7 Bad Habits of Eco-Design Driven Consumers

by , 10/29/08

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

Inhabitat is proud to present our readers with the world’s most exciting developments in future-forward design. Still, the stunning array of beautiful green furnishings and stylish products available today presents certain questions about the responsible consumption of green goods. The time has come address these challenges and take an in-depth look at our collective green habits. Read on for a list of seven bad habits of Eco-Design driven consumers, and the first steps that begin the road to recovery.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

First let’s take a step back, to a time when consumers were more concerned with style and less so with sustainability. As design-savvy consumers, we are lovers of stuff – sleek gadgets, ironic and iconic furniture pieces, cleverly presented graphic information, and chic well-adorned abodes. We consume this stuff in accordance with what our pocketbooks allow, dictated by trend cycles, product availability, and spurts of technological innovation.

As eco-conscious design consumers, we opt for green alternatives to get our buying fix. We purchase energy-star rated and water efficient appliances, carefully research the best sustainable seats before procurement, and go out of our way to buy ethical organic threads. Yet what we buy is often less important than how we choose use an object – a concept that is often ignored.

As drivers of trends in architecture, interiors, furniture, fashion, transportation, and gadgets, Inhabitat advocates careful consumption by educating our readers about the sustainable aspects of these subjects. Lets turn this up a notch by exploring the bad habits of design junkies and the good habits of truly green consumers in more detail.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critiqueFlow: Antidotes for Overconsumption

Step 1: Recognize you have a Problem

Being a design junky is not unlike other addictions (when taken to extremes of course). As constant consumers, we abuse our credit cards, over-consume our fair share of the resources and materials used to create and to operate these products, willingly dispose of and neglect out-of-date fashions, and encourage others to follow our lead as ‘trend setters,’ creating ‘hotbeds’ of design. Let’s start down the road to recovery, becoming conscious users rather than greedy over-consumers.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

Start by Calculating your Ecological Footprint
By using this footprint calculator, or a similar assessment tool you can find a rough estimate of the amount of resources you consume in relation to the biological capacity of the planet. You’ll notice that a huge number of the impacts represented deal with the products we consume: electronics, clothing, furniture, food, our behaviors surrounding these products, and the spaces we inhabit. By retaking the test, and inserting adjustments for improved consumer behavior, you will be able to drastically reduce your impact.

Addressing Bad Consumption Habits with Salient Solutions

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

1. Bad Habit: Being a Slave to Fashion Trends

Oftentimes design consumption is dictated by the whims of Industry-determined trend cycles and flashy fashion-forward products . Yet keeping up with trends in practice means revamping your wardrobe and home on the cycles of the industry: 6+ times a year for fashion and between 1-5 years for home redesign.

Good Habit: Consume on a Replacement Cycle
Purchase a new item to replace an old, rather than continuously increasing your possessions and decreasing your closet space. Choose new or new to you products wisely as those that allow you the versatility to outlast fads, with the durability to survive beyond the expected use of the average designer shirt.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critiqueReclaimed and repaired furniture by Jamie Ward

2. Bad Habit: Wearing Through your Shoes

Another unfortunate consequence of industry product cycles is their tendency to limit the lifecycles of the items we consume. Whereas once products such as refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and home furnishings were expected to last for decades, they are now commonly seen as replaceable items to be worn out and cast aside.

Good Habit: Letting your Shoes Wear You
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in this case a dumpster full of worn-out goods that could have been salvaged with a little bit of TLC. Taking the time to fix and maintain your possessions is always more efficient than consuming an entirely new product, so wash your clothes with cold water, repair run down appliances, and treat interior furnishings so that they will last.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

3. Bad Habit: Hardwiring your Ego to your Electronics

We live in a digital age of constant connection where we are constantly being bombarded with information. While we’re busy surfing the web, listening to our ipods on the stereo, and twittering away on our cellphones, it’s all too easy to lose track of the massive energy load that these devices consume.

Good Habit: Sometimes You need to Unplug – And we mean this in a ‘Matrix’ sort of way
The best way to cut down on unnecessary energy use is to simply pull the plug on any piece of gear that you are not currently using. Computer adapters, household appliances, and even cell phone chargers constantly suck up energy so long as they remain plugged in. By wisely choosing the devices you are use at any given moment and unplugging the rest, you can kill vampire power sinks while saving money on your bill.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

4. Bad Habit: Using too much Energy to run your Energy Efficient Products

Although your appliances tote the Energy Star and Water Sense logos, this doesn’t make you immune to over-consuming energy and water. Your energy efficient appliances will not scold you for running the dishwasher or washing machine when only half full, or for taking 30 minute long showers. Your LEED certified home will not prevent you from keeping your thermostat set at 80 degrees in the winter and 55 in the summer, and your low-flush toilet and faucet aerator certainly won’t fix themselves when they spring a leak or drip continuously. You have to do these things yourself.

