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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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The environmental impact of the wine industry

Updated January 2009: Added link Jean-Charles Boisset’s talk at Compostmodern 08, and link to journal entry on recycling Tetra Paks.



A few weekends back I attended a conference called Compostmodern, which consisted mostly of panels and presentations about sustainability as it applies to the graphic design industry. A couple of the presentations diverged slightly from the main focus, but they were interesting nevertheless.

One such was given by Jean-Charles Boisset, president of De Loach Vineyards and Boisset Family Estates, which make a wide variety of wine and spirits under various labels, in California and France. The charismatic Boisset’s presentation was interesting on many fronts, but I was struck by some of the things I learned about the wine industry as a whole, and about his companies’ efforts in particular.

Update: Listen to Boisset’s entire talk: Download the MP3.

Impacts

The global wine industry has a tremendous impact on the environment, from production and manufacturing through transportation and marketing, and ultimately with the consumer who must deal with the resulting packaging materials. Plenty of people don’t bother to recycle (or can’t) their wine bottles, and how many of us actually know what to do with corks, other than throw them in the trash?

Wine production itself accounts for a large amount of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers that end up in our earth and water. Not to mention the massive amounts of water used in grape production. “Likewise, untreated waste water from winery use — hosing down barrels, tanks and buildings — can harm the ecosystems in and around rivers, lakes and ponds.” [source]

A 2006 study showed that a pound of waste is created for every bottle of wine made, including the release of 16g of sulphur dioxide into the air. According to Boisset, packaging alone accounts for a whopping 49% of the cost of every bottle of wine manufactured (including design and production of said packaging, presumably).

Biodynamics

A growing number of wineries are embracing sustainable techniques, and some — like De Loach — are making use of “biodynamics.” I had heard the term before but I didn’t really know much about it until Boisset’s presentation about how his family vineyards in France are managed. Later I browsed the De Loach website and was enthralled by the unusually detailed description of what the vineyard is doing over several years to convert the estate entirely to biodynamic production.

From the De Loach website: “Converting 22 acres of vineyards to biodynamic farming methods requires time and patience. Before planting the new vineyard at DeLoach, we are enriching the soil by letting the land lay fallow through two cover crop successions and applying specific biodynamic compost and preparations.”

“We will apply horn manure and barrel compost in the fall in order to introduce more beneficial microorganisms into the soil. Horn manure is the most widely-recognized symbol of biodynamics; [Rudolph] Steiner named it prep 500 in his original lecture. To make it, we bury a cow horn filled with cow manure into the vineyards and let it remain over winter. The horn provides nutrients to microorganisms in the soil that turn the manure into compost. The finished compost is essentially a ‘bug in a jug’, or soil inoculum, that contains microorganisms naturally adapted to the farm’s soil since that is where the compost is made. The barrel compost we will use was started in March 2005, and is a mixture of organic barley straw and clean cow manure, containing no hormones or other chemicals....”

Alternative wine packaging

I’ve long been aware of several companies’ efforts to green the wine-making process, ever since 1996 or so when I learned of Fetzer Vineyards’ use of recycled glass in their bottles and other sustainability efforts. I visited Fetzer on a trip north one year with my friend Laura Stec, a chef and environmental educator.

Another vineyard I’ve been impressed by is Bonny Doon, located in our very own Santa Cruz Mountains. They’ve pushed the industry to adopt the decidedly unsexy screw cap as a superior alternative to corks, for both environmental and freshness reasons.

Boisset, for its part, is packaging some of its wines in the even less sexy Tetra Pak, an aseptic package that you might be more familiar with from soy milk cartons. Boisset’s French Rabbit label is sold in this alternative packaging.

As others have noted, the Tetra Pak is problematic. While it is theoretically recyclable, in the U.S. there are practically no communities that accept aseptic packaging among their recyclables (update: How to recycle practically anything). According to Boisset this packaging is more recyclable in Europe, but the fact remains that the U.S. recycling economy isn’t up to speed on this packaging yet, and it may be another decade before we see its wide-spread recyclability (let’s not forget that much of the middle of the U.S. still has no municipal recycling at all).

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Green Design: Designers, studios, and ad agencies that work with environmental groups and green companies

I have a reputation for working with environmental nonprofits, so I still frequently get requests to do graphic design for green groups or companies. Unfortunately, I’m usually too busy.

Sometimes they ask for referrals. So I finally compiled this list of other designers and firms that have worked with environmental groups. I’m including a few advertising and PR firms too, since green groups can almost always use some expertise in their publicity campaigns, plus those firms usually have designers on staff too, or work with freelancers.

I can’t vouch for all of these. Some of them I’ve only heard of through the grapevine, but some of them I’ve met and really been impressed by. I hope you find one you can have a fruitful relationship with.

UPDATE 11-01-08: I’ve collected some new green design resources over the past year, and I’m adding a few new design firm listings to this post. Interviews with seven of the companies listed below are available at GDUSA’s website, from “Going Green” in the October 2008 issue.

