Are you MIsusing the sciences to back up a claim?

As I wrote on my WordPress Blog page, I am using the sciences to back up my claims. I am not the only one and there are further blog formats that also use the sciences to back up their claims. The sciences I relate to scientific papers that are for example peer-reviewed. Now what’s the catch? Nowadays, I am certainly not the only one, you can open Google Scholar and then you type in what you are looking for and when you are lucky, which you likely are because we are saturated on the sciences, you find a scientific article that you are looking for – to confirm what you think and want to convey. Just to give you an example; Sex is awesome, oh suprise an older study confirms it is awesome. My obvservation is valid.

A former professor of mine referred to it as scientific “cherry-picking and I am delighted that she taught me about it, because indeed she is right. It is as easy these days to write a blog, possibly policy and investement suggestions and and cherry-pick the foundation for it as easy as it is not to. You could not do so and be honest, while following logical argumentation and analysing “its” meaning but hypothetically, the validity of your own argument is lost for further recognition, making what you write and what is to be read rather invalid, if not even stupid without scientific evidence. Instead we trust the sciences and how we read it, to then make a claim or to confirm the claim we try to make; “We should invest into bitcoin”, because in the future people will like it, according to this study and not carefully delibertion of it; its method and outcome and done for who by who and how. Logically and if we are being honest, it can also be not like that, because the future is too uncertain and more studies would have to be done etc. Some studies or the ability to publish is furthermore exclusive too, making the sciences limited to what I call a bit elitaire and exclusive towards different knowledge.

Now more about the sciences and how they are used, by who and why. You will find that a NGO X is making claims and then tends to use a study or at least parts of it to confirm their claim or to receive funding. In my field, known the field of sustainability something similiar can be found. “A” is sustainable minded and wants that people consume more sustainable and to do so needs money for purpose “B”. A will now look for an article on consumer studies and finds one (favored are studies by business consultencies and market research institutes) to confirm that 60% of consumers of a random sample group want to buy more sustainable. The study confirms what A was looking for, whilst ignoring wishful thinking which is that many people not actually want it and the fact that 40% don’t want to buy more sustainable etc. A yet receives some funding and the investment into for example sustainable apparel flops.

Now this goes further and further, making its way into the sciences itself, which is to research to confirm or to develop something that confirms the hypothesis, or what the client needs. This can happen if the research is steered towards a specific set of expected responses “How much do you like this?” instead of “How do you view this?” (Even if you ask how much do you like this, you make liking the main option). No? Ever been asked how much you dislike something that should be of liking and then rate it? My former professor (thank you at this point) referred to it as being the devils advocate. If you are an honest broker, you research and provide different options and the outcomes could be of choosing for the client. Ideally, you would be a pure scientist, making objective observation or picking objective studies by as much as possible (Pielke Jr, R. A., 2007). The latter tends to receive little funding because it can lead to non desired outcomes, obviously.

Now what is it that I want from you? Have a look at your resources and don’t use them, if you don’t want to and do if you want to. Why? Because its vicious and risks that investements and hopes are placed falsely. Have a look at studies that don’t confirm what you are looking for. It itches, but may give room for different spaces to thrive,for example new ideas, strategies, projects and policies and even not where they should not.

Recommended references:

Evans, A., Sleegers, W., & Mlakar, Ž. (2020). Individual differences in receptivity to scientific bullshit. Judgment and Decision Making15(3), 401.

Pai, M. (2020). How Prestige Journals Remain Elite, Exlusive And Exclusionary. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/madhukarpai/2020/11/30/how-prestige-journals-remain-elite-exclusive-and-exclusionary/?sh=5e90a3254d48

Pielke Jr, R. A. (2007). The honest broker: making sense of science in policy and politics. Cambridge University Press.

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Skillsets for teaching in sustainability

Sustainability increasingly centers around CO2 including ESG reporting and the use of technology to fix “sustainability.” However, sustainability and the quest to it is often interconnected, which means that different skill sets are needed teach but also to consult for it. So what is needed? Below I listed a few things I have learned about, at times teach and include into my work.

  1. Encourage thinking globally.

So many environmental topics these days are interconnected. One pair of shoes bought in country x buys one person happinnes. It also promotes a lack of happinness, if the person who has produced these shoes inhales hazardous chemicals or if a leakage of chemicals results in environmental destruction. However, if we think, act or teach too “local” we don’t think global. We don’t learn global. We learn that sustainability is limited locally and can be as quickly solved as when we “green the street”, when streets no longer are limited to a certain region (symbolically-spoken).

2. Challange perception

We are born and raised in a certain environment (nature vs. nurture). The environment turns into our reality, but the reality may not be someone elses’ reality who was born and raised in a different environment. Conclusively, there is no “one reality” but realities might overlap, some are individual realities and some realities are worth challenging. There are also realities that are frustrating because they clash with our own views on reality. Yet we might disown them because we perceive that our “reality” is right. Why would it matter? Science for instance, can teach how to regrow trees and what reforestration structures could work well with what type of trees, but it does not replace indigenous knowledge on how to manage different forests in what type of community structures, for that structues and how people organize and disorganize, differ globally and are subject to different realities, inlcuding experiences on what works and what does not.

