Design with nature, twelve principles on how to approach sustainable fashion design

Design principles from nature

Since the summer a series of posts on “how to approach fashion design in the sustainable era design been published and discussed; several of the most well-known frameworks, philosophies, tools, and measurements for conscious fashion design been presented with a personal view upon strength and weakness on the different framework. However, finding one tool cover it all would be naïve. The following approaches to sustainable design have been discussed: nature capitalism, cradle to cradle, biomimicry, life cycle assessment (LCA), the Natural Step and 12 Design Principles from Nature.

Permaculture is a design system for creating a sustainable human environment

Sustainability is complex, and by definition indefinite; it includes knowledge across various fields of design, departments, branches, industry, science, education, and beliefs system. Still, a combination of the different approaches can lead to better understanding the concept of sustainability and give fresh ideas on how to create products with the least possible negative impact on the environment. This is the minimum to strive for. Sustainable design is by nature on-going and demanding, however, rewarding for those who dare do innovation, making cutting-edge products that engage and encourage consumers to choose Eco-smart. In the mid-seventies, two Aussies introduced a new green term to environmentalism, living in the arid Australian (Tasmania) climate.

They published in 1978 their first book “Permaculture One” and a year later Permaculture Two. Bill Mollison grew up in Tasmania, and as he writes in the book’s introduction to Permaculture: “everything we needed we made our own boots our personal metal works: we caught fish, grew food, made bread. I didn’t know anyone who lived there had only one job, or even anything that you could define as a job, Everybody worked at several things.” What he describes is important, first of all, living and designing with nature requires many skills, not one. When the book was published, the critic was mixed, the professional community was outraged, because they combined several fields of biology with architecture, agriculture with forestry and so on. This applies in the same way when finding solutions to complex challenges for a designer.

The core of Permaculture is design. The Design is a connection to things. (Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison. ) The concept of connected is a classical Buddhism view; “all things appear and disappear because of causes and condition, nothing ever exists entirely alone. Everything is in relation to everything else” said Buddha. The reflection in Buddhism is the opposite of Western philosophy because we traditionally are trained to take things apart. The importance influence from Eastern religions and especially Buddhism in environmental philosophy and green ethics in the 1970s was considerable. I would like to mention two other great environmentalists that made a huge impact and published ground-breaking books at the same time, sharing the permaculture view (added November 2017, after 6 months of studying Epigenetics itś clearly for the first time in history scientifically that our lifestyle of the modern society causes chronic diseases and therefore we need to change to a less stressful way of living).

The view of people such as Næss and Schumacher came when working within nature

The renaissance man, boxer, climber and PhD Arne Næss who introduced the phrase “deep ecology to environmental literature 1973 said; “deep ecology is deep because it is whole and connected, it persists in asking deeper questions about why and how and thus concerned with the fundamental philosophical questions about the impacts of human life as one part of the ecosphere”. Arne Næss as Bill and David grew up living in close relationship with nature, (Arne Næss even climbed the mountain Tirch Mir in Himalaya in 1950 a mission that few others do today).

E.F. Schumacher was an internationally influential thinker, statistician, an economist. In 1955, Schumacher worked and traveled in Burma (now Myanmar) as a business consultant. During the stay, Schumacher was introduced to a new set of economic principle. He named it Buddhist economics“, based on the belief that good work was essential for proper human development and that production from local resources for regional needs is the most rational way of economic life. He gained insights that led him to become a pioneer in what is now named appropriate technology: earth and user-friendly technology matched to the scale of community life. His book Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered from 1973 is among the 100 most influential books published since World War according to The Times Literary Supplement. Check out the blog list 101 greatest green books

Permaculture basic principles of sustainability working within the limits of nature, while providing abundance for the native area by optimizing local features. Like inBiomimicry Permaculture is a system mimics nature’s patterns and relationships to provide high-yield from the local natural resources such as energy food and fiber with simultaneously low impact on the environment. Nature does not judge what is good or bad or translate, its ethic is to optimize. Whatever is the most sustainable, in a workable way?

Nature with its built-in control system is the borderless, universal, and interconnected. The living systems work with feedback to keep the system in balance, nevertheless, adjust to circumstances. It’s a whole system thinking. Nature design principles are universal, and the same applies to communication. The basic ethics that drive permaculture are borrowed from three broads maxims could be re-worded to communication. The ecologic design is an integrative, ecologically responsible design discipline. It helps connect scattered efforts in green architecture, sustainable agriculture, engineering, and other fields. Ecological design is both a profoundly hopeful vision and a pragmatic tool. By placing ecology in the foreground of design, it provides specific ways of minimizing energy and materials use, reducing pollution, preserving habitat, and fostering community, health, and beauty. It provides a new way of thinking about design principles.

The three core ethics

  1. Take care of the Earth (natural resources )
  2. Take care of people (yourself, community)
  3. Equal share (limit consumption/reproduction)

Can be re-worded to communicate

  1. Be conscious of your impact (don’t waste materials, etc.)
  2. Be supportive, fair business practice, locally when it’s possible)
  3. Share resources, volunteer, be involved on a local scale

The three core ethics of a natural system were supported with a set of universal principles developed by David Holmgren. These principles can as well be used as design tools for value-driven communication. The principles are guidelines, and all of them might not be used in a single project. However, for optimal design integrate as many possible.