I also thought I should list some organizations and resources for designers (and clients) who are interested in sustainability issues as they pertain to the graphic design discipline:

AIGA Center for Sustainable Design
http://sustainability.aiga.org/

renourish
http://www.re-nourish.com/

Design21 Social Design Network
http://www.design21sdn.com/

Design Can Change
http://www.designcanchange.org/

The Designers Accord
http://www.designersaccord.org/

GreenDesigners.org
http://www.greendesigners.org/

Graphic Alliance
http://graphicalliance.org/

UPDATE 11-28-07: Innosanto from Design Action turned me on to a few more companies that specialize in design for social change, and I found a few others on a site called renourish.



a5 Group Inc.
size: boutique
location: Chicago IL, St. Louis MO, and Grand Rapids MI
clients include: Green By Design, Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Environmental Protection Agency



Agami Creative
size: boutique
location: Richmond, VA
clients include: Campaign Earth, 8Jax Communications



Alto
size: boutique
location: Aotearoa, New Zealand
clients include: The Sustainability Trust, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority



Another Limited Rebellion
size: boutique
location: Richmond, VA
clients include: Vegan Action, Richmond Green Party, Center for an Urban Future



Eric Benson
size: boutique
location: Champaign, IL
clients include: Whole Foods, MADD, Toyota



Big Think Studios
size: boutique
location: San Francisco, CA
clients include: Bluewater Network, San Francisco Food Bank, United Nations World Environment Day, Center for Biological Diversity



Celery Design Collective
size: boutique
location: Berkeley, CA
clients include: Elephant Pharmacy, The Natural Step, Alameda County Green Building



The Change
size: boutique
location: Chapel Hill, NC
clients include: Fair Trade Resource Network, Higher Grounds, Sierra Club



Conscious Creative
size: boutique
location: Berkeley, CA
clients include: In Defense of Animals, VegNews magazine, San Francisco Dept. of the Environment, Marin Environmental Film Festival



Core Industries
size: boutique
location: Brooklyn, NY
clients include: 1% for the Planet, greensear.ch, Volkswagen Carbon Neutral Project



CSDesign
size: boutique
location: Melbourne, AUS, and London, UK
clients include: Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenbuild Expo, The Fair Trade Company



Design Action Collective
size: boutique
location: Oakland, CA
clients include: United States Social Forum, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Craigslist Foundation, Rainforest Action Network



Design for Social Impact
size: boutique
location: Philadelphia, PA
clients include: Environmental Fund for Pennsylvania, The Nature Conservancy, Recycling Action, ForestEthics



Designarchy
size: boutique
location: San Francisco Bay Area
clients include: Compassionate Cooks, Terrain magazine, American Cancer Society



Digital Hive Ecological Design
size: boutique
location: San Francisco Bay Area
clients include: Institute for Environmental Entrepreneurship, WholeSoy & Co., Canal Alliance, Greener World Media



ecoLingo
size: boutique
location: Phoenix, AZ
clients include: Phoenix Department of Health and Sustainability, Earth Accents, Valley Forward EarthFest



John Emerson
size: boutique
location: New York, NY
clients include: Amnesty International, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, Human Rights Watch



Fenton Communications
size: large
location: New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
clients include: Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Marine Conservation



Fibu Design
size: boutique
location: San Francisco, CA
clients include: National Conversation on Climate Action, PG&E ClimateSmart, Media Fund, Help America Vote Act



Firebelly Design
size: boutique
location: Chicago, IL
clients include: Sustainable Chicago, Awakening Organics, Midwest Wind Energy



Free Range Studios / Free Range Graphics
size: boutique
location: Washington, D.C.
clients include: Amnesty International, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy



Green Team
size: boutique
location: New York, NY and Tasmania, AUS
clients include: Environmental Defense, World Resources Institute, National Geographic Society



Mark Bult Design
How could I not include myself?
size: boutique
location: San Francisco, CA
clients include: Amnesty International, Anne Frank Center, Bay Area Earth Day, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition



Metropolitan Group
size: boutique
location: Portland, OR
clients include: Charles Darwin Foundation, National Park Foundation, The Wetlands Conservancy



Open
size: boutique
location: New York, NY
clients include: EarthAction Network, Not In Our Name, Good magazine, The Nation



Palatal Collective
size: boutique
location: Kansas City, MO
clients include: Pharos Project, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Girl Scouts of Mid-America Council



Public Media Center
size: large
location: San Francisco, CA
clients include: Earth Island Institute, Greenpeace, Foundation for Deep Ecology, Oceanic Society

Ready366
size: boutique
location: New York, NY
clients include: Ready366 only launched in February 2008, so their client roster doesn’t really include anything indicative of their focus on sustainability. I list them here with the hope that I can update this post again in the future, with real-world examples of their stated mission of helping companies make consumer brands more earth-friendly.



Rizco Design & Communications
size: boutique
location: Manasquan, NJ
clients include: Corbis, Huntington's Disease Society of America



Roughstock Studios
size: boutique
location: San Francisco, CA
clients include: East West Herbs USA, Mission Arts Foundation, Search For Common Ground



Studio 7 Designs
size: boutique
location: Victoria, BC
clients include: PESCO Environmental Solutions, Juniper Tree, UN Golden Chapter



T-LUX Design
size: boutique
location: Los Angeles, CA
clients include: ’Licious Dishes, Pacific Edge Magazine



Tumis
size: boutique
location: Oakland, CA
clients include: Natural Heritage Institute, Strategic Action for a Just Economy, Urban Strategies Council



Underground Advertising
size: boutique
location: San Francisco, CA
clients include: Environmental Defense, Union of Concerned Scientists, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Greenbelt Alliance



Vivace Design
size: boutique
location: Montreal, Quebec
clients include: Tori Amos, Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec)



Willoughby Design Group
size: boutique
location: Kansas City, MO
clients include: Hallmark, Kansas City Zoo, Women's Political Caucus, Sheridan's

Got one to add? Contact me.

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