On its second of four West Coast stops this month, the Design Green Now lecture series rolled into Portland last night, presenting a surprisingly varied collection of views on the future of sustainable design to a packed room of 150 students, designers and teachers.
Presenters were drawn largely from the local area, as they will be at the remaining two engagements: Peter Kallan (lower right, above) of green outerwear company Nau; Debbie Driscoll (middle right), Account Director for Ziba's Sustainability Group; and moderator Phil Berry, formerly Nike's Director of Footwear Sustainability, all hail from Portland or thereabouts.
No one single highlight of the evening, but there was a surprising and refreshing diversity of views on hand about how to best incorporate green methodologies into modern design problems, many of which would not have been obvious just a few years back. Richard Whitehall (top photo above), an ID lead visiting from Smart Design in New York, set the tone for the evening with an acknowledgement that effective sustainable design often means modifying existing products and brands, rather than trying to establish a completely new aesthetic; the so called "blue" approach to sustainability, rather than the traditional "green" variety. "What we're trying to do here is add to the brand, not overpower it with leaves and grass," he pointed out, referencing a wooden spoon designed by Smart in 2002, then re-designed in 2005 after reviewing the manufacturing process, resulting in a dramatic reduction in waste, and workers' exposure to harmful dust.
This type of unexpected approach to green design was echoed several times in later talks. Driscoll related the story of Cyan/PDX, a high-rise condo building under development that presents high-density urban living as a greener alternative to the traditional detached house. Kallan described how sustainability requirements are literally written into Nau's charter and business plan.
Best quote of the evening, though, probably came from moderator Berry (lower left, above), who, in addition to working on Nike's Gold IDEA-winner Considered Boot, has been involved in a very hands-on way in improving the environmental records of manufacturers for nearly 25 years. "It's funny," he remarked, after Whitehall's spoon story, "most companies don't seem to realize they even have a supply chain." He then proceeded to wow the audience with an encyclopedic knowledge of green product certification programs from around the world.
Next Wednesday's Design Green Now at CCA in San Francisco is already standing room only, but there are still some spaces for Friday's talk at Cal State Long Beach, featuring presentations from Frog Design, ACCD, and Body Glove, all moderated by Rob Curedale, who mightily impressed us with his insights into Chinese manufacturing at the IDSA Northeast Regional a few years back. Angelenos, get cracking; it's a good show.