3. Encourage emotions

In nature, animals can be obseved that are angry, they are wild, they fight, they express and after they may be calm, lay down, breath, rest. Yet, we so often feel that being angry or other emotions find little place, because they are perceived as “bad” or “angry” reactions may be perceived “as the problem of another.” Yet, reactions tend to affect another, so they are valid and important. If we don’t highlight that we are angry, frustrated, there is little room to be. And where there is little room to be, we might miss out on uniqueness and opportunities “Hey I am angry, that I have to comply to your funding requirements because they require formal education, however I am illiterate and I have 30 years of life experiences in that field.”

4. Encourage ideas

As I wrote, there are so many realities, that there are so little ways in which “to do something best”. We don’t know, because the systems we live in become so complex that being or doing something best, may be so subject to the individiual. Because of that, we shouldn’t redirect someone from piloting an idea or pitching it, because it is different. Instead, we should encourage that, because it is different, because its’ worth exploring and if it isn’t, how can we shape ideas so that they are worth to be explored more, worth to be shaped?

5. Be supportive of failure

Trying, experimenting can likely come with failure. Failing sucks, especially if energy , time, money and hopes were put into it. Yet failure is so important to encourage, because only then we learn and only then we dare. However, by banishing or making someone feel bad for their failure “pointing out whats’ been wrong” they may not want to try again or are less likely do so. Like that we won’t find out what their second, thirdt, fourth idea might have brought in terms of innovation and their (individual) success.

6. Navigate through biases in perception

There are so many things we do and think, because of certain symbols or ideas we give to someone else “the older knows it all, the youngster doesn’t. A CEO might not want to take time for someone, because of their role. A mother probably won’t have a business idea. The professor knows it the best. “Yet these perception and their biases may be wrong. An older may know many things not and a youngster may do. A CEO is a person, and persons have time. A mother runs a baby business unpaid and knows the many flaws and opportunities that she deals with every day. The professor who is likely an expert in one discipline does not know it best, because there are a range of disciplines and ways of thinking, for that they are all right in their own ways, including your own knoweldge, perception, background. How often did you project something on someone? What bias did it hold and what resulted based on that?

7. Encourage subjectivity

Yesterday I gave a guest lecture on circular business models and their barriers. In one exercise I had my students turn to their neighbours and tell me subjectively, why they would and wouldn’t wear or use their neighbours clothes (from shirts to underwear). Reasons not to were; hygiene, lack of trust in the case of a phone, different individuality, tastes, sizes. And that is all okay! However, often we tend (particular for sustainability innovation) disregard the diversity of people and their subjectivity so that one solution tends to not fit into the diversity of people, their lifestyles.

8. Remove subjectivity

As much as I enjoy subjectivity (of my own and others) as much do I try to remove subjectivity. That is to see things as they are without a political or policy notion to it. Why would that matter? This is important to remove ideals and opinions related to behavior or innovation and even policy or law. By being subjective one could fall risk to be too supportive of an idea or ideal “a certain policy” and may fall risk to disregard the falws in it. After all, thats where science and solid scientific research comes in. Not into research? Ask different people with different expertise about one topic. You’ll get different answers that in conclusion are likely less biased or politically driven.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Transition in eating practices and its addiction to food

A short history on eating

Around 300,000 years ago, homo sapiens were named as the first human species, though distinct from what we would refer to as humans today or according to Charles Darwin (treaties on evolution), 200,000 years ago. Although different, both had something in common. They hunted and gathered and as hunting and gathering was limited to time and space and therefore the resources time and space provided, so did both depend on relocation.

The benefit of changing locations where that different nutrients were obtained and digested. Most nutrients were fresh and they supported the variety of minerals and vitamines needed -(ideally of course) and not limited to what “tasted good” today. They moved, they rationed and they likely were concious of what they had. They were very likely aware of what it meant to be hungry or not.

What do we eat today?

Today food is constantly available in variances per single food category (think about how many types of apples exist), the different types of pasta, other grains and all sorts of cheeses up to cereals, marmelades and other diary products. They come in different flavours, from different origins, they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, sugar free. They are pre-cooked and not. They come with sauces (how does the actual food taste if not for preservates? Would I even like it?). They come without, sometimes with toppings, sometimes with chemical flavours and or they may be called food but aren’t (using flavored wood-chips to replace strawberries). They may be organic, they may be not or they may be a mix of it. That is what we eat.

Why do we buy food?

Unlike the homo sapiens, we do not have to hunt and gather for food. Food is available, because it is. Hereby I am talking particular about any place/country/region, where there is a surplus of food. It means more food is available then is or can be consumed or is needed. The more choices, the more difficult to decide what to consume. The more choices the higher the discrepancy between why we eat and what we want to eat. Do we buy because we are hungry? Do we buy because we want to eat? Do we buy because it looks nice to eat? How does this affect the availability or production of more food (choices)?

Ever thought about what role design plays in food consumption? Are fridges too large? Do fridges need to be full of food or is less food full enough? Do we feel we have too less because the fridge is not full enough? How much full is full enough?

When do we eat?

It feels as if we are eating almost all the time, snacks, small meals, large meals. There are small meals at work, small snacks on the way home. Individual snacks for rewards, snack rewards on a trip to the play ground, meals on a hike, snacks on a hike. Snacks infront of Netflix, snacks in the movies, snacks for the day of, large meals for festivities, buffets, more snacks for holidays, meals because the “clock” says so, meals because its a tradition, all-you-can eat restaurants, too much food as a sign for wealth, certain types of meals because its always been eaten a certain way, in a certain style, in a certain fashion, a certain type of food. When are we hungry?

