Diederik Corvers forms Klaar.ontwerpen, a studio focusing on (typo)graphic communication. Taking part in the Graphic Design Festival, here he blogs for design.nl about sustainable design.
It's not easy being green*
Since the beginning of time people have needed to express themselves creatively, to make their vision tangible, to share or to leave behind. And we still have that urge. The makers of cave paintings did not have to worry about exploiting the earth. Their materials were sustainable (we can still see them) and of natural origin (they didn’t know any different). For a long time after that it was not an issue, but now there’s no getting around the fact that we have to take account of the footprint that our projects leave on the environment.
Andy Goldsworthy is a contemporary artist whose only material is nature and has a temporary nature. For example, he’ll go and stand in a frozen field when the sun’s coming up, and his shadow will remain in the ice. This does harm to no one and nothing. But he’ll also fetch enormous snowballs from Wales, which he’ll store in cooling houses in London and allow them to melt, as a kind of artwork...
The Toyota Prius has acquired an image as an environmentally friendly car because it runs on electricity. But the fact that the batteries are produced in an environmentally unfriendly way is never reported. Nor that they have a limited life, or that their weight pushed up consumption to old-fashioned levels when the car is running on petrol. My 1993 Swedish tank does better.
The Prius wasn’t the first car to get the environmentally friendly label, by the way; that was an enormous Mercedes, because it was efficient, produced sustainably and was also designed to be recyclable.
For the breathe in/breathe out project we have made some enormous letters and hung them among the trees. The 600-metres of fibreglass sticks that make up the Construction will be returned to the manufacturer, who will be able to sell them to kite enthusiasts, as well as the 1,000 connector pieces that hold everything together.
The compostable plates that make up the letters are made of waste sugar reed and will become food for the plants within six weeks. But halfway through the project it emerged that they would have to be sourced in China... And there you are, with your good intentions.
It's not about the world of design but about the design of the world.**
Everything that we do now influences the way the world will be in the future. The smallest interventions can have an effect on the future of our environment. That’s why it is our responsibility, as makers and creators, to make a conscious choice for materials and methods that reduce our impact on the earth to zero. This is possible by using materials hat have a natural origin, or by making products that can be re-used, products that have a long life, or which can simply be repaired, can be recycled, have low energy consumption, or the production of which has not consumed a lot of energy.
You put all this into your work to stimulate others to do that, or because you just think that things cannot be made without a minimal footprint, but not to show how responsible you are about the environment. No one’s sitting around waiting for that.
*Kermit the Frog
** Bruce Mau
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