The Paradox in ‘Sustainable’ Innovations
I want you to click on the picture of the ‘invention machine’ at the left and watch the video. As your watching the video, make a list of the things that (in your mind) make up ‘sustainable’ innovation, based on how they describe it to be.
Then, look at your list and consider how they are using the definition of sustainability. In some parts, they show energy efficient light bulbs, etc, suggesting that sustainability truly is influencing our thinking and methods of innovation. Hooray !
But wait a minute.
There’s something missing here. Look at the image above. Notice the direction of product coming out of the machine. Where are these products going? Isn’t a part of sustainability mean that everything becomes food for another system and another and another. Including possibly the system that made it in the first place? Yes. The full meaning of ‘sustainable innovation’ means that everything is defined in closed loops, not assembly lines that have no return.
Unfortunately, the way most folks are using the term ‘sustainable innovation’ is limited to defining processes that allow the continued production of stuff without considering its RE-production at the end of the product’s usable life cycle.
We are now entering a new age of innovation, and the principles sustainability are directly affecting how innovation is designed, manufactured, used, … and regenerated. The missing link in the video above is REGENERATION. All products, which are an outcome of innovation, must be designed into closed loop systems that do not allow for even the idea of waste to enter the equation.
Either we evolve the meaning of ‘sustainable innovation’ or we are merely making green stuff that is more efficient but still unclaimed at the end of an open cycle. This is not sustainable. Closed loop systems that are incorporated at the beginning of the product design process is the answer.