When a movie in itself is already stimulation, do we need more stimulation i.e. food? Although, the stimulation of food tends to be limited to the time eaten.

When are we hungry?

This morning, when I woke up, I was not hungry. Yesterday, after one hour kick-boxing I was not hungry. Playing one hour on a play-ground with a child, I was not hungry, neither was the child as we just ate a meal; But it “wanted something to eat.” I was hungry 2 hours after. Then I got really hungry, but I knew I was hungry. I felt it because my stomach said so, I could not focus well and I felt it was time. I ate. I am not hungry, when I procrastinate and therefore eat. I am not hungry, when I am not happy with writing but eat to get a reward or to avoid. I am not hungry, when I look for an external stimulu, when the stimulu has to be found internal. And where there is no stimulu, I have to find out why. What feeling am I trying to compensate with food?

Is there enough time to cook “real” when hungry?

We work, hours, days, weeks and months. Some work more, some work less hours. Some volunteer, some are full-time parent, some are not. Some have more time, some have less time to cook – when they are about to get hungry and when they are hungry. Cooking hungry is no fun. Cooking something healthy (in terms of meals that require longer preperation), something fresh when being hungry could be annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, senseless, sad, whatever, especially if the work-hours are long, children and ourselves have to be taken care of. It makes a pre-cooked meal, a wood-chip joghurt, fast food, a bag of chips, whatever goes fast appealing. Could that be changed if we had more time?

Sometimes we talk about packaging waste. It’s about why this sort of waste occurs also. Can we work less and invest more time in ourselves [cooking, friends, hobbies, families?). Does this reduce waste and stress, fast-related eating?

Sustainable transition in food practices?

I would argue it is systemic. Its about having more time and about being aware when a feeling is substituted with food as oppose to when food is a need “to be hungry”. At the same time there is too much food, including too many food choices, and too little food in terms of healthy quality. There may also be the lacking time to cook healthy, or pleasure might be looked at somewhere different. Cooking for example is also work.

Resources

Aarnio, T., & Hämäläinen, A. (2008). Challenges in packaging waste management in the fast food industry. Resources, Conservation and Recycling52(4), 612-621.

Blundell, J. E., & King, N. A. (2007, September). Overconsumption as a cause of weight gain: behavioural–physiological interactions in the control of food intake (appetite). In Ciba Foundation Symposium 201‐The Origins and Consequences of Obesity: The Origins and Consequences of Obesity: Ciba Foundation Symposium 201 (pp. 138-158). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Kaye-Blake, W. (2009, July). What psychoanalysis can tell economists about food consumption. In 50th Annual New Zealand Association of Economists Conference, Wellington (pp. 1-3).

Kemp, E., Bui, M. Y., & Grier, S. (2013). When food is more than nutrition: Understanding emotional eating and overconsumption. Journal of Consumer Behaviour12(3), 204-213.

Leach, G. (1976). Energy and food production. IPC Science and Technology Press.

Ncube, L. K., Ude, A. U., Ogunmuyiwa, E. N., Zulkifli, R., & Beas, I. N. (2021). An overview of plastic waste generation and management in food packaging industries. Recycling6(1), 12.

Pelchat, M. L. (2009). Food addiction in humans. The Journal of nutrition139(3), 620-622.

Rosenheck, R. (2008). Fast food consumption and increased caloric intake: a systematic review of a trajectory towards weight gain and obesity risk. Obesity reviews9(6), 535-547.

Ziauddeen, H., & Fletcher, P. C. (2013). Is food addiction a valid and useful concept?. obesity reviews14(1), 19-28.

The secondhandmarket a linear extension model?

Within the current sustainability agenda, particular the circular economy, reuse is the greatest approach to extend the life-cycle of a product. It builds onto the concept of recycability, because recycability means that again more energy is needed to dissect product parts into their components, to transform then into new materials and lastly, to use them for new products. Instead, products that can be reused, can be reused. Or can’t they?

What does reuse mean?

When I think about reuse, I think about my dishes. When I clean them, I can use them forever. Particular the very old ones, that are resistent to any scratches or any other severe exposures such as when a toddler is throwing it down the ground. The same principle should apply to all goods such as the ability to wear a shoe, a jacket or anything forever or at least for as long as possible. That is to be able to “reuse ” them.

What role does the Secondhandmarket play in reuse?

Often, many products are bought because of several reasons. That could be to stick to trends, because someone is bored, because someone wants a change, someone just needs it for a specific occassion or someone just feels like it wihtout a particular reason. The consequence is that these products aren’t worn often and because of that many goods are often just discarded, sometimes donated, or do not enter re-selling schemes. That is where the 2ndhand market comes in. A place, where you can re-sell your unused, little used or more often used items that are still in great shape.

How does the seconhand market promote reuse?

Since I also purchase and sell on secondhandmarkets, in which consumers engage with consumers (C2C), I feel they are a great way to buy and selll for a longer product life, to save and make money as well as to save resources for new production and consumption. But as much as I like the concept, I realize that secondhandmarkets have many short commings and so it appears that many of my clothing that I had acquired on secondhandmarkets end up as donations and some clothing also in my garbage – an extension of the linear consumption and production system.

Why do clothing not circle longer in secondhandmarkets?

