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The last lecture of the course, given by Paavo Järvensivu about the Mustarinda art research collective and the intrinsic value of nature brought to my mind a lecture given by architect William Reed in the launch event of Sibbesborg sustainable community competition. Reed’s approach to sustainability differs greatly from the conventional approach. He’s actually talking about places and communities, but he makes some really good points about who the whole concept of sustainability should be understood. 

Here’s a link to the video of the lecture:

http://www.mirule.org/m/400/p/1075

And thank you everyone for a great course!

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The automobile industry example of indirect sustainability marketing transformation processes and the discussion of the sometimes surprising length of time it takes for some changes to happen presented in Wednesday’s lecture brought to my mind the example of smoking.

I’m too young to have a personal experience, but thanks to some good quality entertainment, the Mad Men tv-series, I have a clear and vivid memory of the early sixties. The whole series starts with the topic: tobacco companies can not advertise their product with health benefits anymore. Yes, that’s correct – for a long time, smoking was advertised as good for your health. Whether it was lack of knowledge or some shadier business, is not relevant here. (And neither is the fact that this was the beginning of image advertising as we know it.) What interests me here is how long it took before smoking actually was not cool anymore. How long the path was, and what were all the steps. From knowledge to action. My mom has told me it was between my big sister and me that the insight developed that it is not good to smoke while being pregnant. This was almost two decades since the early sixties. In the nineties, if I remember correct, the trains still had cars for smokers so that you could actually sit the whole duration of the trip and smoke. And it was a long way to the 00s before smoking was banned in bars and restaurants (2007 in Finland). Still, even today approximately one fifth of the Finnish population smokes. 79% of them is concerned of the impact of smoking to their health. 

Smoking might be one of the trickiest habits to change, but the sheer length of the process in the sense of change in attitudes and behavior is stunning and more than a tad depressing. Five decades down with information about how smoking is bad for your health and still we have 20% of the population going on with the habit (and that’s the whole population, which makes the portion of grown-ups even bigger). With smoking, the image has changed and it’s not cool anymore. With similar, personal consumption decisions related to sustainability, there’s still a long way to go. I wonder what will be the opening topic in a 2050s version of Mad Men. 

As promised in my last entry, I’d like to present you another one in the series of researching new sustainable materials.

Apinat BIO® is a series of bioplastics developed by API, Italian producer of thermoplastics. The line consists of soft, biodegradable elastomers (a first in the world, they claim!) suitable for various applications. I came across Apinat BIO® via Stella McCartney’s site. They said they’ve been using Apinat BIO® biodegradable plastics in shoe soles already in 2010. Apinat’s own website offers a bit contradictory information as there it is said that they’ve made an exclusivity deal with Puma, granting Puma exclusive use of Apinat BIO® in the footwear sector. Puma will be first using the material in their 2013 Spring/ Summer collection, in the sole of a sneaker called InCycle Basket. (Also Stella McCartney website says they have Apinat biodegradable plastics soles in their summer 2013 collection. Perhaps they have different product types then and the deal with Puma is for one of them.)

Anyway, regardless of the deals I think it is an interesting material.

The sustainability claims of Apinat BIO® are backed up by international standards for recyclability and biodegradability (EN 13432/EN 14995 in Europe, ASTM D 6400 in the USA). They also have an international patent for the product line. In practise, the material is made of renewable raw materials and it degrades by at least 90% within 6 months if placed in a compost.

The co-operation project with Puma seems interesting, too. Puma’s InCycle collection, where they are using the biodegradable sole material, is part of a co-operation project called called Bring Me Back that they run with global recycling company I:CO. The program aims at collecting used products back for recycling, and the program site says they don’t collect just the Puma stuff but people can bring any clothes and shoes to the Bring Me Back bins. I didn’t make a complete sense out of the relationship between the InCycle collection and this recycling campaign, if they actually are somehow utilizing the collected stuff as a base for raw materials in the newcoming InCycle collections. Anyway, Puma’s InCycle collection has been granted a label called 100% Cradle-to-Cradle Basic Certified (CM) and it seems to be the second world’s first in this blog entry.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9zfkYHtuMc

I was planning to link this somehow to the lecture topic of convenience, but all these labels and standards and patents and trademarks make my head ache. I guess that my personal feeling of the moment is that (regarding the clothing industry) through new material, technological and process innovations a mass-market sustainable convenience offering can be reached, as opposed to niche products/ brands such as Globe Hope. (Though I’m not sure if our planet runs out of time before we reach that state). Also, this InCycle campaign of Puma brought back to my mind Angelina’s comment on the lecture that the recycling industry will become a major industry in the future, due to resource scarcity. As a note to self, and the whole Internet, I’d like to know more about that.

To keep the color of the rivers in China natural, among other things, new manufacturing technologies are being developed. I’m really getting interested in this kind of stuff so maybe this will become a series of posts around material innovations. One of them is DryDye, a waterless dyeing process for textile fabrics. DryDye is developed by Yeh Group, a company focusing on innovative, environmentally responsible production of fabrics and garments for premium sports and intimate wear. In 2012, Adidas manufactured their first DryDye t-shirts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O0OU9VYqHE

The textile industry is one of the most water-intensive industries, consuming a Mediterranean worth of water every two years.

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In a conventional process, it takes 25 liters of water to color one t-shirt.

