Sustainable Design

Taking inspiration from E.F. Schumacher’s book ‘Good Work’1 this project focuses on the new possibilities for small scale manufacturing presented by technology and, more specifically, the ‘maker’ movement.

“People say to me: ….
you must first change the system, do away with capitalism and the profit motive, dissolve multinationals, abolish all bureaucracies, and reform education. All I can reply is: I know of no better way of changing the ‘system’ than by putting into the world a new type of technology – technologies by which small people can make themselves productive and relatively independent.”
E.F Schumacher, Good Work (1979)

The scale and complexity of sustainable development can create a sense of helplessness – that the scale of the problem is too great for an individual to solve. For example consumers in the UK purchased 2 billion items of clothing in 20142 with “pervasive advertising and short-term trends” in the fashion industry contributing “to environmental and social degradation”.3 Despite growing awareness of sustainability issues, consumers are limited in their ability to exercise more ethical consumption choices due to a lack of viable alternatives to mass production and consumption. Low prices for mass produced products means the financial value of homemade products is often less than could be earned in the time taken making them. Alongside this, people paying high rent or mortgages are under pressure to ‘spend’ their productive hours working rather than making clothes.

For Schumacher, the size of the problem is not an excuse to do nothing. His proposition presents an argument that because everything is interconnected, and that small problems are often part of much bigger issues, this presents opportunities for incremental change. He says to facilitate significant change, we should start with new technology, as technology has the potential to create the conditions to change everything else. He also implies that when the technology is available, ‘small people’ acting independently, will be able to contribute to changing society.

Schumacher’s propositions present a great starting point – to utilise current technologies to create practical solutions to current problems. These developments could then have the potential to have much larger impacts. This project makes use of inventions that were not around during Schumacher’s lifetime (including the internet, Raspberry Pi computers and 3D printing) to develop a tool that could help facilitate localised contemporary clothes making today, utilising distributed manufacturing and creative commons designs.

Making the 3D body scanner

This project seeks to develop alternative choices for clothes production with the aim to provide a means of shifting consumer attitudes from mass consumption to more sustainable alternatives.

Using my experience as a director of BuildBrighton makerspace, I took the role of a practitioner researcher and initiated a collaborative project making an open source 3D body scanner using Raspberry Pi cameras.

  1. Shumacher, E.F., 1979. Good work. London: Cape
  2. Euromonitor., 2015. Apparel and Footwear in the United Kingdom: Industry Overview. London: Euromonitor International
  3. Fletcher, K. and Grose, L., 2012. Fashion and Sustainability – Design for Change. London: Laurence King Publishing