1. Inauthentic marketing of secondhandgoods

Often I buy clothing from the same brand, but it appears that the designs change over seasons so that clothing such as long sweaters suddenly appear shorter, lets say a long-shirt that does not fully cover my belly. I cannot wear that in winter. Because other people know or experience that too, they don’t resell it authentically always, but become very smart in taking inauthentic pictures that make it appear as if such short long sweater fits nearly anyone up to the point of telling me that it is long. Because there is little incentive to re-buy it, it ends up being donated. [This also applies to colours].

“Does this shirt cover the belly?” “Yes.” “I received the shirt and it feels like an extension of my bra.” #Item deleted, seller no longer responding.

2. One size doesn’t fit all.

Many brands are outsourcing production to other countries and that is okay! What is not okay, is that the size and quality of the models seem to differ depending on what country they are produced in. So it happens that I can be happy with a brands jeans model in size 38, and when I repurchase the same model, a size 38 is too large and the material differs. The same applies to shoes and when I purchase products from different brands. Its confusing.

“Hey, is this model X from brand Y?” “Yes!” “Great, because I really want the size to fit this time.” (…) ” Hey I received it and it’s too large.” “Did you check where yours was produced? ” “In country x” “That makes sense, because mine was produced in country z.” “It makes no sense, but I understand. Thanks.”

3. Some product components are broken

This winter I have been going through 3 secondhand jackets. There is nearly always a little problem that I am not aware of, when I buy it such as a broken inside pocket or a broken zipper. Because I am not the only one who dislikes it, I cannot resell the jackets, unless someone does not bother a broken zipper or inside pocket. Most people do. Therefore, jacket goes to landfill since also people or businesses who depend on donations do not want to wear a jacket with a broken zipper or pockets.

“My appointment went really great, because my zipper broke, so I would just sit there with my jacket on, sweating, waiting to go home to climb out of that jacket, to then toss it and try again with another jacket.”

4. The Quality often sucks

Now that I managed to buy and find a good that is not broken and has been authentically sold to me, I realize that I can wear the item for a season and than also nobody else wants to buy it. That is becuase some product parts widen, they get very loose when I wash them, some jeans are torn where they are mostly used, some parts are a little dirty (i.e. my pink jacket form sitting), or the polyster furr of my boots simply looks aweful after two months of use in the winter. Because I don’t like it, other people don’t like it either, and the jacket or shoe goes to a donation or landfill. For my shoes this made me very sad, because the overall quality is great, but the polyster fur quality too bad.

4. The effort rarely pays

It is in my joyfull evening whatsapp conversations with my girlfriends that we sometimes talk about our Saturdays’ work on a secondhandplatform, how exhausted we are since we have to do the marketing, talk to our customers, be rejected by our potential customers, deliver products, wait for payments and than verify that the product delivered is received well and if not how to deal with complains (this is were authentic sales really is important to avoid any complains to happen!). And that all that is exhausting, sometimes it doesn’t even work and we still end up with many products at home, ready to be donated (if). For some of course it works : )

“You know if I would give myself an hourly rate, it would probably 2 Euros but its still worth it, because I simply have too much and the product value is still good. And it is better then tossing it.. Still, I am so exhausted.

5.The competition is intense

There are millions of products online and to resell a shirt or anything, you really have to stick out, be constantly present, take the best photographs. In addition, there are so many products. That makes it is difficult to resell, even at a higher price because the same or similiar products, of which there are sometimes thousands from sell at a lower price. This makes the resell market saturated and therefore at least supports me again in donating or tossing my clothes.

Many brands, many options

6. So much more

Brand image, response time, picture quality, different body sizes, communication, pricing….

How can clothing cycle longer in secondhand market?

After two years of 2ndhand “war” I came to conclude that the best type of textiles to resell and fit into the Circular Economy Framework for “reuse” are those that speak up for durability and repairability. These may be clothing or products for which product parts can be repaired and once repaired can re-enter the re-sales system. I had done so with many shoes (by as much as possible) or asked a shoe dealer to fix some parts and that made me resell them again very well. But for product parts in which the buying price was already low , lets say 20 Euros, there was little incentives for me to fix them for another 20-30 Euros and because of that, I decided to discard them. Regardless the product, material quality plaid and continues to play an important role. And of course there is authentic sales.

A systemic perspective on plastic production and consumption

Every day tonnes of plastic are being used, produced and exposed. We all know that this system is called a linear system, with catastrophs for people and the environment. Now, there are ciruclar principles that aim at reducing plastic waste, by focusing on the recycability of the material, or the substitution of it by as much as possible.

Some initiatives are popping up much more in stores and I can see more brands advertising that their products are made with recycled ocean plastics or other recycled materials. On a first look that sounds great, because it means that we are avoiding the use of fossil fuels to create new bottles or other plastic based materials. It also means that industries working with waste problems and because of that support environmental actions.

On the second look, it does not sound sustainable. Taking ocean waste in the long term, will leave industries in a so called “lock-in”. It means their infrastructure may be build up to center around the need for specific waste products. For that to happen specific types waste must always occur in a specific quantity. This does not only leave the industry locked-in but also potentially increases the desire for waste generation. It also makes consumers believe that their product purchase is “green”, whilst it is not. Much recycled plastics products, such as rubber soles, or far worse, textiles made from recycled plastics, run off, and turn microplastics back into the environment.

