You know when you have an idea, and you want to hold it close, but then you realize that it would need so much community and financial support to make happen that withholding it until you have the resources to pull it off is just ridiculous. This is an idea like, that and one that I want to be a part of designing and creating before I die.
The Vision: A collective purchase of land that is sectioned off to be a wilderness preservation site, a natural/green burial ground, a hospice center for people so they do not have to die on opiates in hospitals. It would also be an outdoor sculpture garden with cabins for visitors.
This vision is about giving back, regeneration, and creating final experiences for people so they don't have to die and have their bodies processed in a way that is not in line with their values. I believe the collective purchasing model or a foundation purchase would help make this possible, and repeatable in various areas of the world.
Wilderness Burial Grounds are not new concepts, but they are regaining popularity for ecological, psychological, and spiritual reasons. I'm connected to the White Eagle wilderness burial grounds and I recently heard about Herland as well. These locations are inspiring and examples of models that work and are close examples of this vision. It's so important that we investigate why our current death practices are the way they are and redesign them to be healthier for heart, the planet, and families. Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul by Stephen Jenkinson is a gem of a book about death in general including a historical look into some cultural elements that are missing for the human communities for the first time in thousands of years. Personally, I feel that after all of the earth's resources that it takes to sustain my life, the least I can do is give my body back to the earth so it may feed new life. I'd prefer to do this without being pumped full of preservatives and without eleborate casings to keep me from quickly decomposing. Decomposing naturally and non toxically is accepting that we die, which is something our culture is trying to deny on many levels with current death practices.
Wilderness Burial Grounds are also places where my remaining loved ones can find where my bones are, and realize that they are connected to a place, a spirit, an existence because their ancestors are. I do not want to be connected with in a linear, square, field of ego stones and fake flowers, and I know that others feel the same way. As more family and friends and individuals start facing and honoring death as a part of life, I foresee the rise of natural/green burial grounds and country hospice centers.
Where do you want to die?
Another component of this vision is a hospice center that allows people to pass away in an environment they would prefer rather than in hospitals and urban care centers. Maybe I wouldn't care then, but now I know I would like to die leaning against an oak tree or in one of my canvas tents with sunshine and dappled leaves shining through the creamy walls.
Creating intentional hospice centers for final experiences allows the dying to experience their death and not be drugged out of it. I imagine hospice centers with clear declarations: their intentions are not to sedate the dying with drugs and capitalize financially on this process. I believe people want this, even if they don't value their death experience at this moment.
As I understand more about death and dying, I realize that so much of it is about the family and the grief process. I would like to see an outdoor art installation area that serves as a completive space for the dying and their families. I see that space as a way to connect with the unconscious using art and symbol to help people see a broader perspective in their grief and suffering. I see the installations as thematically intentional and designed with interactive spaces, such as art forms that allow someone to mediate or lay down and look at the stars. Ideally, I would love some of this art to have ecologically regenerative elements, such as art that encourages plant growth, or deals with the themes of decomposition in a beautiful way. That is what this is about, creating soulful beauty around our decomposition and regeneration on this stunning earth.
Here is some outdoor sculpture garden inspiration: http://www.sculptureinthewild.com/home.html
If you are interested in connecting about this idea, please reach out. This dream requires a community to put into action. Chelsea@ecocreativestrategies.com
Design Inspirations for The Circular Economy
The circular economy is creating opportunities and conditions for a design revolution in products, services, and business. This revolution will also extend into how businesses and organizations are positioned to interact with each other to create zero waste alliances. As resource efficiency gains priority in our economy, designing for reuse and extending the life of materials and products requires that we be extremely thoughtful at the front end of the design process so designs can be most effective throughout the circular system. In order to reach this end, people at all stages of a product, service, or business system must work together to ensure the development of the designs will be able, as best as possible, to join the circular economy responsibly.
Design in this article mainly covers the creation of products but this also applies to how business processes, services or experience design can participate in the circular economy. This design revolution requires that we consider economic, environmental, and social considerations as well as the system that the designed thing is moving through.
