Wasteful design

My house mate recently bought a dish washing brush with a vessel in the handle which you load up with liquid for washing the dishes. Anyway, I noticed we are using a lot more liquid because of this thing because it constantly dispenses the liquid when you’re using it… about double the amount we were buying previously.

It led me to the conclusion that generally we are actually getting worse as a species at conserving and reducing the amount of resources we use in our daily lives. From un-recyclable single serve plastic/foil cat food wrappers to “sucky” lids on our orange juice bottles, thick “boutique” plastic bags instead of thin ones at the supermarket (this was done after the 2 big supermarkets found a loophole in the new Australian plastic bag legislation) it seems like humanity is on a quest to use up all the resources in the world like it’s a competition.

I try to get my work to use non pvc alternatives and reduce material where we can, but I feel like it’s a losers battle against the tide of wasteful design hitting the market every day. Sure, there are a few glimmers of hope here and there, but it seems like 1 step forward 2 steps back. On top of all this I found out recently that a council in my state was doing fake recycling by having everyone sort all their rubbish into recyclables and non-recyclables in sections in the bin and then mixing it all together for landfill.

End rant.

At the heart of the matter is, what is sustainable? It is a question that I have yet to see an answer supported with evidence instead of a feel-good. Without evidence, all you will get is a giant and completely unproductive pissing match.

I know your gut says what you are experiencing is wasteful. Sometimes your gut is right, but often times it is wrong. How do you know the soap dispenser is “wasteful”.

To be objective, you need to calculate inventory and consumption rate. So, for instance, let’s say you are 25, wash dishes once a day and have 100 cases of soap - 12 bottles per case, 1000 ml per bottle. Average lifespan is 80 years so you can expect to do the dishes about 20,000 times before you die. You have 1,200,000 ml of soap. If the soap dispenser uses more than 60 ml of soap to wash the dishes, I would define it as wasteful. If it uses less, it is sustainable.

Now, do this on a global scale. What is the current inventory of resources and what is the replenishment rate (if any) of those resources? What is the current rate of consumption and what is the future projected rate?

Another big problem with sustainability is that we don’t live that way. The underlying truth is we don’t want to be sustainable. If we did we would start at the top and cut our power, water, and driving down. We need to just stop consuming so much.

That is it stop buying things to throw out. A lot of what I see coming out as sustainable design either fixes such a small unimportant problem or it is just away for us to consume that has the potential to have less of an impact. Generally if you look at the big picture overall a lot of sustainable products actually cause more damage in the long run then they help.

Example the Prius it does get better gas efficiency it helps the user in the current phase of use. But it has a huge battery pack now that have to be disposed of. The question is are the savings in emissions enough to cancel out battery pack the answer generally is no.

It’s not only what we consume, but how we consume it, don’t you think?

My wife insists… persists… in washing small batches of dishes during the course of the day, with the water running, and using intermittent squirts of liquid detergent on the brush. We all know that the concentrated detergent goes a LONG WAY, and using it in this manner is wasteful (not to mention expensive).

I took an empty detergent bottle, added about a teaspoon of detergent to it, and filled the rest of the bottle with water… It works just as well as using it full-strength, and extends the concentrate by probably 100 times.

Waiting until the end of the day and washing all of the dishes BY HAND, in a sink, is far more efficient and considerate of the environment (less water and energy to heat it). If you rinse your plated immediately after using them, so that nothing dries onto the surface, you’ll be saving even more water (which would have been used trying to dissolve that egg yolk).

I have one of these things. It sucks. The seal around the loading mouth never stays perfectly closed. Maybe they should have provided a special rack for your dish brush, with a suction cup, to hold it upright so nothing leaks. More plastic crap.

Do any of the big faucet/sink equipment manufacturers make something like the system for washing cars, or house windows, where the soap and water are mixed in-line, so you get a foamy mixture of the right concentration at the nozzle?

I agree and disagree here. In most cities you have hubs of industrial/service areas where workers have to drive or catch (in a lot of cases) very inefficient modes of public transport to get there. I used to catch 3 buses to work when I lived with my folks when I was 19, which took me about 1 3/4 hours each way.

I currently drive 55kms each way to work because there is no public transport from where I live to where I work and my girlfriend works right near our home, so if we moved it would just reverse the travel problem. A counter argument may be, lets all move next door to the industrial areas which we work in, but I think people need trees around them to be healthy.

I bought a diesel car because it uses about half the fuel of my girlfriends petrol car which I was driving to work until she finished uni and started working, so that’s one small gesture I guess.

I like the blade of water design going on in this electrolux product. The design looks like it was probably inspired by dyson’s air blade hand cleaner…


If we use high pressure hot water then we shouldn’t need dishwashing liquid at all. It’s a consumer need which had been created by a chemical company. The trick is to wash dishes straight away.

It will just mean people will have to buy plates etc with quality finishes, e.g. not cheap screen prints on them, or plain plates.

In nut shell you proved my point. In your case with the commute you have. You made certain choices that keep you driving. If driving was not an option and only walking was that would drastically limit your choices. No body wants limited choices hence the need for consuming and manufacturing in large quantities. So the circle will continue in till we as a consuming culture change these views and our choices.

Public transit for the most part in America is high ineffective. Mostly because of the choices most people make. Such as living in the suburbs. I am really not saying there is anything wrong or that I have a problem with these choices. But I also don’t feel like running out and buying some marginally effective environment consumer good. Or to continue whining about the earth falling apart because we consume to much. Answer is simple, the execution of the answer is difficult but so is breaking a heroin addiction sometimes things just half to be done.

I get your point. I think the transport thing comes down to how our cities are designed. There is a 130 year old freight train line which runs from walking distance from my house to right in front of my work. There have been huge online protests and community forums about moving it because it is one of the steepest and tightest winding freight train tracks in the world. It goes through about 25 suburbs and the city, has derailed in a suburb and makes a deafening screech as it navigates the curves at 2, 3 and 4am on week nights. If they built a new track which went around the city on a straight flat track, which could be done, they could use the existing line for public transport and even electrify the line (it’s currently only equipped for diesel).

On the other hand, I could go and work at a supermarket and quit my design job to work in the city where there are zero industrial design jobs going.

It just comes down to making the most of opportunities as they present themselves. I am looking around for a job closer to home, but I bet my left family jewel that the government won’t build that train line.