Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Notes from AIGA Compostmodern 2007 (part 2)

Last January I attended Compostmodern 2008, a green design conference presented by the AIGA SF.

I’ve already written about Boisset Family Estates and DeLoach Wines (“The environmental impact of the wine industry”), and CleanWell hand sanitizer and soap (“An alternative to normal antibacterial soaps”) (which I use and heartily endorse), but I hadn’t had time to write up some of my other notes and impressions.

My pocket journal (an ultra-thin Moleskine) is where I jot down such things while I’m out and about. My electronic journal (this here blog yer lookin’ at) is where I save those things for posterity, and share them with others. So here are a few ideas I heard speakers talking about, which made impressions on me:

Self-Indulgent Design
Designers practicing “self-indulgent design” is equal to driving a Hummer. Examples: Elaborate, unnecessarily long brochures, annual reports, and the like which often contain just three words per page and use fluorescent or metallic inks, plastic sleeves, and other wasteful and nearly impossible to recycle materials.

Low Rate of Paper Recycling
Still only 50% of paper is collected for recycling, and whether all of that actually gets recycled or not is another story. Yet 35% of the waste going to landfills is still paper! C’mon people! I can hardly believe that it’s still so difficult for people to just have two separate containers near their desk, and to be mindful of which one gets garbage and which one gets paper. This is not rocket science. A child can do it. And often, children do it way better than adults.

Electronic Design is Wasteful Too
One big eye-opener for me was something I already knew, but that I hadn’t really processed completely (or maybe I just didn’t want to admit it to myself): Web designers aren’t really polluting and wasting less than print designers. We think of the web and electronic design as a more pure and less wasteful design process, bypassing the pesky problem of deforestation for the pulping of our paper and the nasty chemicals used in the printing process. But in fact, always-on web servers and storage for videos, PDFs, and other files is not free. Servers = energy consumption = oil drilling, coal burning, even *yikes* nuclear energy (and waste). And let’s not forget that servers and hard drives go bad within a few years, all those cellphones and other nifty electronic devices we’re designing iApps for become some Third World country’s e-waste problem (and those countries’ poverty, environmental, and health problems eventually become our problem).

And here are a few links to things I heard about or saw at the conference:

LetsGreenwashThisCity.org
PG&E started a huge publicity campaign a year or so ago under the laudable banner of “Let’s Green This City.” A group of citizens has formed the Green Guerrillas Against Greenwash to unmask the $10 million publicity campaign as mere greenwashing, and offers San Franciscans an alternative in the form of Proposition H.

PaperSpecs.com
An independent (not owned or sponsored by any paper companies) database of information that designers and printers can use to specify paper stocks. It’s a paid service ($19.95/mo. or $158.40/yr.), and I haven’t paid for it, so I don’t know how good it is. They have some free paper, printing, and environmental information available too, but you can’t access the paper database without paying for membership.

Encyclopedia of Life
EOL.org is a new project that intends to harness crowdsourcing techniques to create a vast online resource of information about the Earth’s 1.8 million known species.

The Designers Accord
“A global coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact.” I joined earlier this year.

Core77 / BusinessWeek Design Directory
I’d seen DesignDirectory.com a couple times before, but hadn’t bothered to list myself until this year. In participation with the Designers Accord, you can search the directory exclusively for firms/individuals who have certified that they’ve adopted the accord.

Freedom of the Press
In the gallery I observed a single display copy of Freedom of the Press, a newsprint publication by Brian Ponto and Lindsay Ballant. In excellent culture-jamming style, in 2004 they commandeered newspaper racks in New York and inserted their own newspaper with stark observations on American politics and how Americans get their news.

CheatNeutral.com
A satirical nod acknowledging how many people (including me) view carbon trading: “Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and not cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.”

Compostmodern 2009
Saturday, February 21
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

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