green is the thing, again...

Lots of talk about sustainable, green this and that, its the cool thing right now to be “green”. The green thing happens every so often, seem like once a generation or so, heck walden pond could be a green living position paper. The most recent prior “green thing” was in 1972-1978, a time of the oil shock, gass lines, a world expo devoted to ecological awarness and tech. During that time solar powerd water heaters were big thing, photovotaic, solar steam, micro hydro too This is the time of honda civic’s(when they were small and got almost 40 mpg with a carb), pinto’s, vegas, mustang2’s and pacers…oh my. Club of rome warned of mass starvation in the 90’s with no more oil at all by 2000 (bone dry). Oh it was a grand green time, then people got bored with it. There was a up tick in the stock market, a housing boom, the prime rate went below 10% so people started buying what they wanted…BIG STUFF. Out with the mini van, in with the suburban (whee its SAFER) move your kicks and shit to the new mcmansion…oh yea been there done that got the t shirt

Hasn’t this dead horse been beaten enough?

nope, as too many of you are still drinking the coolaid, the point being is that people for the most part want XYZ things, and you can hope and wish that it was different but sorry…aint the case. I can almost gaurentee you that the best selling hybrids will be SUV size, that house sizes will be as big as people can afford to buy/heat and really dont care about the enviro aspects but $$$ in the pocket. People only buy high E suff if it allows them to have more or bigger stuff, wish it was different but history says otherwise. Oh things will get better, lots of cool stuff in solar, some ok stuff in wind, there is Helium 3 fusion as well as bio engineed goop that converts corn stalks to booze. In the end though, just like in the 70’s people will just slip back into that comfort zone of wanting what they want, and “green” will slowly fade into the background were its only the concern of engineers, inventors and designers.

Wasn’t saying I disagree with your points… sadly.

I sure hope not or we’re in for some shit. I think there’s a bit more movement on this than just a marketing trend, though there is certainly a lot of that going on. I believe we’ve reached a tipping point- resources are only going to get more and more scarce and expensive- if as a nation/world we don’t follow through and this is a trend, its not going to be long until our “comfort zone” as you put it is abruptly interrupted and the resource fueled conflicts we have now look like school yard fights.

This isn’t a fad in my opinion, any more than product safety was a fad in the 70s and 80s. Consumers now expect product safety in anything they buy, but it wasn’t always like that. In the future, its got to be the same with sustainability.

were you a adult in the 70’s? or even a pre teen? The same sound and fury we hear now was just as loud if not louder back then…

Sorry man, I don’t mean to sound rude here…

What I was getting at from my first post was that this topic has been beaten to a pulp on this forum. If you’re that passionate about this subject perhaps this isn’t the right place to be venting your frustrations. Why not run for office? Or right a book? Or anything else. I know there is some connection on this site due to the number of people designing consumable products; but they’re just trying to make a living. People buy things that we put in front of them as new and shiny.

But I digress. Again, I’m not saying I disagree with you; I think your point should be heard but you should be shouting louder in other areas.

I think there is a difference between this post and the post that you refered to. Subtle as it may be. This post is one man pounding his chest in anger while being showered in acid rain screaming “why is GREEN like fashion that repeat itself every decade in a superficial manner”. The other is a man alone in his chamber with only a candle light for illumination pondering the big question “can global warming be real and do I really exist”.

Just curious, of all the ad nauseum questions in this forum why would you pick this one out to discourage from further discussion? What do you think of the following discussions that frequent this fourm?

  1. My life sucks, now I want to be a IDer. Convince me that I should do it?

  2. Which overpriced design school should I go?

  3. Which SolidXYZ CAD should I use?

  4. New to freelance how much should I charge? Be my CPA.

Taking action agree with no if, and or but. Disagree about “this not being the place.”

All I’m saying is that zippy is very passionate about this topic, and that other venues may allow that passion to be heard by a larger audience.

I was not an adult in the 70’s, but let me point out a very basic fact that you seem to overlook. The oil shortages in the 70s was the result of political factors, not a limit of natural resources. It simply awakened Americans to their reliance on resources that they had no control over.

Currently, the wave of “green” enthusiasm is coming from two factors: global warming and declining natural resources/increasing energy costs.It was raised in the ealier discussion that some point to global warming as a liberal ploy to convince us to give scientists funding, which is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. So skipping global warming, no one can refute that the intense demands a global human population of more than 6 billion is burning up resources faster than they can recover.

I’m not sure that you (zippyflounder) is denying that there are problems, but rather that Americans are a trend following population that can’t break out of their excesses. I worry too, but I don’t see much of an alternative, other than eventual conflict that will only extend the inevitable rather than address it.

I attended a green tech conference yesterday which had some interesting presentations. There was a point made by a speaker from Saatchi & Saatchi S (I didn’t catch his name, he was standing in for the CEO, Adam Werbach)who framed the problems in the light of innovation versus fear. As industrial designers, we should look at this problem with enthusiasm- we are innovators, its our job. Unfortunately I think some of us know we are also part of the problem, and instead of looking at ways of solving it, would rather try to defame or ignore the issue so they can carry on as usual.

in the 70’s the media darling theory was we were going to be dry by 2000 (club of rome report).

in the 70’s the prevailing theory was a new ice age (might still be right if the ocean convayer stops)

in the 70’s lots of confrences, lots of noise from the big outfits.