Not all new sustainable systems, are sustainable by design. A transition must take place that is just, and well thought after for its long-term negative effects and possible opportunities.

Now, we could demolish plastics, but again not all plastics is bad. Some plastic materials can last very long and some of its material features might not compete with other material. What I like about it, is its ability to sustain. However, recycling requires a lot of energy and again, potentially nothing can be recycled forever and each product has its own footprint.

Much more that needs to be looked at is the system. Why are plastic based products produced? What industry do they encompoass? Who is the main target group of that plastic based content and why do they benefit from that product? What makes proudcers sell this product and what sustainable value is delivered with it?

Systems are complex ! They are interdependent and connected. One input leads to another output and one change, effects another change. Curious to learn more? Message me!

What good does it make, if Coca Cola and other industries recycle their plastics, when the fact that people are increasingly addicted to sugar, promotes such an industry to begin with? Why needing to order take-home food, wrapped in plastic, when the real problem is people working too much and potentially having too little time to cook? Why needing a range of plastic-based clothes for the many different occasions, when a smaller selection had done so well in the past? Why needing to substitute plastic straws, with other materials, when straws were long no nessecity? Why needing the many plastic- based cooking devices to cut vegetable in all sorts of imaginatory forms, when a knife had done so well for so long.

Design and Self-Expression – Should the future of sustainable design be more vivid instead of less?

For the last year, I tried getting to know minimalistic culture. This worked out well, since I only had a backpack, when I moved into my new apartment. When I decorated my apartment, I took into account timeless and feeling based design. My idea was that, when I decorated it in such a way, I would never want a change. I tried to apply this concept to my interior style and clothing.

A year passed by and one evening I watched the movie “Cruella Deville”. The movie illustrated aspects of fashion, identity and self-expression. It also illustrated aspects of being who you really are as oppose to pretending and therefore live a life most true to yourself. The movie also illustrated the many facetts one has and it made me question, whether timeless design or feeling-based design can always stay the same, when feelings and facets change?

Life’s not just about smiles only and always, but about being who you want to be. There’s no wrong to who you are, what you feel, what you like and what you want to become or not. There’s only wrong in denying yourself to yourself. Embrace yourself and your individuality.

As the movie ended, I realized that by creating a minimalistic and “timless” interior and clothing design, a part of me was missing. The next day, I went to visit a local fleamarket and decided to re-clutter my home with colourfull designs, anything in which I could express my many facets and feelings. It was fun and it made me realize that by focusing on the most basic colors and designs over the last year, I had neglected other colours and therefore feelings that make my life unique to me .

Self-Expression

Can’t we always feel the same?

It sounds at odds to convince ourselves (in that case – myself) that feelings won’t change or that I’ll always feel a specific way, when I look at a certain design – either interior or my clothing. Although, I might associate my soft oranged toned couch to a specific feeling- I may not always feel that way. Because of that I may desire a new couch, with a new design and a color to match a different feeling – Feelings aren’t limited to a limited amount of colors and patterns.

Is the concept of timless design flawed?

To me timelessness implies that certain goods will still be “in fashion” in the next years to come and that I’ll always like the design. I think thats not possible, first of all because of we evolve and as we evolve a desire for change may happen and secondly, timeless design likely depends on trends.

It was the same for Ray Ban Aviators; “They had a medical use in the beginning, protecting your eyes from the sun, but they became the sunglasses for those who wanted to look like rock stars, when real rock stars actually started to use them for protection from the flashing cameras” (NotJustALabel, 2014)

How don’t know what design is timeless, because we don’t know the future.

How should design be promoted?

For the moment, design could be vivid, and encourage the individuality of consumers. Consumers – or at least me- want to express themselves in the moment and as they change. Not every day, but every once in a while.

Are changes in tastes and desire for new ways of self-expression unsustainable?

They may be unsustainable, if increased consumption ruin anyonse finances, or if products are purchased that have a high environmental or social footprint. They are also unsustainable if increased consumption levels take place because a look that is sold in advertisment is being mimicked as oppose to a look or desire for change that comes from within, or more specifically is true to the consumer self.

How can sustainable production and consumption processes support freedom of expression?

  • Create fixed product designs, of which parts can be changed or customized according to tastes and feelings.
  • Create materials to last
  • Create materials that can match a range of feelings
  • Be wild, rent, swap – but not too much!
  • (…)

Sustainability and the self

Recently, sustainability has been associated a lot to a green economy, an economy that is CO2 neutral up to CO2 negative. A CO2 neutral economy can happen, if carbon is captured during the production, usetime and end of life of a product. Most efficient are therefore products that are made from biological materials only, like a bamboo straw. A bamboo straw can be cut of the original bamboo plant, dried, treated, sold and used. The CO2 print hereby varies between CO2 negative up to positive, depending on the treatment, shipments and other processes involved.

The real CO2 print becomes more difficult for products that are processed heavily and consist of multiple product components like a shoe or jacket or many other basic products like hair dye and toys for kids. Many of these products consist of synthetic materials or materials that do not biodigrade at the end of their life. To make these products more ecological or more specific CO2 – sustainable, different type of processes might be used or product materials might be replaced with others i.e. plastic toys with wood toys.

So much stuff to rent. Why actually?

