woensdag, maart 2, 2022

Is sustainability a design problem?

Tiny houses. State-of-the-art aircraft. High-tech windmills. Software that designs sustainable irrigation systems. Delft University of Technology (TUD) teems with green innovation. At the university campus, you can visit the Green Village, an open-air laboratory that displays student-made sustainable inventions and constructions. The university is also home to many student initiatives, such as the Green Office and Students4Sustainability. Both groups are committed to incorporating the topic of sustainability into the curriculum.

In addition to my work at Initiatives of Change The Netherlands (IofC NL), I also work as an Academic Skills teacher at TUD, teaching students the art of presenting, writing, and debating. During these courses, the topic of sustainability is often discussed. It is amazing to work with energetic and savvy students who are passionate about sustainable tech solutions. Their enthusiasm is infectious; surely tech is the way to a green future!

But is sustainability really just ‘a design challenge’, as the well-known Danish architect Bjarke Ingels claims? Where do personal choice and individual behavior fit in this narrative? As part of Go Green!, an IofC sustainability project financed by the European Union, we hosted a sustainability-themed event at TU Delft Library on 16 and 17 February.

During this event, we showed a special photo exhibition at the library. This photo exhibition, a product of Buro EU,  displays the narratives and portraits of young adults and their ideas about climate change. In addition to this photo exhibition, we also invited students to play IofC’s Sustainability Game, which was developed by InHolland Creative Business students. The game, which consists of multiple-choice questions about sustainability, resulted in interesting insights and conversations. ‘I am not as tuned in I should be’, more than one embarrassed student told us beforehand. However, when we asked them to elaborate, we learned that many of them are making significant sustainable lifestyle choices nonetheless. For example, a few students told us that they consciously opt for vegetarian food every now and then. Others choose to take the train, even when traveling long-distance.

We also had great conversations with the students about their own sustainable technology projects. One student was researching whether a radical redesign of aircraft can lead to a reduction in aviation CO2 emissions. Another student was interested in the production of sustainable construction materials. These conversations prove that many students are interested in said topic from a professional perspective. However, they are struggling to incorporate sustainability into their personal lives. Most of them disagree with Ingels’ claim that sustainability is ultimately a design challenge. Yes, science and tech can provide solutions, they said. However, tech cannot eliminate the necessity of sustainable behavior; it can only facilitate it.

To offer students some guidance, IofC will host several green follow-up activities, such as a vegan cooking workshop and a visit to the ecological resident project Groene Mient. We are also considering to conclude Go Green! at the Maker Fair Delft, a festival for sustainable innovations. We hope to reconnect with TUD students in June during this amazing festival!

Do you want to sign up for our Go Green! activities? Keep an eye on our project page and/or send an email to Elly Stigter

By Shereen Siwpersad.