What is sustainability? The most widely quoted definition of sustainability is that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on March 20, 1987:
‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
We are all aware that the way in which we design, manufacture and consume products in the world today is ultimately not sustainable. We have designed products and solved problems in isolation without thought as to where the materials and energy come from and how they would ultimately be disposed of. We are also aware of eco-systems in the natural world that are truly sustainable and ultimately we need to design products and systems that can aspire to be part of a similar type of system.
Of particular interest to researchers at NCAD is the question of how man-made materials can become part of an ecological cycle. The science of Industrial Ecology is very much an emerging one and in the area of consumer waste it is as much about economics and people’s attitudes as it is about the science of materials. To design sustainability is to integrate new understandings of environmental issues and sustainability into design education.