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We’ll come to you.

This is a design blog, not a political blog, but it seems that politics is effecting the environment in which design is done. Companies invest in products that they think people will buy. If people don’t seem to care about environmental concerns, at least not enough to factor it into their buying decisions, then what? The only companies left producing products with an eye toward environmental impact are the ones that have decided, on their own, regardless of whatever extra costs or effort they will expend, that it is important.

Have you noticed that our public discourse about environmental issues, driven largely by energy, have changed over the past year? 'The Inconvenient Truth' is a distant memory. Talk of alternative energy is glossed over with the political catch phrases "all of the above." But there’s none "above" oil.

For a while there, there was a coming to terms with the connection between fossil fuels, global warming and string of 100 year storms that batter the gulf coast during hurricane season.

So how is it that the Republican National Convention was put on hold for a day due to one of those storms, and the most memorable mantra that came out of it was "Drill Baby Drill"? They had chosen as their nominee one of the few senior members of their party who acknowledged man’s role in global warming.

It seems that people were so upset by the price of gas, that the most important thing became how to make it cheaper. We were so obsessed with the price of gas that the global warming deniers made a comeback. It seems the truth has become even more inconvenient.

"It doesn’t matter at this point as we debate what caused it. The point is it’s real, we need to do something about it," said Sarah Palin in her interview with Katie Couric. You got that? It doesn’t matter what caused it, but we need to do something about it. 


So, If you don’t know what caused it and aren’t concerned with finding out, what exactly can you do about it? That's right, nothing.

The product design question is, while there’s been a lot of talk about green initiatives over the past few years, who is really committed to those initiatives in practice? There are Green Design competitions like the Green Dot Awards. There are a handful of companies that have committed to reducing waste and paying attention to their environmental impact (Flor, Herman Miller).

So here are a few questions for you:

If you’re a design consultant, tell me, when was the last time a client insisted that you spend time and energy thinking about the environmental impact of the product you’re developing for them? When was the last time you pushed the issue?

If you’re a corporate design manager, have you spent any time, outside of a one-hour seminar at a conference applying what you learned?

Is your company committed to considering the environmental impact of your products? If so, how?

The answer for most will be "no", or "I wish I could, but…" and that’s okay, because the point of this entry is not to provide a forum for a few people to pat themselves on the back. The point is also not about making everyone else feel bad for not doing more.

The point is to figure out what the problem is and think about how to solve it.

David Oliver | Cusp |