Good For Nothing – 21/22 May 2011

Here are a few photos from the Good For Nothing, Food Cycle team.

Such a fantastically inspiring event in a great space in Shoreditch. I met some great people and really enjoyed collaborating!

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What does it mean to be a creature of habit?

Good habits v Bad Habits

Habits allow us to tackle the everyday challenges we face in life. We have evolved from animals that use their natural instinct to survive. Habits come from repetition; what we did yesterday, we will do today whether it is necessarily a positive or negative decision.

I once heard someone say that habits are like submarines, they are silent and run deep. It would be wonderful to say that habits are not necessarily bad but unfortunately they usually happen because we have not thought of an alternative. We automatically carry out the action our brain tells us instead of doing what we may have actually planned.

The proverb ʻold habits die hardʼ sums up how we find making changes in our lives difficult. How do we know how to change a habit or what to change it to if we have not had guidance or gained an understanding of why?

Creature of Habit

Having a habit defers responsibility for our actions; ʻI drove to work because I left too late to cycleʼ or ʻMy stressful job means I cannot quit smokingʼ are classic excuses for not changing a way of life. We like the comfort of our car or are addicted to nicotine which is why we have not managed to break the habit. Our animal instinct is to naturally do what is easy. Feeling comfortable in society guides our brain to know what we should do verses what we actually do.

The worldʼs behaviours have changed the place we live in, to a large extent, for the worse. Be it eating habits resulting in obesity, travel habits resulting in climate change or consumption habits resulting in an economic recession, a creature of habit has a brain that is on autopilot making decisions through automatic responses.

I have been using design to help people change their habits for a better future and it is clear from what I have observed that habits are formed due to repetition. A creature of habit searches for easy options. It is easier to embrace an action that makes them feel comfortable instead of one that disrupts their daily routine.

Looking at creatures of habit from a positive angle, habits do not only happen but can develop and be changed. Using empowerment to help people gain a deeper understanding of our habits can result in new habits for positive effect. If we understand what motivates and incentivises people to change their habits, good results can be achieved.

A project I have been working on focuses on motivating employees to change their attitude in the workplace. We are incentivising them to build communities around using less energy. This is a good example of how old habits can be changed and new ones created at local level.

New habits can also be created at governmental level. New policies have forced us to create habits; recycling laws mean we are expected to separate out our waste. It could be argued that recycling is now a habit due to repetition where as a number of years ago it was seen as a disruption.

A creature of habit is simply a being that repeats their actions to the point where they may not think about carrying out that action. If the habit is harmful, awareness and motivation is required to change the habit. If the habit is beneficial, it must be encouraged.

Guest blog post: Consumerism vs Sustainability

The following blog post was written by Carlos, an MA Design for Development student for a CSR module. It is a topic that really interests me, especially when theories are applied to the subject matter. I wanted to share his executive summary here but please note that any comments will be passed straight onto Carlos.

Consumerism vs Sustainability

Debate on Consumer Ethics & Innovative Practices Promoting Sustainable Business,

by Carlos Fierro, Industrial Designer,
MA Design for Development KU

Research shows that consumerism includes not only individuals, but also organizations and governments and all agents that participate in production and consumption. The ethical debate surrounding consumerism is framed by applying the perspectives of the theory of ethics and duties, stakeholder theory and from the egoist perspective. A theoretical analysis illustrates that all the agents that participate in production and consumption have the duty to make ethical decisions supporting the preservation of the environment and social responsibility. To empower the decision makers to make ethical decisions, it is fundamental that organizations and governments provide and reinforce the decision-making process with the necessary information. The Stakeholder analysis shows that consumers should be considered the most important stakeholders in any business, and maintains that marketing plays an important role in that matter. Marketing communications is one area that has the power to build relationships of exchange, to understand needs, and generate fair communicational strategies. From the utilitarian perspective, consumer behavior based on an egotistic ethical approach to production and consumption might be unethical since the decisions made based on short-term outcomes can harm the environment and be socially irresponsible.

It is important that companies are aware of the conventions and laws that have evolved over time to protect consumers and the environment and that they adjust their business practices accordingly. Moreover, the development of green marketing and other alternatives of ethical consumption might assist consumers in making better informed decisions to choose more sustainable products and services. To embrace this challenge it is essential to educate the public about the social and environmental impact of consumption while considering cultural differences in the delivery and acquisition of knowledge.

The full report recommends that businesses consider new innovative modalities of collaborative trading and that they should endeavour to learn more about consumer needs and desires, and consider how the consumer organically participates in patterns of exchange. The rapid development of new technologies and consumer dynamics makes this recommendation possible and cost effective for businesses. Moreover, companies should consider new value systems in trading and consumption for the development of more sustainable businesses and products; considering for example the durability, exchange, cooperation, recycling and the evolving life of products.