Regardless of the business model, consumption often continues to be promoted. Such an example is a “sustainable” business model in which consumers are encouraged to buy an ecological product such as a bamboo straw, but do not know whether the bamboo is harvested in respect to its necessarily growth time. Another example is a buisness model that makes you want to rent or lease products, although you never needed them before to begin with (i.e. expensive clothes or toys).

Why should the self be more recognized in the current sustainability agenda?

The self-concept is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about, evaluates or perceives themselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.

Baumeister (1999) provides the following self-concept definition:

“The individual’s belief about himself or herself, including the person’s attributes and who and what the self is”.

Carl Rogers (1959) believes that the self-concept has three different components:

• The view you have of yourself (self-image)

• How much value you place on yourself (self-esteem or self-worth)

• What you wish you were really like (ideal-self)

The impact of consumption on the self

Regardless, why or what we consume, it often relates to us – of course it does, since we consume it. However, media, advertisment etc. often distracts us from our true self and therefore encourage a desire to take on an identity by consuming something that does not reflect our true self. Our attention shifts towards a “fictive ideal-self”. An example is wanting to look like a celebrity , someone on advertisment, etc and therefore buying new clothes, dying hair or buying a product to align more with the desired persons’ trait. However, we are not that person, we are ourselves. We will never be that person and likewise, that person will never be us.

Desire for the fictive ideal supports a society less satisfied

Often, we are influenced by media, by friends, culture and societys’ expectations how we should be, what we should do, how we should look like and how we should behave. Many impulses that distract us from who we really are and want to be. Impulses that often lead to greater levels of dissatsifaction as we struggle to think about whether what we have and how we are is enough, or if we don’t need more or changes to be fullfilled.

After the point of consumption , and once realized that the image we created with the idea of the fictive ideal of us, stopped satisfying, the cycle of consumption, re-enters. In addition, other mental health problems might arise, because an image created does not align with the image of one-self. Think about advertisement that rewards or promotes white-caucasion skin types or even hollywood that (can) promote cultural stereotypes. What happens is that a society is created that does not thrive, but a society with wish-full thinking that imagines to thrive with a product that supports an idenittiy or part of it not true to themselves. That can happen, when buying or renting or changing something, that does not actually make happy.

An example is advertisement that illustrates a white rich man with a huge house and a loving wife. The image might create the perception that because of his white skin, a demanding job and a huge house his wife loves him. Because of that, one with darker skin might want to have whiter skin, wants to buy a house etc. In doing so the connection to the real-self gets lost and in doing so also the opportunity to identify success and happinnes for themselves (small job, free time, happinness to attract happinnes)

How can the true self be promoted more in the current sustainability agenda?

Feet are made for walking, jackets made for protection, blankets used to protect from cold, hair care products made to nurture them, body cream to make our skin less dry, to protect it. Food is made to keep us healthy, to connect us to others. Other products are made for comfort, help us sleep, help to support us. Many products weren’t made to sell a look or an image, but because of a fundamental function they support(ed).

A sustainability society or a sustainable industrial agenda, therefore needs to emphasize more to promote functionality over an image sold and a society that allowes for the production of healthy products, that are kept and not consumed to be trashed. This is possible if the self is satisfied with what it consumes. Therefore, products should provide a supporting function, align with the consumers true feelings and desires and likewise be accessible to a wide range of customers i.e. through product/market targeted business models (i.e. rental of healthy product to students, elderlies etc.). Doing so will allow society to thrive, be more happy, be more inclusive and to create an ideal image of the self, while also saving much of that CO2 .

Who cares whether you have bold or gray hair? Imagine time spent worrying , money spend on hair dressors vs. time spend on something fun and money spend to support that fun activity 😀

Resources/ Inspirations

Delmas, M. A., & Burbano, V. C. (2011). The drivers of greenwashing. California management review54(1), 64-87.

Fein, S., & Spencer, S. J. (1997). Prejudice as self-image maintenance: Affirming the self through derogating others. Journal of personality and Social Psychology73(1), 31.

Frosh, S. (1991). Identity crisis: Modernity, psychoanalysis and the self. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Levänen, J., Uusitalo, V., Härri, A., Kareinen, E., & Linnanen, L. (2021). Innovative recycling or extended use? Comparing the global warming potential of different ownership and end-of-life scenarios for textiles. Environmental Research Letters16(5), 054069.

Muller, J. (1985). Lacan’s mirror stage. Psychoanalytic Inquiry5(2), 233-252.

Velenturf, A. P., & Purnell, P. (2021). Principles for a sustainable circular economy. Sustainable Production and Consumption27, 1437-1457.

Whats a sustainable circular business model? A license plate!

By the end of last year, a group of high school students, aged 15-16 approached me and asked, whether I could support their newly formed school company with 10 Euros. Those 10 Euros symbolized a small share in the company and I joyfully said yes and was excited to become shareholder for the first time in my life. I asked them ” What excactly am I shareholder of and what exactly is this part of ?” ” It is an extracurricular activity, supported from JUNIOR . At JUNIOR, high school students set up their own student company, distribute their products to customers and earn real money. learn what the reality of entrepreneurs looks like – by trying it out for ourselves.” “Super cool! What is your business like?” ” We make products from license plates that aren’t used anymore by their car owners. Our company is called UsedPlates3 – UP3 . ”

Allthough they already hinted into the direction of circularity by highlighting the concept of “waste to value”, little would I know that they would fully develop a sustainable circular business model over the next months. And little would I know how their small business idea would receive growing attention from different German newsoutlets. And most of all was I joyfully amazed, when I heard that their company and efforts had made it as far as to compete in a Germany wide student entrepreneurship competition.

