Have you done something nice for your planet today? It’s Earth Day.
Since the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, many positive environmental protection victories have occurred. We have phased out cancer-causing asbestos, took the lead out of gasoline, banned toxic DDT and PCBs, cleaned up waterways enough so that rivers don’t spontaneously burst into flames, made progress plugging the ozone hole, saved the bald eagle and the black-footed ferret from extinction, instituted measures to design “green” buildings, among other positive achievements.
Despite these noteworthy improvements, the earth is not in the clear. Human use of fossil fuels have largely caused carbon dioxide levels to rise by 46 percent in the last century. Higher atmospheric temperatures are causing the polar ice cap to melt and sea levels to rise. The earth’s glaciers are losing up to 390 billion tons of ice and snow a year. Nearly 100 billion plastic bags are used in America every year. The world’s scientists say that there is a 99.9999% chance that humans are the cause of climate change.
Many industry watchdog agencies are taking action and certifying products and companies that follow responsible environmental practices, acknowledged their efforts by giving them the right to display “seal of approval” labels on their products. Today there are literally hundreds of green product certification labels in the U.S. alone. This little quiz challenges your knowledge of a few of them.
Plastikophobia is a new immersive art installation in Singapore made from 18,000 single-use plastic cups collected from local food markets to raise public awareness of plastic pollution. Although beautiful to look at, this art piece is in no way an endorsement to use more plastic.
The art project started when Canadian photographer Benjamin Von Wong and Joshua Goh at the National University of Singapore teamed up with social impact strategist Laura Francois to create an exhibition for the Sustainable Singapore Gallery. Knowing that Singapore recycled less than 6% of its plastic waste, the team set out to draw attention to plastic pollution by making an art installation from discarded plastic cups. In a short time, they managed to collect thousands of single-use cups from local merchants and recruited hundreds of volunteers to bring the project to life. The end result is surreal and lovely, and hopefully disturbing.
In Singapore, plastic waste is reaching crisis proportions. According to the Singapore Straits Time, plastic waste has increased sevenfold since the 1970s. The average Singaporean uses and discards about 13 plastic bags a day. The statistics are equally daunting in other parts of the world. Studies show that 91% of plastic worldwide does not get recycled. The toxic chemicals that leach out of plastic have had an alarming impact on the environment and all of its inhabitants.
Like Singapore, other parts of the world are awakening to the harmful effect of plastic. Just last week the EU Parliament banned single-use plastics by 2021. It’s not just the proliferation of unsightly litter; it’s the toxins that are slowly killing us. A solution must start with product and packaging designers who have made plastic their favorite “go to” material.
The Plastikophobia exhibit is showing at the Sustainable Singapore Gallery until April 18th.
By the time that you look at this photograph of a paper bridge, you won’t be able to see it in real life anymore. As is often the case with environmental art, the paper bridge that spanned a mountain stream in the UK’s rural Lake District was meant to be a temporary installation. A sharp contrast to the natural landscape, the poppy red paper bridge was so startling and surreal to see that people found themselves looking anew at their surroundings and consciously thinking about the wondrous view.
Conceived by British environmental artist Steve Messam, the paper bridge is a remarkable feat of art and engineering, made without glue, nails, screws, or structural support out of 22,000 sheets of red paper, provided by one of the UK’s oldest paper manufacturers, James Cropper. The structure itself was designed by Peter Foskett who combined the laws of gravity and the pressure between the sheets of paper to build a form strong enough to bear the weight of human and four-legged hikers. Commissioned by the UK’s Lakes Culture for its Lakes Ignite project, the bridge is one of a series of temporary installations to appear in the Lake District National Park through 2015. The paper bridge remained in place for ten days in May, and was then dismantled to be recycled back into paper. Read More »
Designers are not just ordinary consumers in the battle against suffocating the planet with litter. They are the best prevention and the last defense. Aesthetic sensitivity, retail presence, brand positioning, ease-of-use, safety, etc. are critical considerations when designing, and much more fun than thinking about the packing materials used. As important as it is to recycle and minimize waste that goes to landfill, more pressing is what gets blown away as litter. Fast-food takeout boxes probably kill more creatures than the high-fat junk food they hold. Bad typography may be annoying to read, but you never hear about seagulls strangling on overextended serifs, nor about coral reefs stomped to death by insensitive use of graphic standards. There should be life after design. Design for the afterlife. Happy Earth Month.
The wicker basket façade of the Spanish Pavilion, designed by Barcelona-based architects MiralleTagliabue EMBT, for the 2010 Shanghai Expo has appropriately garnered awards and accolades—to the point where the cardboard signage system inside has not attracted much media attention, which it also deserves.