Innovation Designing For a Sustainable Future
Innovation refers to the deployments and applications of newer processes, ideas, and devices that are better, and designed to cater to, and meet, new requirements, inherent needs, and needs of the society. This is achieved through more effective processes, products, technologies, services, and ideas that are prevalent and can be made use of by governments, society, and market. We often confuse innovation with invention that is associated with the creation of ideas or methods while innovation is involved with better and effective use of those methods and ideas for the betterment of humanity. Innovation also differs from improvement in the sense that innovation is the notion of handling ideas and methods differently rather than utilizing them in a better manner as in the case of improvement. In common parlance, we usually term the creation of a new device as innovation. But in management science, economics, and social sciences it is considered as a process that combines together a variety of newer ideas in such a manner that these have positive impacts on the society and human beings (“Innovation”). An innovation process, despite all complexities, is a proactive, and not a reactive, process that encompasses some or all the five key elements including recognition, invention, development, implementation, and diffusion. Recognition refers to a specific challenge, problem, or opportunity to be utilized for humanitarian aid while implementation and diffusion refer to testing of innovations in relation to existing solutions, and taking innovations to a higher level to enhance acceptability respectively (HIF, 2009).
Now, the question is: how innovations should be designed to achieve a sustainable future. Future is characterized by Zero Carbon, Zero Waste, sustainable transport system, sustainable materials, sustainable and local foods, sustainable water, optimum land use and conservation of wildlife, supporting culture and community, reviving equity and local economy, and provision for health and happiness. This type of social order can be achieved by sustainable development, the idea emerging from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, attainable by the deployment of the policies and concepts of sustainable production and sustainable consumption (Herrin, 2006).
In the1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the concept of sustainability is emerged as a solution to population explosion in poor countries and consumption pattern in prosperous countries. The sustainable development is characterized by meeting the consumption needs of the teeming billions and improvement in the quality of life under the environmental limits without foreclosing options for coming generations. The aim of the sustainable development should be to meet ‘the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’ (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, p. 43). The aim of sustainable development as interpreted by several governments is not all about reduction in the level of consumption, presently or in future, but about development of strategies that enhance the living standards of the people of the poor countries, and improvement of the quality of life of people of rich nations. It also aims to reduce environmental damage and waste. All these require the maintenance of the critical balance among economic, environmental, and social goals that are usually called as the three pillars of sustainable development (Herrin, 2006).
Thus, sustainable development is all about the manner in which goods and services are produced and consumed. It calls for "new concepts of wealth and prosperity which allow higher standards of living through changed lifestyles and are less dependent on Earth's finite resources."(Herrin, 2006). The concepts of sustainable production and sustainable consumption were developed into the idea by various agencies of the United Nations. It is comprised of United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development that emphasize the use of resources available for more productively and re-designing production, it is technically feasible to produce the equivalent or the same goods and services with lesser impact on the environment. Simultaneously it is predicted that it will be beneficial from social and equity point of view. This model is referred as resource efficiency model which lays emphasis on sustainable production and changes in the consumption (Herrin, 2006).
Although, the implications and exact meaning of sustainable consumption are still debated upon, a majority of researchers agree over its composition that contains three elements namely consuming more efficiently, consuming differently, and consuming less. Consuming more efficiently involves the idea of improvement in resource productivity or eco-efficiency. The second element of sustainable consumption, consuming differently, involves the consumption of services, and not goods, and it is based on the assumption that services consume lesser resources than products. However, it does not imply lower use of resources, especially if it relates to services of the high standard, or the extensive use of infrastructures such as transport, telecommunication networks, and the likes. The third element, consuming less is the most contentious as it involves scrutiny of current lifestyles and examination of consumption patterns. Even after acknowledging that quality life does not mean material consumption, it is near impossible to quit all worldly possessions, reduce shopping, and cut down resources’ consumption. A rational or reason for a car or other necessities is readily available (Herrin, 2006).
Overview Present Scenario
A number of environmentalists opine that the current level of consumption on a global basis, especially the wanton, wasteful, and excessive consumption by prosperous communities are not sustainable due to environmental reasons. The present global population stands at 6 billion, and is slated to touch the 9 billion mark by 2050, and it would impose nine times more strain on Earth’s resources. Also, in case the world’s present population used energy and resources to the level used by an average citizen of America, their uses would have to be enhanced by six times. As per the impact equation, taking into account 50% population growth and the U.S. standard of living for every person in the world by 2050 would entail nine-fold strains on the resources of the Earth, and it would be hard to meet this level of requirement. To put it differently, it would require six to nine planets like the Earth to cope with the enormity of the population problem. Reverend Thomas Malthus predicted that the growth of population in the world would far outstrip the food supply, and taking cognizance of which measures to control population growth were undertaken worldwide. At early stage, it was directed towards managing famines, but later environmental factors took the center stage, and measures such as preventing cutting down of forests, preserve wildlife, and protect resources were undertaken. As many as 50% of world's population presently reside in the urban environment, and they use world's energy and resources much more than their rural counterparts (Herrin, 2006).