Here are inspirations for the circular economy.
Design for …
Durability - Creating products of quality materials and construction that last and that can be reused many times. For example, a leather bag that gets better over time and is made to lasts generations.
Extended Use - Create products designed for many uses by many people. Experience design and designing for ease of use for customers is key for this to work well. For example, build in a recapture and distribution service for products so they can be easily reused by another consumer.
Repairability - Create products that can be easily repaired. For example, parts can be labeled and accessible making it easy to replace parts and put back together again with standardized tools and hardware.
Disassembly - Design the product to be easily disassembled for transport efficiency, repairability, and recyclability. For example, a chair can designed with durable, repairable, and recyclable materials, like wood or metal, and assembled and disassembled for transport.
Modularity - Create products with parts that can be replaced, repaired, or upgraded easily. For example, a guitar could be made with modularity so that if the tuning pegs or neck broke those pieces could be replaced.
Light Weighting - Create products that travel to be made of lightweight materials to decrease energy costs. For example, transporting concentrated liquids such as soap that can be mixed with water available on site, rather than transporting heavy water diluted products.
Zero Waste - Design product components that leave no waste behind, ideally in the whole process of production from raw materials to post consumer use. For example, using bamboo or renewable materials that can be turned into soil to facilitate the growth of plants.
Recycling and Upcycling - Create products that have components that can be disassembled and reused, remanufactured, and downcycled or upcycled into other products, reusing the material at any stage of the product life. For example, a metal car part that can be replaced, renewed, reused, or remade over and over.
Decomposition - Products that can’t be recycled or remanufactured could be designed to decompose or compost back into soil or into an organic material that could be used in another process. For example, single use disposable consumer products, i.e. bags, coffee cups, or products like furniture could be made from biological materials with a quicker decomposition rate.
Restoration / Regeneration - Design the end of use of a material or process to be a supportive element in regrowth, such as compost for growing plants potentially used in production, feeding animals, or creating habitat for example. What if a product improved the conditions of water, soil, air, or earth through its use? For example, using products made from mycelium could improve the health of the soil the product decomposed in after use.
Job Creation - Products, processes, or businesses can be designed to increase employment opportunities over the use of materials. Creating products that need to be repaired, remanufactured, or redistributed to another market for extended life creates more jobs through the extended use of one product compared to the one time manufacturing, sale, and landfill hauling. For example, sharing underutilized assets of regular people such as rooms, cars, or sports equipment have also created jobs for people willing to share the performance of their assets and this has created jobs.
Versatility/ Standardization - Design products that will work on many different systems or with different users, by allowing language options, network connecting, and user experience to be accessible. For example, a cell phone that is designed to work on any network internationally, while it uses standardized cords, chips, and payment options. This process will make extending the use of the product more fluid while increasing the sales of one product to many people with the right recapture program in place.
Connection - Design for sharing and connecting people to people for increasing extending the life of products through service and businesses. Many businesses in the sharing economy prioritize technological and service processes that allow the global public in some cases to connect and share, Craigslist, Uber, and Airbnb are well known examples.
Fields of design with big promise in this field are green chemistry and materials innovation, business model innovation, industrial design, lean manufacturing, service design, experience design, and spatial, logistical and system thinking will also be important.
May the inspirations cause you to think about what sphere of influence you might have to make steps in your lifestyle and work to go circular.
The electric guitar below, made by Henry Boyle is made from renewable bamboo and not endangered hardwoods. It's designed to be modular, portable, fixable, upgradable, and recyclable. An example of cutting edge ecological industrial design.
We are not designing the world to deal with the mental illness we are creating in it.
The french air traffic controllers went on strike (surprise, surprise) and it caused my plane to be delayed that then caused me to miss two flights. I was trying to get to Portland, OR from Lisbon Portugal within 24 hours. This strike would extend my travels home from 20 hours to 3 days, 1500 extra dollars, and a few gray hairs I didn’t have before.