Now, why am I that enthusiastic about their idea? It fully reflects not just a simple circular business model, but also a business model that is sustainable. So what’s a sustainable circular business model? To me that means that it is needs based.

First of all, many people need a car. Nowadays, a car might be almost as important as food. Something we likely cannot say no to, especially if we live rural and need to go to work. Even if we rented a car a la car-sharing, cars would still be needed. And with each car, a licence plate is needed as well. There is almost no expiration date to a licencse plate, yet each licence plate might have an end to its life such as when a car is not needed anymore.

There are of course many more needs based products. Such an example is clothing with the original aim to serve as protection from environmental hazards. However, many clothes nowadays are promoted in such a way that they do not fullfill this basic need anymore solely, but rather support the buying of new clothes that have little functional value. Let’s think of a pink glitter high heel instead of a boot that keeps our feet safe. In addition, fashion trends frequently change, particular by season and again, this encourages consumers to buy more and more, adding to the pile of sustainability disaster, form a social but also ecological perspective.

What purpose or need are these shoes fullfilling?

This differs to a licence plate, which again is needs based and therefore does not promote consumption of a new license plate to begin with. Because of that it is “sustainable” by origin. Now this product is also circular, because it can be transformed into a new product without having to recycle it. Recycling for instance, is linked to the lowest form of circularity, because a lot of energy is used to take materials apart and to transform them. A license plate on the other hand, can stay as it is , and only needs to be shaped into the desired end-product. “Only” to be used careful, because the students still create everything by hand and it takes quite some time.

What’s my favorite catch on their business model? That’s OMG that they had thought about the concept of “emotional durability” in their business model. Emotional durability bascially means that a consumer of a product feels strongly connected and therefore, wants to keep their product for as long as possible. That’s crucial if we talk about product life-cycle extension. What better product is there, than one made of a license plate of a car, with which the owner has experienced so many adventures and spent so much time with? I can’t think of one.

So you guys, your school, JUNIOR and most of all your amazing business UP3 super rock. You win my special sustainable circular business award 🙂 Interested to learn more about the work? Comment or message me and I will connect you.

Does circularity equal sustainability?

A circular business model adds onto a sustainable business model

I am a huge fan of the Circular Economy and business models for the Circular Economy, because they can help to capture the value of the product during and at the end of the life and likewise add on to the notion of “Sustainable Business Models”. Because materials and products “circle” , less pressure is put on the environment and therfore enable a more trustworthy notion of “sustainbility” i.e. producing in regards to a trees’ growth time without supporting deforestation. Such business models focus for instance on renting or leasing products. Renting out a product also stimulates the use of more durable “sustainable” materials to avoid repair costs. Although the price of production might increase, financial value is captured and returned over multiple renting periods.

Renting instead of buying

As example, instead of buying furniture for a few semesters (let’s think about students with a low budget), furniture could be rented and returned, instead of being thrown away at graduation. The latter happens frequently and had always amazed me as a student. Renting furniture, for instance, would put an empahsize on producing materials that are more durable and repairable and students or other customers likely take more care of it as they otherwise might have to pay a repair fee (just like when renting an apartment with a deposit). In following such a business model, less pressure is put on the environment i.e. trees, as products stay longer in the system. More happiness might also be provided to students, who can now afford to have furniture at home, that has not been pre-owned multiple times or furniture that matches their identity and therefore well-being. Likewise, they might even save costs as they don’t have to deal with graduation furniture deposit arrangements. 😀

Woop, woop, isn’t the circular economy fantastic and sustainable?

Yes, the idea of such a circular economy sounds fantastic, because it can help to save resources and minimizes waste. So, what’s the catch? Because customers are ought for new products on a frequent basis not all circular business models are sustainable. This particular accounts to those circular business models that encourage consumption instead of minimizing it. Such business models might be those that focus on short-term rentals. Short-term rental is not sustainable if it promotes customers to rent more products for various occasions be that for multiple seasons or meet-ups as oppose to promoting products to last or products that cater the customer’s identity and needs.

The problem with short-term rental such as for fashion might also imply, that although goods are taken back, they may not necessarily circle in the next season, as fashion or other products become outdated and therefore disposed. Therefore, there is also a lower incentive to invest into the ecological sustainability of a material or product. Likewise, these models also influence consumers into constantly seeking for the new and therefore encourage the desire for personal up to identity change. “What I have is not good enough anymore, What do I need to have to be accepted? What if I don’t follow trends? Who am I? What do others think of me if I have the same for too long? Is it okay to always wear the same pair of pants to different occasions? “. – Of course it is okay! 😀

What’s a sustainable and circular business model like?

Ideally a sustainable and circular business model therefore caters around the aspect of “promoting to need less, promoting materials and products I identify or create a meaning with and to promote products and materials that add value to my well-being.” These type of business models should fill a consumer need, instead of creating a psychological need for customers to buy something they don’t need to begin with. As an example, my friends will love me, regardless of me wearing a special dress for easter or my casual street wear / outfit. Of course, changes are fantastic, but do we need them daily or weekly?

