It is said that to a man with a hammer everything is a nail, and to a man studying sustainable business everything is seen from the perspective of sustainability. This morning as I was making my coffee I looked at my beloved coffee machine, and it started me thinking about sustainably designed products.
My coffee machine is incredibly simple – it’s a base, a basket and a top made of a small amount of aluminium and a couple of bits of plastic. There are no moving parts, nothing that needs updating and no way of linking it to the internet. It also makes outstanding coffee with little effort. Sitting beside it was another of my favourite cooking utensils – a black iron pan. Like the coffee maker it is incredibly simple, will last me a lifetime and produces excellent results. I can’t imagine needing to replace either item in this lifetime, and to me that makes them sustainably built products.
I believe that a major part of living sustainably is only purchasing something once, and that something can be a cheap item like my coffee machine or more expensive like my stereo. The components of my stereo are extremely high quality, but they’re also very simple. My amplifier really only has a volume knob and if you look inside it, there isn’t a lot in the box. My speakers are locally made, and when I picked them up from the manufacturer, a chap called Garth, he showed me a couple being built – again, very simple and like the amp what is there is of the very best quality. Garth assured me that the speakers will last a lifetime with care, and that suits me fine because I cannot imagine ever wanting anything else. I also have a Waterman fountain pen that I bought it 15 years ago. I adore it and it is still a delight to write with.
These are all examples of products that are damn near flawlessly designed which means they do their job exceptionally well and will conceivably never need replacing. None of the manufacturers feature on any sustainability lists, yet they all produce the kind of products we need if we want to start living sustainably.
Einstein once said “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” He was a clever bugger.