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April 2008


I launched Easy to be Green with a description of my sustainability journey in the Welcome editorial. This site is in part a testament to my commitment. Still, it is a journey. A journey to continually assess my interpretation of sustainability and how I can help achieve more sustainable living and working. Balance is one essential element. Balancing what I know, how I feel, and what I can do today; keeping thoughts and plans for tomorrow simmering.

It's natural for us to focus on learning about products, processes, and other tools. That is after all how we meet deadlines and complete design projects. We must make decisions while we're learning and growing. But, with sustainability in mind we also need to assess our ethical standards as a designer. What are our professional ethics? In what way is sustainability woven into our ethical foundation and in what ways can we grow our commitment? Do we even embrace it as a part of our ethical foundation? Sustainability isn't meant to be just for the "green" projects or "green" clients.

I suggest we each reflect on our own unique processes that have been useful in other areas of our lives and work. We all have in common the design process that was taught to us in school and personalized as we've grown professionally. It has steps and specific benchmarks by which we learned to measure our designs. Still, we know the sometimes chaotic nature of the design process, the integrated decision making, and the domino effect of making one or two solid concept or product choices. We know from experience how it all works out. It's only linear in small stretches of time. It's more like juggling and using a combination of knowledge and intuition. This makes us ideally suited to adding sustainability into the mix. We already understand how to integrate concepts and prioritize tradeoffs. We can borrow from what we already know about the design process and use it as a solid foundation for the type of integrated decision making that is truly necessary for sustainability to be woven into all our projects and our lives.

What other resources do each of us have to draw on as we choose this process of change? It is a good reminder that change happens when we're motivated by strong feelings. Do we walk in the woods and connect with the world we are working to respect? Do we hug our children or our friends' children and feel the responsibility that is ours and of our time? Feelings come first, thoughts next, and actions after that. We need to balance our time meeting deadlines and learning the steps of sustainable design with time spent clarifying our feelings and values so that we have the personal foundation we need for this journey.

We've opened pandora's box as it were. We can no longer rest together in an "Ignorance is Bliss" mentality. And as I've heard quoted many times in my quest for sustainability information, "With Knowledge comes Culpability." Once we know the positive and negative effects of our choices, we are fully responsible for them. Our greater ethical responsibility is to seek knowledge and act on it. So, we must continue to seek knowledge from outside ourselves and from within. It is our own personal ethical standards that will help transform the world.

Joyfully, Sue Norman
Sue Norman, Managing Editor,
Associate IIDA
Allied Member ASID