Sustainable Products, Services, Technology and Lifestyle
We now examine how the impacts of humans on the environment are dependent on the interplay of population and economic growth, and improvements in efficiency. The growth of economy and rise in population, both leads to escalated consumption of goods and services, and those are responsible historically for more pollution. Technology has played its significant role in the reduction of the pollution level, especially those arising out of such acid gases like nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide emitted in the course of industrial processes. However, the problems arising out of dispersed greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) associated with the change in global climate, remains unresolved. A group of people is of the opinion that the solution does not associate with the use of technology, but it should be supplemented with a reduction or limiting of the growth in consumption (Herrin, 2006).
The World Summit on Sustainable Development abbreviated as WSSD, organized in Johannesburg in 2002, parried the issue of lifestyle and consumption, and emphasized technological improvements in resource productivity, and making available more eco-efficient services, products, and infrastructures. Substantial progress has been achieved by the use of technology in the improvement of air and water quality along with economic growth. That is why; the U.K. government has planned an ambitious target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to the tune of 60% by 2050. In the case of industry, the present technological method of production fits well in the scheme of things of sustainable production, productivity, and pollution control. However, there is a limit to the deployment of technology for sustainable development, and the social issues of consumption and lifestyle have to be tackled efficiently to achieve tangible results. It is debatable in order to evaluate the importance of sustainable consumption, consumers, consumerism, or lifestyles (Block 5 Guide Consumption, 2006; Herrin, 2006).
Population explosion in underdeveloped and developing countries and the way of consumption in the developed nations are the two essential ingredients of a sustainable future. Controlling both population and consumption would be the ideal position, but as the President Bush, senior, “ the American lifestyle is not negotiable”, and the unwillingness of the third world nations to curb population growth, a way out is sustainable production and consumption.
Consumer products having impacts of lower energy and material comprise one set of eco-design, while the other set refers to the question of manufacturing furniture and electronic products easily amenable to recycling, re-use, and creating less pollution and waste. Cautious designing and analysis can bring about environmental and economic advantages to all types of consumer goods including the trivial matches. The materials used and processes applied in the production and use of matches lead to enormous damage to the environment and human health. These contain harmful materials as zinc oxide, sulfur, dichromates, potassium chlorate, and phosphorus. These can be efficiently minimized rather eradicated by the use of refillable lighters. Designers may make a lot of difference by designing refillable products (Block 5 Guide Consumption, 2006; Herrin, 2006).
Millions of people in developing nations are not having the facility of electricity; they could be provided alternatives in the forms of batteries and photovoltaic cell that are eco-friendly. Wind up mechanism is another product design that can be used to produce electricity to run such products like radios, torches, and the likes(Block 5 Guide Consumption, 2006; Herrin, 2006).
Production of eco-friendly products is not all that is required; disposal of these products is equally important for sustainable consumption. Numerous items contain toxic elements, and thus, these cannot just be thrown or burnt without causing damage to the environment. Also, much space is wasted in waste disposal. The furniture can also be made to be re-used. Thus, production of recyclable furniture, and re-using them and recycling them are the ways to deal with all these problems. Another eco-friendly approach is the Green Furniture project under which renewable local products like wood from elms. The designs of electronic items may have materials that can be recycled, and made energy efficient (Block 5 Guide Consumption, 2006; Herrin, 2006).
Reparability, upgradability, and durability are necessary to reduce the environmental impact of consumption. A design facilitating easy upgrading and refurbishing, and availability of parts that can be used to replace by old ones is warranted for the good of the environment. Researches reveal that upgrading or reselling of computers saves 5 to 20 times more energy in the entire lifecycle of computers in comparison to recycling of components and materials (Kuehr and Williams, 2004). Computers contain many toxic materials and their disposal leads to environmental complications (Block 5 Guide Consumption, 2006; Herrin, 2006).
