green revolutionIt used to be that “going green” meant simple recycling, reusing, and reducing.  It was a series of actions, a checklist of to-dos.  Complete steps 1, 2, and 3, and congratulations, you’ve gone green!  With the advent of technology and development in options and resources, possibilities have come about due to more of a shift in lifestyle and mentality, going deeper than just a mere checklist.  The act of going green now calls for a more comprehensive understanding of your actions and consequences of those actions.  No longer the simple task of recycling, the process of becoming more green and sustainable has broadened to a shift in mentality in the choices we make for our businesses and lifestyles.

by Michael Tam, Green Economy Post

To capture the nature of what it really means to shift the mindset of business and individuals toward a more sustainable perspective, I have broken it out into four key areas of focus:

–       Behavior change

–       Think cyclical rather than linear

–       Making less equal more

–       Ask how we can make things work, rather than accept the status quo

Rather than abstractly speak to this concept, I have provided 3 services, products, and innovating programs that prove this point through their very functions, purpose, and design.  Each innovating example demonstrates the direction and nature of each key area of focus for obtaining a shift in the mindset of going green.

The Plastiki, a 60-foot (20m) catamaran made of reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled PET plastic and waste products, provides an extreme example of the result of a change in behavior.  By transforming 12,500 plastic bottles into a fully functional seaworthy vessel, the Plastiki highlights the use of waste as a vital resource.  It proves our current model of producing waste in all we do to hold a significant design flaw.  David de Rothschild, ecologist and member of Adventure Ecology, the team building the Plastiki, speaks to the subject of waste as a resource, “Will hopefully highlight the fact that maybe it isn’t plastic to blame, but it really is our inability to understand the material, how we use it, what we’re using it for, and more importantly, how we dispose of it, so that it doesn’t end up in our oceans.”  He goes on to state, “I think the takeaway message is…if you really want to get involved you start to look at it and say, ‘Let’s make waste a resource and you start to reduce, reuse, recycle, but obviously rethink.”  Rather than accepting plastic for what it currently is, waste, David and his team have shifted their mentality and proven plastic to be an essential building material for their catamaran, on the path to set sail across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, California to Sydney, Australia in May 2010.

While most of us are probably not going to go out there, find thousands of plastic bottles, and turn them into a 60-foot fully functional sea vessel – although if you are considering it, all the more power to you – what the Plastiki demonstrates is a refreshing view on waste, no longer the remnants of a process but the ingredients.  This transforms our perspective from a linear one to a cyclical one where this waste is not the end point, rather, continues on to begin a new process or product, in this case, the Plastiki.  To accomplish this transformation we must be open to learn, let go of assumptions society places upon us, and change our behavior to discover how we can make more output from less input.  We must realize our lives are intertwined with not only other humans on this planet, but other living animals, planets, and natural resources, in an intricate web of life.  This mentality can apply to all we come across in our lives as David states in the video, “You fundamentally start to change your perception of your role on this planet to lessen your human fingerprint and that doesn’t just mean with waste, that means with our consumption of natural resources.”  Click here for an interview with David de Rothschild.

Nike Reuse A Shoe and Nike Grind. Two programs implemented by Nike have created a way for our worn out grimy shoes to be reborn as a tennis court, basketball court, track, playground surface, or even new shoes and apparel.  While fitting to keep used athletic shoes in the arena of sports, these programs also promote the four key areas of focus when shifting mindset.  What would we typically do with our shoes after they become unusable from the miles of wear and tear we place upon them?  Throw them away?  We can’t donate them as the quality, or lack of, just wouldn’t be wearable for anyone.  With Nike’s two programs, the shoe is broken into three parts: rubber from the out-sole, fabric from the upper part of the shoe, and foam from the mid-sole.  Once separated, they are chopped up into raw materials by grinders to become a resource called Nike Grind for three different athletic surfaces.  The rubber is put into running tracks, the fabric goes into padding for basketball courts, and the foam contributes to the material for tennis courts.  For example, the perimeter track around the field at the Manchester United Football Club was refurbished using Nike Grind surfacing.   In 2003, Nike even managed to use Nike Grind in promotional items such as key chains and retail products such as the Air Jordan XX3.  Click here for more information on the innovating process.

From providing our feet solace from the aches and pains of playing sports to then providing the surfaces for which our love for the game is played on, Nike has captured a perfect example of shifting from a linear sequence to a cyclical sequence in the world of shoes.  By placing Reuse a Shoe bins in all of its US retail stores, Nike is providing its customers the opportunity to change their behavior, making them aware that their shoes can be reused for a greater purpose.  As a result, less resources are required to construct the courts as unusable shoes become a viable source, making less equal more. And with Nike’s expansion into Europe with a new Reuse-a-Shoe facility in Belgium opened in 2006, Nike can continue to shift the mindset of its global customer base into rethinking our view of shoes simply as, well, shoes.

Murakami Chair.   When you think of what it means to sit in a chair, does anything else come across your mind besides the thought of merely, sitting in the chair?  What if there were a chair that allowed you to generate energy while you sat in it, and all you had to do was rock back and forth, something we all do at times to drone out the monotonous routine of lifelessly sitting?

The Murakami Chair, designed by Rochus Jacob, won the first prize in DesignBoom’s Green Life Competition by displaying this exact concept.  The kinetic energy created by the rocking motion is stored in battery packs which power the efficient OLED lights in the attached reading lamp.  There are no power cords, no need for outlets, just a clean cyclical idea, where the user is the energy provider.  A tiny tweak in how we typically do things creates dramatically improved results.  Less input for more output. The chair continues to challenge the status quo by having the lampshade itself become the light source, rather than a light bulb being the source of light.   In Rochus’ words, “To have a drastic reduction of consumption the big challenge will be to make consuming less feel like getting more.”  The design and function of the chair employs a small shift in behavior and provides a significant shift in results, providing just one more example of how to achieve a shift in mindset toward the green and sustainable revolution.  And if that wasn’t enough for you, click here to see why sitting without movement for hours on end can be unsustainable for our health!

From these 3 innovating products and programs, we can clearly draw the 4 key areas of focus for achieving a green revolution in thinking: behavior change, thinking cyclical rather than linear, making less equal more and asking how we can make things work, rather than accept the status quo.  By bringing such concepts to life through their function and design, these examples demonstrate how and why we should achieve the green revolution.  And we should keep these concepts in mind not only to achieve a green revolution, but also to shift our mentality for our own living standards in hopes of improving our own health and qualify of life.

© 2010 – 2011, Michael D Tam. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Michael D Tam (6 Articles)

I am a recent graduate from UCLA, class of 2008, currently working in the corporate world of consulting and striving to discover how I can contribute to the world through business and do my part. Although a beginner on this expansive topic, I find my values to be greatly aligned with the principles of redesign and sustainability and hope to share what I learn as I continue on this exciting journey. From reading informative articles, to viewing eye-catching videos, to attending awe-inspiring events, I hope to capture what I learn and present it in a fashion interesting to you. Simply a student of the subject, I am interested in the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in building businesses that are profitable but can help society in ways never before considered. I am grateful to have this opportunity to share what I learn with like-minded individuals and hope that I can add to the innovating discussion.