Often, the topic of ‘sustainability’ is wrongly defined and as a result, misunderstood. The best way to envisage the topic is to think of the world’s resources as a bank account. Sometimes, we make deposits and withdrawals from the account, but since the Industrial Revolution, we have been making more withdrawals than deposits – meaning the account is now running up a deficit.
Spending more then we save
At one stage, nature was able to replenish some of our withdrawals (a little like having an interest account), however, the global economy has now outstretched that ability and we are now simply living beyond our means. That said, it is difficult to change the habits of a lifetime and when a society has become used to consuming natural resources in order to provide a wealth of economic and material benefits, it is very difficult to turn back the clock and voluntarily deprive ourselves of these new found benefits.
Sustainability - getting the books in order
Sustainability is primarily focused on re-establishing a balance between the world’s ability to provide, and our requirement to consume. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Through a reduction in the consumption of raw material, coupled with more intelligent methods of recycling products and more efficient manufacturing processes, we can begin to live more sustainable lives.
Why innovation and design is important in sustainability
Innovation can provide new products and processes that reduce our reliance on scarce commodities and maximise the utility we derive from the existing resource. We can also change social behaviours so recycling and energy conservation become standard practices, which have seen a dramatic reduction in resource consumption.