12 design principles from nature

  1. Observe and interact. Join forces with nature, learn processes first-handed by taking passive and active observation of patterns and shapes. This makes the design of a project most effective.
  2. Catch and store energy. Besides the obvious save for a rainy day, the realization that everything is energy even capital it’s just another form and could also be interpreted as an opening for the future.
  3. Obtain a yield. Time is valuable, do not give yourself away for the sake of working. Make a decent profit to support the family and community, and the future of your work.
  4. Use and value renewable resources. Work with this in mind. Reuse and recycle what you can in your workspace, use green products and services.
  5. Self –going and accept feedback. Get yourself organized and get structures in place to avoid overflow. In work, company growth or in keeping yourself on duty. Accept feedback from your colleagues and your clients, even if you do not respond on every suggestion, being open-minded to what others contribute an increase a positive flow between you and then and enhance the working environment.
  6. No-waste communications. Remember that people’s time and mindshare are precious. Design communication to be valuable information, not pollute visually or create junk.
  7. Design from patterns to details. When beginning a design, look at the overall picture. However, first ask yourself what do I want to accomplish? What types of visuals could support that message? How might it be interpreted from another perspective? What sort of environment will it be received in? start as a generalist and end as a specialist.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate. Maximizing the relationship for optimized results can be translated to effectively designed communication by relating the parts to the whole. Provide visual cues, transitions that link ideas through graphics and word interplay, and families color, fonts, graphical styles) to differ key family between the parts. The part will retain their strong point to provide contemporary pieces of the communication while the viewer is taken into consideration by presenting the components as part of the overall visually fluent language.
  9. Smaller and slower solutions – “More is better” is an idea that needs to be rethought. There are many advantages to narrow, smarter thinking that recognizes niche possibilities. Macro-level perspectives can’t see in these terms.
  10. Cherish diversity. Nature never relies on just one solution. Complexity and diversity are essential to flexibility. Diversity is built into nature to provide options, and complexity offers many ways to get there.
  11. Understand the value of edges. In nature, edges to differ the changes between processes or cycles. Nature draws lines from grassland to mountains the same apply in design. Edges can set the tone of voice between ideas or thoughts. Remember edge thinking is innovative, new ideas don’t come from the center but the edges that surround it.
  12. Follow nature’s lead of resilience. Nature is abstract, meditative, always in flux. Continuously re-balancing, restoring itself as new circumstances occurs in the environment. Likewise, core values are recognized and represented in an integrated piece of designed communication. They accommodate external or superficial changes, and the fundamental principles remain intact. Like a whole system, the flexibility, bounce and elastic center from which it can expand are the contexts of nature, all parts functioning in support of the whole.

Nature design principles from the real world

Nature talks in a poetic language most often overseen by science

Nature is not served by rigid laws, but by rhythmical, reciprocal processes, this must be kept in mind. We need to re-discover cycles, pulsation and subtler transmissions of nature energies that actually science took away because of its materialistically based methodology. Science can write in details and uttermost precision the mechanical and physical effects of things being study, however, does not have a poetic language and therefore, incapable of describing the true inner conformities of natural law. As a result, the Work Such as Permaculture By Bill Mollison and David Holmgren is meaningful. Permaculture and designing with nature can, first of all, show us the importance of learning practical things, the principles are action-oriented. Permaculture invites us to observe, interact and be a part of nature rather than staying in a classroom.

Furthermore, Deep Ecology by Arne Næss and Small is beautiful, economics as by E.F. Schumacher, their gift to write with a poetic language about how nature design things are imminent, precious and rare. As long as our innovation in science, design, and newness of products is driven by profit maximization, technological progress, unfortunately, will sadly only increase the speed of global warming.

Finally, I would like to quote from a book “Our Senseless Toil,” written by Viktor Schauberger between 1932 and 1933; “Humanity’s most sacred possession, its freedom of subjective thought, action, and feeling, will be literally trodden underfoot by people who were never really in a position to intervene in a positive way. In such a situation, the color under which these leaders choose to march is quite immaterial, because the same oppressive drive exists everywhere.

Generally, the inner perception of the true causes has been lost, and consequently, the last chance of really effective help. Moreover, those in positions of power, who are incapable of forming their own opinion, must constantly rely on the advice of so-called experts who are themselves victims of a universally inferior education. As a result, they are unable to realize that it is precisely their advice, and the actions arising from it, which will inevitably transform this Earth into a hell when it could be a paradise. If humanity does not soon come to its senses and realize that it has been misled and misinformed by its intellectual leaders, the prevailing laws of Nature (with poetic justice) will reliably act to bring about a fitting end to this ineptly contrived culture. Unfortunately, the most frightful catastrophes or scandalous disclosures will have to happen before people realize that it is their own mistakes that have led to their undoing.”

Reference books and useful information

  • Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison. Published 1991
  • Ecological Design by Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan. Published 2007 (first 1997) by Island Press.
  • Highly recommend the book for designers Design by Nature by Maggie Macnab. Published 2012
  • Nature as the teacher, new principles in the working of nature, work of Viktor Schauberger. The text is based on the book Our Senseless Toil written by Viktor Schauberger between 1932 and 1933 it was originally published in a two-part book entitled, Our Senseless Toil – the Cause of the World Crisis, subtitled growth through Transformation not destruction of the Atom (Unsere sinnlose Arbeit – die Quelle der Weltkrise. Der Aufbau durch Atomverwandlung, nicht Atomzertrummerung).
  • Recommended; a new practical book Urban Homesteading Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan and Ruby Blume. Published 2012.
  • Arne Næss, renaissance man and founder of deep ecology movement Original environmentalist of all time, Arne Næss the philosopher, boxer, founder of the Deep Ecology movement and true Renaissance man
  • Tirich Mir – Arne Næss lead expedition in 1950 that made the first ascent of Tirich Mir, a 25,289-foot (7,708-meter) peak in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush Mountains and the 33rd highest peak in the world. In 1964, he led another expedition that pioneered another route up the mountain.

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