Good Habit: Properly Use your Appliances to Maximize Efficiency
Maintaining efficient appliances has as much to do with behavior as it does with the machine itself. In our greener appliances series we showed you how to maximize the efficiency of your refrigerator, washer, dryer, and dishwasher. But these tips only represent the tip of the iceberg in curbing your utility consumption. Visit organizations such as the NRDC to learn more about reducing your household energy and water use.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critiqueJet Trails by Chris Jordan

5. Bad Habit: Jet Setting Around

With the rise in the cost of gas (and pretty much everything else in the US these days) you may have temporarily curbed your jet-setting lifestyle by carpooling to work and taking vacations closer to home. The reality is that the need to conserve these resources is not a temporary situation and therefore demands lasting changes in how you choose to travel for work as well as for personal trips. It’s time to address how to fulfill these needs in the long run, while permanently curbing your personal dependence on energy, resource, and space-intensive forms of transportation.

Good Habit: Engaging with your Local Surrounds
Reevaluate how you live and work. In the long run, you may cut down on commute time by choosing to move closer to your employer, or to instead telecommute to work. Seek out teleconferences rather than attending in person. Downsize your vehicle by driving an efficient scooter rather than a car and consider using car sharing programs such as ZipCar, or renting vehicles when you need to rather than owning your own car. For vacations, budget your travel time, by making long plane and car trips the exception rather than the norm, and use mass forms of transit, such as trains whenever possible. And don’t forget to bike, walk, and use human power to propel you where you need to go.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

6. Bad Habit: Keeping Up with the Jones’

Your new ‘green home’ resembles a McMansion, complete with an energy efficient swimming pool and LED lighting illuminating the walkway and circle drive. Despite your best attempts to green your dwelling, your home still has a massive footprint, housing your family, possessions, and sustainable lifestyle. Since the 1970s’ the average American home has grown by more than 500sq ft, while the average family size has decreased (says the New York Times Almanac). This incongruity should signal that our want for space has surpassed our needs, incurring higher costs (environmentally and monetarily) to heat and cool, to build and maintain your home, and to fill up that space with the furnishings that make a house a home.

Good Habit: Live Well by Living Small
We’re not saying you have to emulate Ghandi by giving away all your worldly possessions, but consider how well you can live by living small. Design spaces to be multifunctional, de-clutter your home and tear down walls to let in natural light, creating the impression of space. Inhabitat’s archives are rich with suggestions and sources of inspiration for comfortable, functional, and beautiful small spaces.

green home 101, bad habits of eco-consumers, green design, sustainable design, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, green design critique

7. Bad Habit: Do as I say not as I do

You believe in recycling, but throw away your used appliances and electronics. You buy organic produce but let food go to waste when you don’t eat leftovers. You’re passionate about saving resources, but don’t cut down your driving in lieu of public transportation. You carry a cloth bag to the grocery store, but fill it with disposable, overly packaged products. You’re motto is ‘do as I say, but not as I do’ when making these decisions.

Good Habit: Lead by Example
Make a commitment to practice what you preach and encourage your cohorts to do the same, be they your work colleagues, or little inhabitots who look to you to shape their developing values. Share these environmental values further by emphasizing the importance of these personal actions to those who look to you for guidance, or as green expert or role model. Beyond sharing your expertise, work with your family and community to help more people adopt the sustainable practices you have embraced in your own life, volunteer your time, and network with like-minded people through groups such as Green Drinks or the o2 Sustainable Design Network.

GREEN YOUR APPLIANCES!, Inhabitat column on green appliances, energy efficient appliances, energy efficiency in appliance, greener gadgets, save energy at home, efficient appliances, greener appliances, greener gadgets

“Bosch is committed to preserving the environment through innovative approaches to the products we manufacture, as well as the partnerships we form with key leaders in sustainable construction and design. Sustainability, responsibility and continuous improvement are the tenets of our company and are shared by our partners across the United States.

Bosch practices low-impact manufacturing processes while designing the most efficient machines on the market. In fact, we introduced a global integrated management system for environmental issues that makes certain we maintain our high standards for environmental responsibility wherever our operations take us.

Bosch regards innovation as something more than exceptional product quality, functionality and design. Not only our technical developments, but also our commitment to society has an effect on the world of tomorrow.”

