Hello. I attended your lecture this evening on the consideration of scale when crafting policy that strives to achieve sustainability. It was compelling and I am happy I had the opportunity to attend. I was hoping I could ask a question of you that occurred to me tonight as I was recounting the lecture.
I find the idea of experimentalism and adaptive management in policy making to be interesting and forceful. I feel that it could be an effective model to bring to all realms of policy, not just policy that relates to the environment and sustainability. It seems that it would be a valid approach to crime reduction, public health, economic policy, transportation, education, and national security. The idea then coupled with considerations of scale and the connectedness of various systems would be an appropriate way to craft policy.
So my question is, are there any examples of your policy model being applied in the real world? Where a control was established and the policy’s effects were tracked using the scientific method and adjustments were made to improve on the original?
I believe there is data that shows that economic development and improved education in low income urban environments reduces crime, abortions, teen pregnancy, drug use, homelessness, drop out rates, domestic abuse, and hospitalization rates. Policy that pays for itself many times over, like preventative medicine over costly treatment in the US health care system. Many stakeholders should desire these significant effects and support policies that trigger these effects. Any yet, it seems to me that policy continues to be piecemeal and driven by ideology and political positioning.
Given all that, are policy makers ready to craft policy based on results, monitoring, flexibility, awareness and accountability?
Briefly I’d like to give you some background on me and my question. I am in school because I believe in solving environmental problems through design. But beyond product design, I am interested in applying the design method to policy making. The design process as applied to policy is basically experimentalism. I think we have a lot in common in how we would like to see policy crafted, or designed in the service of problem solving.
I look forward to hearing back from you about my questions if you have the time to reply. And regardless of whether or not we have future correspondence, thank you very much for your time.
Gabe, Yes, I agree that Adaptive Management has broad application beyond the environmental area. It is really just an “attitude” toward dealing with uncertainty. Adaptive management has indeed been tried and has had some successes, although it is very difficult to maintain political support because experimental approaches take time and are costly.
Explicit attempts to apply AM have guided some aspects of Everglades mgm’t for about a decade, and there are many case studies discussed (what is confusing is that there people use somewhat different terms to refer to it. For example, many watersheds on the West Coast engage in what are sometimes called “partnerships” and which often use AM principles. To learn more about the theory and some of the practices, I suggest you look at: Gunderson and Holling, Panarchy or Kai Lee’s book: Compass and Gyroscope (the latter is an older book and the case study is way out of date, but Lee’s explanation of AM and how it can work remains one of the best treatments. I say a lot more about the theory in my book, Sustainability.
I’m always open to new ideas and questions, so feel free to send messages as they occur to you.
the box fan in my window is spinning due to wind (it is not turned on). can we make a tiny wind-powered generator to fit into windows?
from gabe -
absolutely. i have lots of ideas for mini power generators for the home. like one that gets installed in the drain pipe from your shower. gravity makes the water fall, it turns an in line turbine. i also have a system i developed for plugging all these antipliances (appliances that generate power, not use it) into the home’s grid. i call it gridtye. we’ve got a lot of work to do. looking forward to it.
I enjoyed the lecture you gave today as part of the SOS lecture series on “The Fifth Fuel - Energy Efficiency”. There certainly is a lot of work to be done.
I have a question I’m hoping you might be able to answer. There certainly are many studies showing the savings in carbon and in money of improving how refrigerators work, or the R value of insulation used in home building, or in government money spent on energy efficiency. And the data is quite robust showing per capita energy use in the US and Western Europe as compared with India and Nigeria.
I’m wondering if there are any studies that look at the savings in carbon and in money of differing consumer behavior within the US. Maybe a comparison between people living in Beverly Hills CA versus Burlington VT or East Atlanta versus Buckhead. Examining places of extreme consumption versus people who live more moderately. I imagine the variability in wealth, consumption, lifestyle and values must make for a different pattern of energy use. Has anyone looked at this? Do you think there exists a significant difference when it comes to carbon?
