AIGA: Green Salon, 1.3.08 @ 6:30 p.m., The Center for Design Studies

It’s no earth shattering revelation that the Green revolution has really hit its stride and I’m grateful for it. Not only does it elevate our sense of responsibility for the environment and our lifestyles, but it also brings a lot of green business opportunities into the limelight. And that to me is really the only way any new ideas are going to get the funding they need to move forward, possibly on a massive scale. Money talks…

So this is the first AIGA event that I’ve been to that addresses the green topic. We spoke about it from time to time in classes and I’ve discussed it with friends in the business but this is the first time the topic has been addressed squarely. It’s an issue for designers, not only for print designers, but architects, industrial designers, package designers…what happens to the product at the end of its life cycle? Is it just garbage or is there some way to reuse or recycle the product? And who’s responsibility is it? The issue is further complicated by the economics of recycling versus landfilling or otherwise disposing. How much more is it going to cost us to go green?

Phil Hamlett, co-chair of AIGA’s Center for Sustainable Design was the guest speaker at the event held at the AIGA Atlanta’s new headquarters the Center for Design Studies. Hamlett a former Atlanta native now living in Berkeley, CA, discussed sustainability in design. As an example he used the iPod, a beautifully designedproduct but for the fact that the battery can’t be easily replaced. The product wasn’t built with sustainability in mind, but rather as a consumable product with a finite life cycle. Of course, those of us who like to tinker and hoard electronic gear would never throw an iPod in the garbage, millions upon millions of iPods have been sold to users who may do just that. To Apple’s credit, they do offer to recycle old hardware including iPods but it’s incumbent upon the end user to actually make the effort to recycle the product. Until the message really gets out there that we can’t just throw everything we don’t want or need anymore into the garbage it’s likely many of these items will end up in the trash.

As a child I remember hearing the promises of the future. NASA reps visited my elementary school when I was in the fifth grade with tiny satellite flip phones. That came true, but a lot of the environmental issues that we talked about seemed to hit the back burner throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Gasoline was cheap. I recall it being as low as $.79/gallon when I was in high school and began driving. While I can’t claim to understand all of the factors that caused the current energy crisis, it seems to me that our new focus on green technologies is long overdue. My hope for the coming years is that governments, businesses and individuals will pay more than lip service to the green movement and work towards real positive change. It’s something that should always be on our minds…

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