+ Bosch Green Thinking Resource Center


Rebecca Silver, O2-New York, Chair of O2 New York, Green Design consultant, Inhabitat writer

Rebecca is a freelance graphic, product, and eco-designer based in Brooklyn, New York. For the past few years she has divided her time between designing for a myriad of companies and organizing environmentally focused projects and events. Rebecca is the past chair and the current vice-chair of o2-NYC, the New York City chapter of the o2 global network of eco-designers. During her tenure, she co-organized many events including Design:Green, CitySol, and most recently HauteGREEN. Rebecca’s work, collaborations and events have appeared in publications such as Metropolis, Interior Design Magazine, Metropolitan Home, and most recently The London Observer. Rebecca received a BFA in industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003, receiving a special award from the school for her commitment to environmental issues.

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  7. itgirlkate November 5, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Being broke is a good lesson in being eco friendly. When you’re broke you have no choice but to not buy useless stuff. You also realize you don’t need so much “stuff”. That the cute sweater I bought last year is actually still cute this year. That I don’t need another gadget that’s only going to get replaced by something else in 6 months.

    Think about what you really need as oppose to what you “think” you need and you’ll be surprised. The only thing I think that this doesn’t come into play is eating a well balanced healthy diet. It’s way cheaper to buy junk food. Eating healthy is a little more expensive, but definitely worth it and it’s way better for the environment. Be aware of your choices.

  8. jarlent October 30, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    So, I always find websites about your carbon footprint funny, since computers soak up huge amounts of power. But, you work with what you have, have to get the word out somehow. The one linked to is particularly silly though.

    I did it honestly, and it said it would take 4.3 Earths for (I assume) 6.5 billion people to live like me.

    I did it with ALL features set to the greenest. So if 7 people live in a green designed home of under 500sq ft, with no cars, and no electricity, and ate only locally grown food, without using any kind of fuel based transportation.

    It would take almost 3 planets! So, if we were all farmers, with no electricity, and lived 7 to a household, GREEN DESIGNED, the planet couldn\’t support our population. And yet, it seems to support a population who does NOT meet that criteria on average. Since only the worst or most remote parts of the world live without any kind of power, no combustion engines, and who live with that kind of population density.

    I hate when green people put up that kind of propaganda, it makes all of you look bad.

    Humans are like children with a new toy when it comes to all this technology.

    We\’re just now learning that it can burn us if we get too excited with it.

    Calm down, and dress us like adults, with advice that is simple and MATTERS.

    Instead of worrying about unplugging your cellphone charger, how about spending an hour less a day on the internet? Or not having a cell phone period? Hand wash your clothes in cold water. Bake your own bread.

    Car pooling is a very potent force, economically and environmentally.

    On a side note: Organic farming is not, in any way I can see, good for sustainability. It may help with environmental statis, but it\’s less efficient than other forms of farming, and thus means we will have to use more land per person to make enough food.

    Clean energy would make transportation and refrigeration relatively insignificant if it is implemented, and then organic looses its only bargaining chip environmentally.

    I\’m all for green and sustainability.

    But organic farming had its chance to feed the world. Since agriculture began.

    Just keep it in mind! And if they find organic ways of being significantly more efficient, it might be worth a moderate loss of land efficiency.

  9. jeanX October 30, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    This is what I have to add, all you users of cellphones and laptops:
    I do have have either one of these appliances,
    but feel equally guilty….
    I must have been using something….
    They cause death, rape and malnutition.

  10. b.o.b. October 30, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Like this post. Nothing wrong with becoming an aware consumer while on our way to consuming rarely.

  11. annesgreat October 30, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Good point BJ.

    It’s a sad reality that while the ‘green industry’ gets the word out about thinking eco-consciously, and makes it a stylish and desirable way to be, it’s fueled by the same buybuybuy consumer ethic that created the problem in the first place. T

    The question is: how can you make an idea popular using no resources, no money, and advocating an attitude of: don’t buy, don’t consume, reuse, reduce, get off the grid, etc? It seems like either way, you’re stuck in a self-defeating cycle.

  12. Edward October 29, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Habit 8: Heaping praise on “green designers” who produce nothing but a pretty 3D rendering of their idea and a description of what it\’s supposed to do, but who fail to realise that they will have to break the laws of physics to implement their “design”.

  13. Sam Deane October 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Good article much needed at this time. I would go one step further and state that right now it is time to incorporate solar power for homes into our plans for living more efficiently. With good planning now, your lifestyle won’t have to be impacted hardly at all. The combination of installing solar power for homes and using all your electrical appliances more efficiently could save you as much as 33% or more off yo energy bill. There is more info on this if you like by clicking on this page of my website: http://tinyurl.com/5lgd9t
    Love the look of your blog by the way!
    All the best
    from Sam Deane

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