Role of Technology
Advances in material sciences and technology facilitate redesigning of existing industrial products and processes. The use of technology in aviation and transport sectors can protect the environment effectively. Emissions from aircraft and transport vehicles are responsible for abnormal changes in climatic conditions. Demand for more aircrafts and vehicles is increasing alarmingly, and technological developments are hard put to keep pace with the demand. Obviously, all these steps designed to protect and preserve human health and environment are technology driven, and thus, the role of technological developments and their deployment cannot be overemphasized. Thus, producing eco-friendly as well as eco-efficient products, recycling and reusing products, greener electronics’ products, extending product life, and remanufacturing with the help of newer technologies are some of the measures suggested to ensure a sustainable future. ((Block 5 Guide Consumption, 2006; Herrin, 2006).However, we will concentrate on the concepts of One Planet Communities, and BedZED that are two models conducive to a sustainable future.
One Planet Communities & BedZED
BioRegional, an entrepreneurial charity founded in 1992, aims at inventing and delivering practical solutions to the problem of sustainability. It believes that a sustainable future is feasible for everyone along with high-quality life within fair share of the resources of the Earth. It has suggested and made possible the realization of future sustainability through its projects namely BedZED and One Planet Communities (“BioRegional”).
The One Planet Communities Programme refers to the creation of a network of the greenest neighborhoods on the earth. The program facilitates the creation of places and dwellings where it is attractive, affordable, and easy for people to live and lead a healthy and happy life within the fair share of the earth’s resources. The creation of sustainable communities, the lifestyles of the tenants and residents play important roles. Hence, a One Planet Community is a human settlement where the buildings are so designed that these are as energy efficient as feasible. (What Is the One Planet,”2014).
It has its endorsement policy under which BioRegional acknowledges and approves settlements under One Planet Communities. If they conform to its ten guiding principles characterized by Zero Carbon, Zero Waste, sustainable transport system, sustainable materials, local and sustainable foods, sustainable water, optimum land use and conservation of wildlife. That is why, only seven communities worldwide have so far been so recognized, although eight others with lesser conformity are also find respectable mention in the list (What Is the One Planet,”2014).
The zero carbon level has been suggested to achieve by constructing dwellings that are energy efficient, and energy is supplied with renewable technologies. For zero waste, reduction and re-use of wastes are advocated while for sustainable transport refers to transport with low level of carbon emission. Sustainability in land use, water, as well as wildlife, equity and local economy, culture and heritage, and health and happiness; all encompasses efficient use, conservation, bioregional economies, and meaningful lifestyle (“The 10 One Planet,”2014).
The concept of One Planet Communities visualizes certain specifications to be accomplished, and those are enshrined in the One Planet Action Plan. The purpose of the One Planet Action plan which is an important document is four-fold. First, it provides a holistic outline to think about sustainability. Second, it emphasizes opportunities and challenges that are site specific. Third, it provides a set of strategies that are practical as well as economical for the use of the developing team. Last, it summarizes performance indicators, key targets, and road map to One Planet Communities that conform to international targets, and forms the basis for the decision of BioRegional to accord endorsements to such other settlements. It is on these lines that stakeholders of One Planet Communities are expected to proceed and achieve ("One planet action," 2014). Prior to developing the concept of One Planet Communities, BioRegional had been working with the concept of BedZED. Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) refers to a housing development which is environmentally-friendly established in Hackbridge in London, England. It has been designed by Bill Dunster, the architecture, to promote a more sustainable life. The lifestyle in the BedZED is characterized by low energy consumption, but high lifestyle. Under its low energy concept, the use of cars is discouraged, and the use of cycle, walking, and public transport is promoted. The project facilitates the use of renewable energy generated on the site. It boasts of high-quality apartments that are energy efficient to entice urban professionals. The apartments are water efficient meaning thereby that rainwater is harvested for use, and appliances that are water efficient are deployed. In order to keep the cost of transportation at the minimum level, the low impact building materials available within a radius of 35 miles are used. There is the provision for waste recycling, and eco-friendly transport system is encouraged (“BedZED”).
BedZed, thus, is the largest carbon neutral community of Britain, the prototype and precursor of OPCs. It is a live community consisting of 220 inhabitants with rooftop gardens, onsite sewage treatment, rainwater cycling, passive solar design, and own biomass-powered electricity and heat generating plant (Barth, 2014).
One Planet Communities conform to its ten guiding principles characterized by Zero Carbon, Zero Waste, sustainable transport system, sustainable materials, local and sustainable foods, sustainable water, optimum land use and conservation of wildlife. Presently there are seven communities worldwide that have been recognized. Thus, sustainable future involves sustained development and sustained consumption to be achieved by a combination of sustainable products and sustainable services with technological developments.
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