Today marks the beginning of a new calendar year, and an opportune moment to look forward with hope, goals, and anticipation. While it’s traditional for us to make personal resolutions (shed a few pounds, give up whatever habits we haven’t yet kicked, etc), we at Inhabitat feel it appropriate to make more global green design resolutions for 2007. What is the future of green design? What important issues, movements, and ideas do we foresee being influential? What do we hope to see in the coming year? Read on to hear our thoughts, and stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment of resolutions from a few of our favorite designers, thinkers, and innovators. And from all of us at Inhabitat, have a happy and green 2007.

We’ve been using this slogan “green design is good design” here at Inhabitat, and this mantra is something that I would like to push in 2007. Currently we use the term “green design” as if it is some special category or unique type of design. We need to do this to explain ecological design, and to sell it, and to get people interested in sustainability as a design concept. Ultimately, however, we believe that sustainability is a baseline principle that is should be present in ALL good design. It is as fundamental as functionality and structural integrity.

In this day and age, you would never say to an architect: “Please design me a house – and I want to put a special emphasis on making sure this one stands up and doesn’t fall apart….” Structural integrity is such a given in design that people don’t need to ask for it. Designers operate under the general assumption that a requirement of good design is not falling apart. I look forward to the day when sustainability achieves the same status as a fundamental, inextricable part of good design.

I’d like to see a LEED-type analysis emerge for evaluating the sustainability of consumer products. The word ‘sustainable’ is bandied about so often that its meaning is becoming more and more inexact. For example, can a product truly be called sustainable because it is made out of bamboo, even if that bamboo was harvested 2000 miles away and used fossil fuels to ship it to the manufacturer? Sustainability is informed by a matrix of factors (material source, manufacture, labor, transportation, packaging, disposal/reuse). I think both consumers and designers need a way to clearly conceptualize how these factors interact.

Although I will be retiring as blog proprietress of fiftyRX3, I will continue to promote sustainability in the apparel industry here at Inhabitat and through new projects that will, hopefully, be more effective and allow me to close my laptop once in awhile. My hope is to type less and create more.

san francisco bay area, inhabitat new years resolutions

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on Christmas Eve, the driver of the car in front of me paid my five dollar toll. I found myself profoundly thankful (and relieved, given the handful of coins I had scrounged from my vehicle’s crevasses), and I thought to myself, “that’s what green is all about.” No, his small action did not involve bamboo flooring or solar panels, and he was not driving a Toyota Prius. Nevertheless, this “random act of kindness,” as the common bumper sticker reads, represents the heart of the green ideology: acting out of kindness and generosity simply because we can, going the extra mile, spending the extra dollar (or five, in this instance) for the good of something greater, because the effects, while not always immediately gratifying, measurable, or observable, are profound and exponential. On Christmas Day, on my way into the city to volunteer, I paid toll for the driver behind me.

In 2007, I sincerely hope that this mentality becomes more ubiquitous, and these small acts become more everyday, more commonplace. Yes, the idea of green manifests itself within specific industries- in design, architecture, technology, business development, and a plethora of other arenas- but at the end of the day, it starts with a mindset. It begins with a simple commitment to doing things better- not just from industry professionals, but from each of us. And not out of guilt instilled by any one of the “we’ve destroyed the Earth” campaigns. And not because Al Gore makes us feel obligated. And dare I say, not even because it’s the right thing to do “for our children.” In reality, green is simply a code word for the Golden Rule (perhaps I can coin the phrase “golden” design?); we should be committed to doing things better, and with intention, because it’s the right thing to do. Because it inspires others. Because we respect ourselves and our neighbors. Because it ignites change. And simply because we can.

Instead of allowing green to become a zeitgeist’s buzzword, sound bite, marketing strategy, or sales tool, let’s approach green as a broad mindset and non-disciplinary initiative. And let’s realize this mindset through small daily decisions and targeted personal, technical, and humanitarian strategies. Green design, bamboo flooring, and solar panels, are merely the evidence of such a school of thought, the effect. It starts with a decision, and that decision can only originate in the minds of individuals.

In 2007, let’s make green choices in all those small moments we so quickly overlook as mundane and routine. Smile at your neighbor. Resist road rage. Or better yet, ride your bike. Buy strawberries from the local farm. Make a bag lunch for the homeless man on the corner. Be resourceful. Read more. Plant a tree. Hug your loved ones. There’s so much to do…

So here’s to you. Here’s to a new year to do things better and design our days with intention.

golden gate bridge, san francisco, inhabitat new years resolution

In 2006, consumer culture embraced the green ideal with force. It pervaded Hollywood, print media, the fashion industry, and products from cleaning supplies to coffee to clothes. Climate change at last got the attention and validation it deserved years ago, inciting industry leaders in many areas to start reconsidering their operations.

Perhaps most apparently, green principles permeated the building industry in an unprecedented manner. Suddenly LEED is a part of common usage when speaking of renovation, development and new homes. Solar, wind, geothermal, efficient lighting and windows, and VOC-free paints are a typical consideration. This is a big deal with some momentum behind it.

In 2007, I hope to see all the great ideas and concepts we’re watching develop in green design start to reach fruition. As it becomes clearer that going green makes economic sense, I expect the idea-generators to find the financial supporters they seek. But without implementation, we’re just arming ourselves with brilliant ideas as we continue down the path towards crisis.

I believe we’ll see larger scale change by improving sustainability education and increasing access to the green goods that are already out there. Healthy food, responsibly designed and procured products, sensible transportation, and safe living environments need to be within everyone’s reach. It’s beginning to happen, but we all need to support the process, and as we go, we need to maintain ever higher standards of what “green” means, ensuring that mass adoption doesn’t dilute the results.

We face a critical moment — a major and mandatory redesign of the systems, materials and objects that surround us. We need to undertake this project not with fear and dread, but inspiration and elation. An incredible network of individuals and a bottomless well of creative energy exist to start making it happen. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already on board, so in 2007, bring someone new into the fray; we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Finally, a huge thank you to all of you who’ve been reading, commenting on, and otherwise supporting Inhabitat in 2006. It’s been a great year of growth for us, and we’re anticipating a phenomenal year ahead. We hope you’ll stick with us and make your voices heard as we work to make this the best resource around for sustainable design and architecture.