This was one of the most exhausting and stressful situations I have been involved in for many years. This experience plus my body's state at the time allowed me to experience the world sleep deprived, sick, hungry, fatigued, and frankly really pissed off because I had mentally prepared myself to be home and I wasn’t and I had to pivot immediately to re-coordinate everything in a compromised mental state. I was also navigating through Portuguese and English systems that were not familiar to me. Fortunately, the language barrier was minimized although I didn’t always understand what people were saying even in English and I’m sure they didn’t understand my United Statesian English either. (I see how whiny this is, but I'm not a trained soldier. If it gets too whiny jump down to the last few paragraphs).
In the situations of being stuck on airplanes, trying to navigate airports, calling, emailing and dealing with airplane companies with inadequate or expensive wifi, on low batteries, and check in desks that redirected me to other desks all while scrambling to find lodging just like the sea of people also trying to recalibrate. I was struck by how all these systems were not designed for users traumatized by the very system they were using or trying to navigate.
Interestingly, the French might argue the same thing which is why they went on strike. What I noticed, yet again, is that everything is connected so the poor treatment of one thing gives what it gets and it cascades to everything else, just like polluted water.
I was able to change plans quickly because I had a little battery left on my computer and a kind Portuguese flight attendant created a hot spot for me using his personal phone. I immediately asked my family to help me knowing I didn’t have much time left or a decent way to connect to the airline offices via email or cell phone. I did manage to call via Skype and switch tickets on my international flight. At the last moment, everything changed yet again and the pilot announced that they were able to leave a little bit earlier now. WHAT?! This meant that I may have been able to make my original flight. Oh, DANG!
When the plane finally landed in London, I tried to run to the other concourse, go through customs and security, again, and make the gate. I had a helpful pilot even run with my part of the way so I didn’t have to navigate signage. I wouldn’t have been able to find my way or know that I had to get to the other concourse without him. On top of all of this, I had taken an antihistamine a few hours before because I have been suffering from a rash and a cold. So I ran dry mouthed, itchy, late, lost, and adrenaline pumped to try to catch a plane. (This is important because many, many people are moving through the world on pharmaceuticals, many of them take them to deal with depression, pain, and hyperactivity for example.) The navigation and the layout, the signage, everything at that moment was confusing, poorly signed, there was no maps, keys or guides. The lines, rules, processes all seemed poorly organized for the various time-tables people were on. Why didn’t they have rush lines? Why wasn’t their signs that were at eye level about where you were, and which way you needed to go for help or information? Where was the line on the floor for me to follow to the other con concourse? Why did the world make the assumption that everyone had wifi or cell phones to help them navigate systems now? Why were the colors of the signs the same when the functions of them were different (way-finding vs. shopping)? How would I navigate if I was really old or young, not able-bodied, etc?
It’s not a new concept that all these desperate companies and designers take their little slice and add it to a system like an airport. (This is the segmentation and linear thinking we are trying to change to collaborative and systems thinking.) But for the user having to experience each layer in a system and in an experience, especially in a mindset altered by the experience, the process is disjointed, hellacious, confusing, and crazy making.
The most pathetic part of was having to visually and mentally decipher and filter the advertisements versus the way- finding. The airports were cages of consumption with jacked up prices and I was stuck with the options. What was really driving the design of this system then? Consumption, shopping, spending money, could this be a root cause of poor design?
I was really grateful for this experience because I gained, even more, empathy, awareness of access and economic barriers, mobility consciousness, and the need for designing systems to address the trauma that the systems we navigate create. Let's not design a system that creates or amplifies a traumatic outcome. If the users, (especially the Earth as a user) is put in a traumatized state after the use of the designed system, service, or product some things needs to be addressed differently than how it was created and pronto.
