Global environmental challenges
– Natalia Allen is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Parsons Designer of the Year. She is founder and creative director of Design FuturistSM, a brain trust and design lab specializing in the development of sustainable, innovative fashion and textiles for client such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Quiksilver. The views expressed are her own. –
Designers have a tremendous amount of power, and responsibility, in fostering human health and creating a sustainable global economy. Most consumer products such as electronics are hazardous to human health. They contain plastics and heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, which can cause serious adverse health effects, especially in children. Present education does not provide designers with the necessary insight and skills to practice sustainably.
There is a void in understanding how to build consumer products that are truly sustainable. Many universities and public policies address the sustainability challenge by promoting recycling and the use of recycled materials. However, recycling only prolongs the life of some materials. Recycling does not prevent materials from becoming toxic waste. Presently, each time a product is recycled it looses value and quality.
Eventually the product can no longer be recycled because it is worthless. All recycled products end up in a landfill one day, where they contaminate essentials to life, such as clean air, water and nutrient rich soil. In order to recycle products continuously into new products of equal value, designers have to build with that intention.