In the same way that your presentation makes the case, using data, about how best to spend our carbon reducing dollars, I feel that there should be data that can start to drive the critique of, and then the huge changes in, consumer behavior needed to slow GCC. Isn’t this process about looking at the decisions we make and trying to understand which are healthy and which are destructive?
I look forward to your response. Thanks for your time.
Thanks very much for your message. It turns out that there hasn’t been much research since perhaps the 1980’s on the impact of lifestyle on energy and carbon. “Behavioral research” is only now seeing a resurgence of interest and I expect that research funding will emerge soon.
I’m going to ask a bright PhD student of mine, Nilgun Atamturk, to send both of us the annotated bibliography she prepared recently on this subject. It will show you the “state-of-the-science.”
Best regards. Dr. Brown
The bibliography Dr. Brown mentioned is a work-in-progress. Please explore Stanford University’s excellent database on behavior and energy use at:
can you design a shoe for a kid’s shoe subscription service? parents can sign up and they get a pair of shoes that they can trade up in size as kids grow. i think there can be just one style/color that all the shoes are so that it has a strong recognizability-factor. i want it to become all-the-range among young eco-conscious parents.
it should be: 1. awesome looking 2. distinctive 3. durable 4. comfortable 5. nontoxic materials 6. washable/stain-proof 7. recyclable into more of the same shoes 8. made in USA
people could pay something like $30/year/pair and get upgrades whenever for free. each shoe should be used for at least 2 years by however many kids. each time shoe comes back it is cleaned, disinfected, etc. and reshippped.
from gabe -
love it. i have a shoe designer friend here, dale. it’d be great to get him involved. but he’s more of $140 nike jordans kind of shoe guy.
also, there is so very much no time at all in this program to develop one’s own ideas. a big beef of mine. it’s all about cranking out the crap they think needs to be in our portfolio.
also, ID is so driven by what is pretty, just show a nice marker rendering of the product with exaggerated perspective. the smart reasoning behind ideas gets little stage time. i want to be learning how to draw ideas, concepts and chains of events. i want to sell products through that kind of communication. i’m working on an essay to this effect.
but i will put shoomarang on my 78 burner stove, near the frontish. good name.
where did you come up with the numbers? $30 per yr sounds low to me.
i’m passing it along to the shoe man and to my enviro buddy.
from karen -
sounds interesting and like a good idea. the shipping costs would be an issue to consider.
from gary -
i just made up numbers.
the alt business model is for running shoes.
something that can be made/sold on demand. so that runners can know they will have some shoe every six months for life and not have to worry about it being phased out by companies.
this model involves a subscription service. so a pair is sent every 6 months and the old ones are returned/recycled into new shoes exactly the same and sent back six months later.
the is harder b/c of wear and tear but if the materials can be broken down and recycled it could work.
i saw a nike person mention this in a documentary from 2000. so maybe they are doing this already but i don’t think so.
from dale -
I thought about this before but ultimately it’s so difficult to meet the “durability” requirement of two years, especially for a child. Hence, it will be near impossible to simply clean it, disinfect it, and reship once it gets back after two years.
What you could do is recycle the materials of the returned shoe to make a new shoe. But even for that, you’d have to wait a year or so to get that return.
from gabe -
dale’s the shoe man. he not super familiar with innovations in cradle to cradle materials use - industrial nutrients. i think it’s doable. but he’s right, soles will wear, you’re not going to be able to just send them back out as is. but if we use soy plastic we can just toss it into the compost and then grow and form some new soy plastic, closed loop
from gary -
I agree about 2 years being too long. young children may need new sizes 2x per year. so i am wondering if shoes can last >6months and then be refurbished and used another 6 months and then recycled. or just the soles recycled and the tops refurbished?
Q1. How often do I need to change my child’s shoes?