Let's take a close look at the top mental illnesses in the modern world and create places, systems, and experiences, that provide the antidote to what it is in the modern world that creates these illnesses. This is how design, service design, and space creation can be healing. This might just be what keeps loyal customers willing to support your support of them. We can and should start everywhere especially in our public spaces, where the need for universal or "public-friendly" design is the greatest. Cities, urban planners, developers, corporations, administrations, bureaucracies, can check in deeper with what they are really creating - stress and cumulative mental illness maybe? We can design for life, not just money.
The future is uncertain, but we can anticipate what needs will arise given current conditions and offer our service to address these needs. Even if there isn’t a pretty job title for it. I’ve dealt with this throughout my journey defining my work in the vast sustainability field. So many things to be done, so many existing systems to try to translate to and work within.
Leaning on the design process, sustainability strategies, ecological design principles and experience with developing and managing projects with artists, companies, foundations, and organizations, I still find myself and others snagged on the best title for this work. Titles such as "Sustainability Strategist", "Project Manager", "Specialized Generalist" (a joke because it's true), "Trends Forecaster","New Ventures Director" all of these titles and more might fit depending on the project. I see, using design thinking to reconnect and remake processes to have a different outcome to be “Program Design”, at least for now. Maybe there is a better title and explanation out there (if you are reading this and have one please share it with me).
Program Design and Development seems to be confused with programming or slinging code, but I use program design to mean using the design process to developing plans, processes, relationships and experiences to reach measurable goals. I’m particularly passionate about eco-centered design thinking for taking organizations from linear take, make, waste economy into the circular economy. This can take the form of creating a program for a conscious company that wants to join the circular or regenerative economy, or become a social enterprise by developing a program with manufacturers, for example, to create a better product, relationships, and system that is more socially, financially, and ecologically thriving.
Community-based design and ethnographic research also work that I (and my team if needed) do to support designers by finding out from the stakeholders what challenges and benefits they have, need, and want. This work is important for strategic planning, business planning (especially for social enterprise start-ups), urban planning and architecture as well as community development in general both internationally and locally. Foundations often use program design for creating opportunities and projects that address their intended stakeholders. Design for learning, strategic partnerships, and new venture planning could all use program design and development.
By whatever name fits the best, the essence behind the title is motivated by how badly our systems need to be reviewed, redesigned, and become relevant and resilient to ecological pressures the future generations will face. Rethinking and redesigning innovative and efficient programs and projects are critical. Bringing in an outside perspective on these matters makes a big difference for moving beyond, around, over, the cultural and hierarchical blocks that keep organizations stuck. Let's focus on the work and not the words.
I love tents and I love responding to situations where I see a possible fix to some aspect of it. So when hearing about the refugee crisis I put together the knowledge of the tremendous amount of vinyl waste from outdoor advertising with simple shelter designs. This idea would divert “free” material from the landfill upcycle it into tents and ship it to people that need them. This is a simple design and one that I hope gets people thinking about what is going to the landfill that could be helpful. There are millions or displaced people now and possibly more to come. I'd love for everyone to have an apartment, but continuing to think about fast and resilient shelter design is important. Maybe even ones that integrate water collection and heat from the sun.
Like food waste, we have a distribution problem and an interaction or behavioral problem (wastefulness) to attend to. One aspect of a perspective issue, especially within the refugee communities, is the idea of temporary. Often these temporary situations become permanent. Is it possible to plan for that reality? Could the temporary or disaster relief supplies be designed to become components of more permanent structures?
Take the simple designs on Tentility.com for the refugee scenarios. The tents are essentially billboards or vinyl sheeting that could become a vapor barrier for a more permanent structure. The PVC tubes that hold the tent together could be connected to become pipes for moving water. These are simple examples that I hope inspire people to see that in reality the climate is changing ecologically, politically, and socially. In my opinion, we need to design for resilience and possibilities of permanent nomadism, disaster communities becoming permanent, and design for a restructuring of what we typically believe to be normal. This might be a new level of self-reliance in an arrangement that creates the social and psychological healing and resilience needed to survive and care for each other, and the land base that will have to support us all.