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Natural capital an approach to sustainable fashion design

The frameworks and strategies for a better understanding of sustainable design are many, in a series of the post the most popular tools presented with their advantages and disadvantages. Sustainability is compound, and none of the machines gave willfully issue. However, a combination of the different approaches can lead to a more significant understanding of sustainability and future design. Sustainable design requires that everyone in the process play the designer and that the designer plays them all. The most crucial factor in sustainable design is to develop a deep understanding that everything is interconnected (connected design).

Everything is interconnected

Humans and animals are all included in nature’s ecosphere; nothing can exist of its own accord. Translated into a language we understand is that influence through a design process of different scale control someone or something directly or indirectly locally or global in the society. One of the essential elements of the old economy is capitalism. It is speeding-up consumption based on a few main principles; one is to minimize cost in all parts of the production. Makes the manufactures able to keep the price low in a competitive market and drive more sales. In a world with infinite resources, this makes sense. The consumer’s benefits because of the low price. The consumers buy more things and get the latest product innovations; however, we live on a planet with finite resources.

Nature Capital

In the old economy, a country’s most significant asset “nature” is never concluded of GDP. It is wrong because when we produce goods, raw materials are used. When running out of a particular resource, it will not be possible to replace it. These limited stocks of supplies described as “natural capital”; within this, terms provide a series of services that benefit society and the economy.
Therefore, to be able to produce sustainable limited stocks measured and evaluated not ending materials. Nature capital or the eco-efficiency framework described well in the book Nature Capitalism (2002) by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawking. The structure creates a foundation for understanding a new perspective on sustainable design and the value of sustainability. The framework describes the different types of capital; human capital, social capital, natural and human-made (financial), they are all described in the Eco-Fashion Encyclopedia.

Natural Capital – Man-made Capital – Financial Capital – Social Capital

Natural Capital

  • The limited stocks of physical and biological resources found on the earth described as natural Capital; within this, terms provide nature with a series of services that benefit society and the economy. These natural assets referred to as “natural capital.” The framework of Natural capital supply flows of ecosystem services and helps highlight the role of nature compared with other forms of Capital (financial or manufactured Capital).

Man-made Capital (manufactured)

  • Manufactured Capital are materials used in the manufacturing of final products and services. Such as machines, tools, buildings, and infrastructure. It includes financial Capital (money and other economic assets).

Human Capital

  • Human Capital generally refers to the well-being, health and productive potential of individual people and includes physical and mental health, education, motivation, and professional skills. Human capital elements do not only contribute to a happy and healthy society but also improve the opportunities for economic development through a productive workforce

Social Capital

  • Social Capital related to human well-being but on a societal rather than the individual level (human Capital describes well-being on a personal level). It consists of the social networks that support a productive, cohesive society and facilitates social and intellectual interactions.

Four Promoted Framework for Transformation

1. Transformation productivity

Doing more with less. The framework of Nature capital creates higher consciousness and greater acceptance that we live on a planet with finite resources; therefore, Nature (Capital) included as a commodity in the balance sheet as any other resource, warehouse, products, etc. When the supply monitored, issues such as productivity, reduce energy and, the material intensity of the goods and services produced will increase dramatically. In principles of doing more with less is at the heart of design (in most cases). Fuel consumption, house heating, refrigerators are examples of products with significant energy reduction. Finally, the transformation promotes an address the decrease of dangerous toxins and other chemicals such as fertilizers and herbicides throughout the product lifecycle.

2. Transformation biological design

Redesign of ecological processes transforms and change the view of natural models, such as Biomimicry (Biomimicry as Nature builds it in sustainable design. Nature has been solving and found optimized solutions that prove useful in all forms of natural Capital. Life is an incredible source of inspiration and expertise; Nature runs on sunlight, only uses the energy needed and recycles everything is just a few. (Janine Benyus in the book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature). Copying Nature is not a new idea, looking to Nature to solve problems is undoubtedly as old as humanity itself. The Spanish architect Gaudi, for example, was inspired by the form and patterns of spirals inside a snail house, when stairs designed, which allowed the rainwater to flow freely and now in the twenty-first-century Biomimicry in chemistry.

3. Transformation product-service design

The flow of products as objects transformed into services as solutions for future consumptions. Products cannot only be designed on a solution as objects but deliver the best outcome when services included. For example, care sharing (rental cars, etc.) brings optimal value and efficiency than the “everyone owning” product models. Digital information and communication have created better systems for the consumption of which products and services are shared, less negative impact on Nature and more sustainable than previous solutions as objects.

4. Transformation investment in natural capital

Natural capital investments require increased focus and help build a better understanding that the natural resources used are limited. Efficiency is the main objective to maintain sustainable management of materials and energy; the sector of which nature capitalism is most important are transportation, electricity generation, heating, food and water use. Pollution, for example, is inefficiency, and it’s other significant issues building efficient resource management.

Waiting for better and newer technology to make radical differences, advantages, and bring new solutions are not needed to make efficiency the prioritized objective. We can use the technology already existing, causing a greatly improved efficiency. Technology progress has proven not to be the solution for a sustainable future. It usually created more problems than it solves. For 200 years, technological advancement has contributed more than anything to create pollution, waste and increased to consume of natural resources. I believe it about time letting the steering wheel back to mother nature and buckle up in the back seat as we have a bumpy road head creating a better sustainable future.

The critics of natural capitalism and what I believe it’s the negative side is a lack of the design process of which production, consumption and Waste Management needs to be more detailed. My biggest concerns and it’s not only regarding models such as Natural Capital is the measurement that Nature = Capital (money). Why do we have to measure the value of everything as Capital? Therefore, to trust and hand over to finance people measuring and evaluating Nature is a danger; financial theories from Adam Smith (the invisible hand) and today’s global capitalism has created the problems in the first place. However, natural Capital seems suitable for large-scale production, brings a framework creating a more in-depth understanding that natural resources are limited, and at last; Nature Capital is a part together with other approaches to sustainable designs. For more info download Agenda 21 PDF 

Framework strength

  • The model is easily understandable and includes all the elements described in Agenda 21 (social, environmental, human).
    Nature capitalism can be combined with other approaches to sustainable design.

Framework weakness

  • Nature capital is mostly useful for large-scale operations, however, not detailed enough and without a development description.

Source and Useful Information

  • Transforming sustainability strategy into action, The Chemical Industry. Edited by Beth Beloff, Marianne Lines, Dicksen Tanzil, bridges to sustainability. Published by John Wiley&Sons, Inc.
  • “Backcasting” from Principles of Success: Introduction to The Natural Step Framework and Approach
  • The Natural Step Framework Guidebook
  • Sustainability Using The Natural Step Framework, Oregon natural step network
  • John Boardman and Brian Sauser, Systems Thinking Coping with 21st Century Problems. 2008, published by Taylor & Francis Group
  • Universal design handbook Wolfgang F. E. Preiser editor-in-chief Korydon H. Smith
  • The design is the problem. The Future of Design Must be Sustainable by Nathan Shedroff, Rosenfeld Media
  • What is system thinking? An approach to problem-solving that assumes that the individual problem is part of a much larger system. The intent is to solve the problem in a way that does not create further problems down the road. This approach is particularly important in complex systems where we do not always understand the inter-connection between parts.
  • Natural Step Foundation The Amiralitetshuset, Skeppsholmen 111 49 Stockholm, Sweden
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