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With DryDye, it takes zero and they also claim using 50% less energy and 50% fewer chemicals in the dyeing process due to the use of compressed CO2.

(Claims are based on a Life Cycle Assessment by DyeCoo Textile Systems BV. Percentages are based on DyeCoo machinery results compared with industry averages of best available technology over the last 7 years.)

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DryDye process utilizes by-product carbon dioxide for the dyeing of textile.

Compressed carbon dioxide is heated to about 31C and pressurized to 74 bar, which converts the CO2 into both liquid and gas. The dyes then can penetrate fibers and disperse throughout garments without the need for additional chemical agents.  (http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/08/adidas-waterless-drydye-shirt/)

Currently Yeh Group has exclusivity rights for this process that they claim to be ”a real and significant breakthrough for the textile dyeing industry”.

This technology seems to be still taking its baby steps, as Adidas says they produced 50,000 t-shirts with DryDye in 2012. It will be interesting to see if they as well as other major players start using the technology more.

Sources:

http://www.adidas.com/com/goallin/news/2012/08/adidas-drydye/

http://www.yeh-group.com/DryDye.html

 

There has been some discussion around textiles and clothing in the class so I thought to share with you some information about a program that aims at addressing the issues related to textile and fashion industry.

Clean by Design is a program by NRDC, a US environmental action group. Clean by Design targets the textile industry with the aim of using ”the buying power of multinational corporations as a lever to reduce the environmental impacts of their suppliers abroad. Clean by Design focuses on improving process efficiency to reduce waste and emissions and improve the environment.” (quote from their site, link at the bottom of the post)

One of the reasons for a US organization to be interested in the pollution of the textile industry in China is that the pollutants can actually travel long distances and thus enter the US environment and food chain.

As we are entering the topic of sustainability communication with our group video task, here’s two different videos of Clean by Design. I found it interesting to compare them. In the first one high-end fashion icons from Anna Wintour to Diane von Furstenberg and Stella McCartney discuss the initiative. The second one is more fact-laden and perhaps problem-focused.  What do you think?

Here’s the first:

And the second:

And a link to the program’s site:

http://www.nrdc.org/international/cleanbydesign/

Monday’s lecture brought up the issue of greenwashing, and we watched a YouTube clip of the seven sins of greenwashing (which are hidden trade-offs, no proof, vagueness, fibbing, irrelevance, lesser of two evils and worshipping false labels). It got me a bit irritated, as I feel that sometimes the enthusiasm may actually harm the agenda. Also Ken Peattie and Andrew Crane acknowledged this in their article ‘Green marketing: legend, myth, farce or prophecy?’ where they discuss the reasons why green marketing has seemingly underachieved in the last couple of decades.

One of the many reasons Peattie and Crane list is that “companies have become cautious about launching environmentally-based communications campaigns for fear of being accused of “green washing””. Based on just my personal feeling, I can agree with them. I definitely understand the need for different systems of verification and regulation, so that not just anything can be sold with as green. At the same time I think it is better to do a little something than not do anything.

As we have discussed in the class, it is often really difficult, or even impossible to pick the best choice in regards of sustainability. “It depends”, we often find is the end result. Instead of a good’old green or not green, we seem to be having ‘good enough green’, ‘greenish’, ‘quite pale’, ‘so-and-so’, ‘mint’ and ‘so not green’ – the whole palette. It depends on so many things. Like Frank said in the class and Marleen suggested in her post, the relevant thing to do is to look at the big picture. I don’t mean to sound careless, but maybe it is better to appreciate the shades of green we have instead of being completely unsatisfied, because none of them is perfect.

/Jenni

“Once we’ve thrown off our habitual paths, we think all is lost; but it’s only here that the new and the good begins.”Leo Tolstoy

In their article “Addressing Sustainability and Consumption” Anja Schaefer and Andrew Crane refer to the notion of the dominant social paradigm (Kilburn 1998), which in today’s affluent societies is one promoting consumption as a socially and culturally meaningful activity. Schaefer and Crane discuss the necessity of a rethinking at all levels of society in terms of sustainability. The article discusses various views of consumption (rational, choice and information processing vs sociological and anthropological conceptualizations as the main directions) and acknowledges that what ever the means to achieve more sustainable ways of consumption, the social and cultural functions of consumption should not be overlooked as they are an important part of current consumption in affluent cultures.

A more popularized version of the concept of ‘dominant social paradigm’ is presented in a book I’m currently reading. Monoculture by F.S.Michaels introduces an idea that in societies there is one master story told at a time. Naturally there are other stories as well, but the master story is a larger cultural story, the one setting the pace. This master story then becomes a monoculture. F.S.Michaels claims that the master story of the twenty-first century is economic. The economic story is the one we live immersed in, perhaps so deeply that it is impossible for us to see it, and to see how deeply it affects us.

Which ever way we want to call it, a dominant social paradigm or a master story, I can agree with all the aforementioned authors that the story of our lives and our times is one about economy and consumption. That is clear now and it might be even more clearer when looked back from the future. What interests me more, though, is the next story.  It might involve economy and consumption, or it might be something more radically different from the current one. I have a feeling it might be nice if it was about sustainability (if there’s going to be any story told). How it is told and when are we starting to tell it, remains unseen.

-Jenni