How often you need to change your child’s shoes depends on the child and their age. On average children’s feet grow at two sizes per year in the first four years of life and one size per year thereafter until growth is complete. However, a child’s foot may not grow for a considerable period of time and then grow several sizes in a relatively short period. To ensure that shoes still fit properly for length and width a trained shoe fitter should check them every eight weeks. You may do this more frequently if you are aware that they are actively growing in height. In general, the main period of accelerated growth for in girls is between eight and 13 years with the peak rate at approximately 12 years of age. In boys this is slightly later between 10.5 and 16 years with the peak rate at approximately 14 years. This corresponds with puberty.
from gabe -
at the beginning we could have a tiered system. for more money you get the ‘fresh’ subscription, each pair is fresh off the production line, for fancy people (still use cyclable materials). that establishes a base of stock and capital. then phase in the ‘loved’ subscription. some shoes will get refurb and then distribution, some’ll get recyc and distributed. it’s a model that facilitates growth and hits multiple target markets.
from gary -
smart. i like the term “loved.”
i have no idea where to go with this. i am not sure what people use to make shoes or if it can be recycled. i need to talk to parents of young kids.
from gabe -
making shoes has become a super nasty toxic business that is super labor intensive and the laborers have an unpleasant time of it. lots of adhesives, different materials being combined in ways that make unrecyclable ‘monster hybrids’.
so the shoomarang should be made from happy materials. and we’ll use design for disassembly.
another design for the environment term we get to use - dematerialization - we are transforming a product into a service. ray anderson is the man, maybe he’ll help out.
have you heard of
yes, this will require a great deal of user surveys, interviews, collecting qual and quant data on parents and and kids and shoes. maybe some ethnographic research too for ‘opportunity identification’. on ethnography for product design -
need to build the case for the existence of the product through means other than ‘given the state of the environment, we need to make fewer shoes.’
from gary -
good links. i heard about tomshoes on the radio last year.
i really like the dematerialization concept. my prof did a case study of interface carpets i think. the idea of selling services is great for all things from shoe to computers to whatever.
i was also thinking about developing a company that can manage the rental/service part of business that interfaces with customers. actually this is probably too huge a job for outside agencies.
i wish i had an ID degree too :(
from dale -
I’ve thought about this more, and I’ve come to the semi-conclusion that only a complete redesign/overhaul at the manufacturing end will solve most of the “issues” with shoes. The other variable to consider are performance/athletic shoes. It has been said that Jordan wore a new pair of shoes for every game he played because he would literally shear off the upper from the bottom. The technology then was simply gluing the upper to the bottom. Nowadays, performance shoes have several layers, stronger uppers, heel supports, and tons of toxic adhesives. I think sustainable efforts at this end are more towards reducing waste, finding non-toxic adhesives, and optimizing material usuage.
But for everyday shoes, where we don’t have as many technical requirements, there are more opportunities with using sustainable materials and non-toxic properties. There are many shoes out there now that gets this done well.
(I’m just dumping out what I’ve been thinking about this.)
Automobiles are also a mess as far as de-manufacturing because previously no one gave a shit about the end of life. Dr. Bras (from my ME days) showed us a video by, I think, Mercedes on their disassembly process for recycling. It showed 2-3 men tearing up the interior and how much of a pain in the ass it was to physically separate materials. Then it showed a grinder that grinded entire parts (of various materials) and mechanically separated the materials by density (letting it float on water). That too was a pain in the ass as it wasn’t optimal or completely efficient. But nowadays, conscious efforts are made for the disassembly process using modular designs/fasteners and such. I can take apart my door and dash of my car in about an hour (and I’ve done it before). The problem is that we took entirely way too long to consider design for de-manufacture. Think of all the millions of cars that weren’t designed with that in mind. We have a toxic mess.
But the American mindset is at fault here. We are consumers and we view shoes as disposable. Once they wear out, we donate them and buy new ones. If you see new cute ones, you buy them.
I can see a potential business model with a child’s footwear subscription service but you got to get the footwear design down, and convince American that shoes can be subscribed to.
Feet grow, shoes are rigid, and we are consumers. Very tough situation.