• 02.24.09

A Brilliant Primer on Sustainable Design


A Brilliant Primer on Sustainable Design



If you missed the Compostmodern sustainable design conference in San Francisco last week, you can get an excellent taste here of one of the top presentations. Nathan Shedroff is the chair of the Design Strategy MBA program at California College of the Arts. His full presentation, with the tongue-in-cheek title “Becoming a Sustainable Designer in 47 Easy Steps”, can be downloaded at his website.

sustianable design

The presentation clearly visualizes and relates a spectrum of conceptual frameworks for talking about sustainable design–what we at <em>Fast Company</em> call “ethonomics” and what Shedroff says should be called “blue” not “green.”  Whether “life cycle analysis”, “natural capitalism,” “biomimicry” or “social return on investment,” these frameworks all take place within the three spheres: Human capital, natural resources and financial capital; Society, the Environment, and the Market; or People, Money, and the Planet. Through the applications of concepts like “dematerialization” (putting less stuff in your stuff, like an ultralightweight keyboard) or product-as-service (Zipcar, a shared car rental service that eliminates the need for car ownership), human ingenuity can replace natural resources, close waste loops and make the world a better plac for the future.


The presentation itself is an example of exactly the kind of design it’s talking about: elegant, human-centered, sustainable.



About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.