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Video: Why design is key to the circular economy

By   /   November 27, 2014  /   No Comments

Consulting Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, USA, William McDonough explains how, through good design, the world could enter a new age of the circular economy.

Here are some quotes from the clip, and you can watch the full video at the top of this page:

On design:

“What we’re looking at is a world of good and how to do that by design, because I see design as a first sign of human intention. And, if we intend to be less bad, perhaps we’ll still be bad, just less so.”

On sustainability:

“If you were asked what is your relationship with your loved ones and you said, ‘sustainable’, I’d say, ‘I’m sorry, it doesn’t sound that interesting.”

On humility:

“Humility is required because for 5000 years we never figured out how to put two wheels on our luggage; so we’re not as smart as we sometimes think.”

On going beyond merely reducing harm to the environment:

“The problem is so many people today report their environmental behaviours, etc., as ‘let’s be less bad’: reduce our carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. If you’re telling us you want nothing, well then why don’t we go and put it below the line? Because wanting nothing is like saying, if I run out of here and jump into a taxi and say, ‘Quick! I’m NOT going to the airport!’ Is this helpful? We’re not telling people where we’re going. So, let’s start saying, we’ll get rid of the bad stuff; let’s start doing the good stuff.”

On reusing toxins:

“What is a toxin? A toxin is a material in the wrong place.”

“When did we decide that carbon was a toxin? Imagine – we are carbon. If you don’t like carbon, then shoot yourself, dry up and blow away, because you are carbon. So, when did we take carbon from the atmosphere that’s been made into an acid over millennia and turn it into a liability? Well, we did it by sending all the ancient carbon back into the atmosphere. Whoops! Backwards, upside down.”

On recycling:

“What if we designed materials that can go back to nature safely – the things we wear, the things we use in water; and then things as technical nutrition that go back to industry forever: the polymers, the aluminium. Since 1850, 75% of the aluminium made by humans is still in circulation. Technical nutrition. Think about this. Even solar collectors, even if we use cadmium, it could be seen as being nutrition for technology for the future.”

“Essentially, waste equals food. Everything is food for something else. Technology for biology. We take the old paradigm of take, make, waste – and we reverse it.”

  • Author: William McDonough is Consulting Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, USA,
  • Image: Wayne Garrett of Canada makes final touches to his art installation “CLOUD”, made up of 5000 new and recycled lightbulbs, along the Marina Bay in Singapore March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su
  • Source: World Economic Forum
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