and resources of the planet it is not ultimately going to stop them from being lost or consumed. At this point I must point out that this is not about being ethical and environmentally conscious (as Michael Braungart and William McDonough said in their book 'cradle to cradle'), it is about being smart. We live in a world now with huge knowledge and expertise. Materials can and have been produced that not only do not use up natural resources but put things back into the system. 

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