Sustainable confusion

“Sustainable” is such an overused word; just what is “sustainable”? Dictionary definitions of “sustain” include; support or bear the weight of, esp. for a long period of time; endure; maintain.

In architectural circles the term seems to be related to any material that is producible by nature. I find that to be a very loose, and open ended description. Soley by nature? Bricks are manufactured from “natural” materials, the supply is essentially infinite, but they require huge amounts of water and energy to create. They do not grow on trees as it were. Glass, essentially made from sand is the same. Lumber; easiest to think of as sustainable, it is trees … but it is not produced by nature … if you consider the massive amounts of energy required to harvest, transport and process it.

Iron, aluminum, copper, bronze, etc. … sustainable materials? I don’t think they are; there is a finite amount of it in the ground. Plastics; maybe. A finite amount of oil, refined into plastics exists. Some plastics are being developed based on plants and algae. Paper, from trees … sustainable? Paper from rags … recyclable?

Where is the line, the separation, between “sustainable” and “recyclable”? Is there a separation?

Or, perhaps, sustainability is a mindset and essentially has nothing to do with the materials, but rather how they are used (or not used).

Your thoughts?

I propose a new Sticky thread about what the Designers Accord is.

Otherwise how is this forum different from The Green Room?

I propose a new Sticky thread about what the Designers Accord is.

I could not agree more cg.

“All things Designers Accord: Adopting, talking to clients, educating staff, measuring your footprint, contributing to the community.”


Ms. Benoit, please clarify your objective.

Thanks, Lmo

I posted a new thread about the definition of sustainability. It deals with more than just “green”

Hey everyone, the aim of the forum {and the Designer’s accord} is to unite designers (of all disciplines) through sharing of resources, methodologies, experiences about not just environmental— but also social issues in our industry.

A DA specific forum enables us to have this discussion about the conflicting views about what “sustainable” and “environmental” actually mean and how these meanings have changed and continue to change while also thinking of the larger social role of the designer. What do we feel our personal role is in regards to “sustainability” within our field? How to we share resources openly? How do we learn from each others mistakes? How do we unite our personal “sustainability” goals with also considering the social issues we care about? How do we unite what industrial designers know with what the graphic designers have learned?

The Designers Accord asks all its members (as part of joining) to engage in these conversations with their clients as well as hopefully with themselves and their peers in an organized way. Obviously joining an organization like the DA isn’t the only way to achieve these things, but its aims is to foster this type of supportive community as a way to facilitate these visions.