Its not just USA, people ALL people want more and “better” its in our DNA i guess so dont lay the dirty dishes just at one countries feet.

For the most part its not a “design” problem, or even a design oppertuinty, its a engineering problem/oppertuity, no number of tail fins or surface details will change the laws of physics.

I am not passionate about the subject of being “green” in engineering and fianiance terms its just good sense. I am however amused by people and their predictablity. It was suggested to “run for office” why, elections are not won by the people of merrit, but of personality that appeals (at that moment) to the most people. Solutions abound, engineers are working hard (and have been sense the 60’s) and thats a good thing but in the end People will always want MORE, and untill there are fewer of us thats going to be a big problem.

I haven’t been able to connect the mental dots yet, but for some reason, this conversation reminded me of this old one:

Sweet egg toaster hybrid! I missed that.

I think design has an awful lot to do with addressing this problem, but if you think that as designer all we do is add fins, then I’m not certain you have the baseline understanding of what most of us do. There are styling exercises for certain, but there is also a whole lot of problem solving in a big picture kind of way, at least where I work.

I have a feeling that this isn’t going to go anywhere as it appears that you are more interested in complaining about human nature, without any interest in taking the discussion further.


ID for the most part is “styling” making a product appealing to the target market and thats “ok”…but 90% of the stuff people buy/want they dont need. I suggest you take a weekend and go “grage sale cruising” observe the junk that people consider are worth selling to others now consider how much other junk has gone to the dump. In essence we in ID are part of the chain of over consumption, where the desire for new outweighs the reality of need. People sing from the pulpit about being “green” then go out and buy more crap that within a year or two ends up in a land fill or gets “recycled” via a grage sale and or e bay.

zippyflounder, i totally feel where you are coming from.

the talk to action ratio i see is extremely frustrating (including/especially from myself). however, i don’t see the point of your original post. are you saying we should just keep on doing whatever because nothing’s really going to change anyway?

conversely, do you think there is a way for designers to fight against the culture of consumption, or do you think that we are dependant on it for our livelihoods?

and fyi, i was nothing in the 70s.

consumption is part of our socicalogical metric, even in primiative cultures status is determined by possessions and status brings all the goodies. Can designers do much about it, not realy, we are just feeding the monster the only way to combat it, is to not “consume” or consume rationaly. The other alterntive is just to be honnest, and say “screw green” its just a moving target and gimme the stuff I want. Is there a middle point, sure but damn few people are going to go through (or are able)and determing total life cycle cost of a product. Will things get better, sure and for a simple reason, money. With oil getting over 100 a gallon it makes all sorts of things profitable like recycling plastic, tires, etc wind farms heluim 3 fusion the list goes on, where before these was just “green”, now there be bucks in them. Profit will allways outstrip green any day and profit lets you buy more STUFF. In the end though, its kinda simple, more people wanting more “stuff” and only so much materials for making stuff out of…something is going to go BOING. When I started out I wanted to design and build stuff that people would have, use, enjoy for a life time…well I was a young fool as that is NOT how people are, hell even the crown jewles get broke up and re set every few generations. If you want to be stand up, design crap that can be and WILL be recycled (profitably) and that dont mean, shoes, cellphones, and the like. To be that type of designer you have to be not only willing but excited to work with engineers and fianice guys, not looking at them as “buzz killers”. Lets face it lots of “buzz” products just end up in the land fill in 18 months, because that buzz wears off fast. No reason to be too bummed, if oil goes to 150 a barrel people will start mining land fills for the recyclables, just better hope your not one of the miners.

I think you are generalizing. Green issues pop up every decade or so, but are all grouped together in people’s mind.

  1. '70’s: smog. Smog was caused particulates in exhaust. Regulations were passed to force emissions control equipment on everything that emitted. Today, the problem is smaller, although rising again because of larger populations contributing to the effect.

  2. '80’s: Acid rain. I remember this, because I remember as a child watching something about acid rain destroying German forests. This was caused by emissions and chemicals being released into the atmosphere. Again, the problem is smaller today because of emissions control regulations.

  3. '80’s: ozone layer. The ozone layer was and is thinning. However, the biggest threat, CFCs, have been nearly eliminated from use. The famous ozone hole over anarctica is predicted to be closed by 2050 or thereabouts.

These are the real “green” trends that I think zippy is talking about. The reason they get less press is because they were or are solved. Now we have a new threat, and hopefully the regulation will follow.

The question is will china regulate? The bigger issue is this, more people wanting more…period.

China is regulating:

  1. China's biggest plastic bag maker closes after ban | China | The Guardian

It comes less than two months after the state banned production of ultra-thin bags and ordered supermarkets to stop giving away free carriers from June 1.

  1. A few years ago China upgraded it’s car pollution standards to one generation behind the US and Europe.

  2. The three gorges dam will replace 31 million tons of coal consumption. China is looking to build infrastructure to replace their dirtiest technologies.

They have a way to go, but they advancing more quickly than we did.

Timf’s threadregarding China’s crackdown on manufacturing practices seems to touch on this as well. Some very good posts if you haven’t seen it yet.