My Senior Thesis was undertaken during the Fall semester of 2010. The subject of my thesis is the conversion of potential sustainable consumers to ones that live sustainable lifestyles. Potential sustainable consumers are increasingly aware and concerned about environmental and social issues related to sustainability, however the consumers willingness often does not translate into sustainable consumer behavior. This is due to a variety of behavioral barriers in the areas of information, convenience, affordability and product performance. The focus of this project is to identify the barriers and determine solutions that will enable consumers to move beyond them.
The product design generated from the thesis serves as a model that’s function is to be an exemplar for a new generation of products that will not only be sustainable, but also serve to propogate the practice of sustainability. Due to the fact that my research was extensive, the presentation has been abridged for the purposed of this portfolio. Please contact me if you wish to view a more expansive version.
My research began with identifying the drivers for global environmental devastationand the impacts of an unsustainable infrastructure. This gave me context of the significance of shifting to a sustainable infrastructure.
My next step was to identify who the potential sustainable consumer is: What are their needs and how do they differ those unconcerned with environmental issues? Why does their willingness to live sustainable lifestyles not translate into behavior?
Lack of available, comprehensive and reliable information on the issues of sustainability often lead to skepticism and confusion.
Impacts of irresponsible consumption
What makes a product sustainable
What is a sustainable lifestyle
The Value of sustainability
Comfort with ones habitual behaviors developed in their lifestyles over time and the perception that adopting a sustainable lifestyle requires added effort leads to skepticism of feasibility and an unwillingness to explore alternative behaviors.
Effort necessary to adopt a sustainable lifestyle
Past experiences with inferior sustainable products & the perception that material limitations hinder product performance leads to skepticism in the ability of a sustainable product to meet expected standards of functionality, usability & quality.
Skepticism that a sustainable product will meet expected standards of funtionality, usability and quality.
Perception that sustainable products are unreasonable priced and poverty lead to an unwillingness to spend beyond the percieved value and to explore sustainable alternatives.
Price associated with sustainable products being higher than their perceived value.
The propagation of credible & comprehensive information about sustainability is the key to moving the potential sustainable consumer beyond the behavioral barriers and into a sustainable lifestyle.
Many of the early products designed to be environmentally responsible, such as electric cars and recycled paper, did not meet the basic expectations of consumers. These early disappointments have made it tougher to convince today’s consumers that sustainable products work as well as those that they are intended to replace, or are worth higher prices. In their search for guidance on consumption choices, people trust each other more than any other source of information.
Use products that traditionally act as external visual symbols of an individuals style, values and status, as a mechanism to get consumers to promote sustainability. I.E. Accessories and furniture
Through my research I determine to create an exemplar sustainable product, it must not be manufactured from recycled materials. I made this determination, because I believe products made from recycled materials are wonderful and relevant to the sustainability movement, the represent a symptomatic response to an unsustainable infrastructure. I decided that one of the goals of this Thesis would be to suggest a foundamental shift in infrastructure, manifested in a material prioritization; focused on the utilization and promotion of rapidly-renewable and Inexhaustable materials.
With this goal in mind, I began coming with concepts for furniture and accessories designed under these material constraints.
DIRECTION : BAGS
Bags have a strong tradition of having a value that beyond its function.
Bags are carried with the user often, both professionally and socially: resulting in high exposer to other potential sustainable consumers.
Their high frequency of use increases the potential for and the strength of pride of ownership. (people love their bags!)
bamboo* / cork* / hemp* / cotton* / wool / agro-board / strawboard
glass* / ceramic*
I began exploring the qualities of the rapidly-renewable materials in order to identify opportunities and constraints of the materials that will inform the final design.
With a stronger understanding of the capabilities of the materials I was able to begin refining my design with greater confidence of manufacturing feasibility.
Identifying the qualities of sustainable materials and find opportunities for utilization in furniture and accessories.
In the same way that a “designer label”, such as Louis Vuitton and Dolce and Gabbana stand for unquestionable commitment to luxury and sophistication, a brand concerned with sustainability should first and foremost stand for unquestionable commitment to sustainability in production and materials of it products.
The bag is also accompanied with a booklet containing literature about the significance of sustainability and what a “Symbiotic (sustainable) Lifestyle” involves.
The hang tag is meant to inform the user of the functional and sustainable aspect of the bag. The information is presented in a comprehensive manner, making no assumption of the consumers previous knowledge. It is design to have the quality of being “precious”, encourage the users to hold onto it; with the hope that the information to become part of the bags pride of purchased and shared consumer to consumer.
Rapidly-renewable natural resource*
A renewable resource, that regenerates naturally in less than 5 years. Rapidly renewable resources have much less of a lasting impact on the environment. (Ex: Bamboo, cork, wool, cotton, soy, straw and agro-waste)
A material that is capable of being decomposed (broken down) by bacteria or other living organisms.
A toxic chemical commonly used in adhesives to improve weather resistance. Exposure can be hazardous to human health and the environment.
Toxic chemicals used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals. The can be harmful to human health and the environment.
The Symb commuter bag is meant to act as a model for a new generation of sustainable products, that are design to be provocative and encourage consumer to consumer propagation of sustainability: Innovatively designed to have an initial appeal that is not reliant solely in its ecological status, but its style, functionality, usability and quality. Not just to be an alternative to existing products, but an improvement. Not just fashionable, but timeless.