Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Problem of Insufficient Information, Part 2

In the previous post we talked about the dearth of information available on many products marketed as sustainable. It's a bit surprising in this information age, isn't it? While it's easy to blame that on manufacturers, there's a flip side as well...

What kind of responsibility do we designers take to find this information? According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Environmental Sciences, many interior designers cite sustainability as an important consideration in their work. Unfortunately, far fewer actually put this into practice, with sustainable material choice being the least frequently applied component.

This study also states that interior designers commonly rely on the manufacturer's literature and rarely search for conflicting information when selecting materials. It's convenient to simply take the manufacturer's word for it - but is there a conflict of interest involved? A manufacturer's statement is not the same thing as objective third-party certification.

This is a call to all designers to break through the superficial green label. It's not a moneymaker, I know, but it's a matter of conscience. Clients hire designers to be the experts in choosing furnishings, and when a designer says, "This is green," the client rarely asks why. And if questions are raised, it's easy for the designer to simply point to the green label on the product. But designers should know what backs up that green label. The information may not be easy to find right now, but the manufacturers are only going to take the time to provide this information in response to consumer demand. Designers are the crucial link between manufacturers and clients. Designers must create that demand.

I'll get off my soapbox now. You know the purpose of this blog. I'll do my best to research products and manufacturers and provide you with information you need in order to make informed choices.

A couple of leads to wrap up this post: Sustaintex is one company that appears to understand the value of transparency in their supply chain. Wal-Mart has also incorporated ecological transparency into their agenda, but it remains to be seen how deep that change goes. What do you think? The comments are open - let us know.

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