I was very lucky to be a panelist at the PSFK conference on Thursday. Thanks to Piers and the gang for the invitation and the chance to join many, many passionate people.
The topic of the panel was Sustainability - something I know very little about. Designing better businesses and offerings perhaps. But sustainability? Gulp. I'm not an expert and I'm generally a hypocrite... But sure, I guess so.
Preparing, I found that the term "sustainability" really kind of sucks. It's so big and abstract that it stifles action. It gets in the way. It's one of those abstract words that can easily handcuff a team or an entire organization.
So what to do?
To loosen the cuffs and design something a bit better and a tad bit less wasteful, I think of the most "sustainable" person that I can conjure without a big research effort. My dad. It's because he's so very, very cheap.
Pops pulls steel bed frames out of dumpsters because a) the steel is worth something and b) he's thinking of things to weld. When I was growing up, he composted even though we didn't have a garden. (Now that the kids have long since relinquished the backyard he does.) As a kid, I learned to dump the lawn clippings on the compost pile but I didn't know what compost was all about.
I think Dad thought he had a better use for the garbage than the dump. I doubt he thought "I'm saving the trash truck gas." Not only did he deal with some of our organic waste, he also fixed everything we owned and sometimes made us toys (that was a bit traumatic). He still has the speakers he bought in the mid-70s. They are so old, they're are almost retro.
So if you're looking for a sustainability angle, try starting by getting inspired by someone who tries to waste nothing and spend as little as required. Someone here or there. Design for "extreme affordability" and for the output to last and see what you get.
Who do you think about when you're trying to loosen the cuffs? What would you design for my Dad*?
* Go easy - that's my Dad.