A sustainable and yet circular business model should be needs oriented

A circular business model becomes sustainable, when it caters around “our needs” and “identity” also. One of my favorite brands that supports such a business model is “OurChoiceFashion“. Besides its focus on durable and sustainable materials like leather, it also take into consideration aspects of time-less design, which allows customers to wear their shoes with multilpe outfits for various years. For customers to continue wearing their favorite shoes, they have implemented a repair service, that allows for shoe parts to be upgraded and returned back to you.

Something new should not be the primary sales objective of a business model

If we as customers feel like needing to rent or buy products that we never needed before, we think that what we have is not enough. We might therefore feel that buying becomes an essential part of our time spend, when quality time instead centers more around nurturing friendship and self-care. Think about a memory in which you enjoyed company or shared a meal. Does the memory make you more happy or the dress you were wearing as part of your memory ? 🙂

How can we then better promote circular business models?

Ideally, we would like customers to use their products for as long as possible and have them feel connected to it. We may also want to focus on a market-need and niche like student furniture rental. Likewise, can focus on design that centers around season-less colors, genderneutral styles, designs that fit into various waredrobes, furniture and other interior designs that easily match with other colors and of course purpose. For instance, I really enjoy up-cyling old furniture into new once by giving it a new life. Wouldn’t it be great to sell repair-kits in additon to pre-owned furniture to customers? Doing so would allow customers to feel more connected to their products, just like a child or even an adult that bakes a cake or builds a sand-castle or an image to be proud of. Often, we keep these products for as long as possible : ). Likewise, companies remain profitable – A win win situation.

References

Geissdoerfer, M., Vladimirova, D., & Evans, S. (2018). Sustainable business model innovation: A review. Journal of cleaner production198, 401-416.

Parguel, B., Benoît-Moreau, F., & Larceneux, F. (2011). How sustainability ratings might deter ‘greenwashing’: A closer look at ethical corporate communication. Journal of business ethics102(1), 15-28.

Wilson, M. C. (2013). A critical review of environmental sustainability reporting in the consumer goods industry: Greenwashing or good business. J. Mgmt. & Sustainability3, 1.

Feel it – Creating sustainable space to be

Almost eight months ago, I moved into my new apartment. I had not really rented my own apartment yet as I most often rented rooms or small studios with furniture in it. So I felt very much pumped and excited. My first thoughts wondered on how I was going to fill the empty space? Long story short; with a couch, a small and larger table in the living room and another foldable table and 2 chairs in the kitchen.

It looks okay..

Though, I was really happy with my apartment, something didn’t link with the kitchen. It felt just like a kitchen and I used my table and one chair with an average of 30-60 minutes a day ( Fast eater? ). Though the table and the plants around it averaged around 6 square meter. 6 square meter that are being heated every day and that were basically not used unless I was eating and was cooking, though my face was not directed towards the table but the cooking utilities.

Besides the space not being used much, I also felt it was empty; though filled with some furniture. Likewise I did not feel connected to the materials and neither had I created a specific feeling other then “needing to have a kitchen table and chairs” in the kitchen. But what else should be there? Are there laws on how space needs to be designed in apartments or can we go wild with it? Can we make our homes our homes, or should we make our homes the homes of interior cataloges? Or could we design homes, based on how we want to feel? Yes!

After liking the idea but having no clue, on how a kitchen space should feel like, I decided to free my mind by giving away my furniture. 4 chairs, which were quite functional could not be-resold, because ?? no interest and possibly minor material demage. Also, the material could for sure not be repaired. So they were happily donated.

The already pre-owned table, which was made of solid wood with a fantastic material quality, could be re-sold for 20 euros (as oppose to the initial price of 40 Euros). I felt it was difficult to re-sell the table, because it did not look as perfectly shiny as when I bought it. Though, unlike the chairs, it was possible to “refurbish it” due to its solid wood quality and if I had done so, I could have probably re-sold it for 30-40 euros. But then again, I would have made some € losses, because of the refurbishing materials needed so.. naaah. Did not.

😦

Though, I sold the table, I still wasn’t sure how I wanted the space to feel like. So for a couple of days cat and I decided to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner on the floor. Eating on the floor, that made me feel connected to Moroccan friends; I liked it, but not too low, because well I like to sit on something. And then I thought about other space I felt very relaxed and comfortable at. And there it was “libraries, lounges a la James Bond, coffee bars, tropics, Jazz “. Though, lounges a la James Bond stuck in my head. Why James Bond though? I guess I like the feeling of mystery, smartness and strenght. So could I create such envirnoment and if yes, what would it need? A cigarre? No , but a fancy chair.

I needed a fancy chair, for sure. I was certain by 100% . But what is a fancy chair? It was defenitly a lounge chair and the very fancy once from the movies are most often made with leather.

waaa , they are expensive!

So I looked up lounge chairs, but well there were a little expensive. That likely is typical for many leather products, because depending on the the desired material quality on the leather, the processing of the cow-hide can become more cost-intensive. [Currently working in a leather project on more sustainable chemistry in the leather supply chains – h_da Hochschule Darmstadt (h-da.de)]

One could now ask: why not a synthetic or vegan leather chair? Simply, because there are no! feelings that I could possibly relate to syntethics only unless the imagination of a chemical wizzard and because I would not be sure how to maintain synthetic leather. Usually, with many synthetic or cheaply produced materials, they are difficult to maintain and last but not least to recycle and most of all to re-sell! They may also break more easily and I really wanted this chair to be the real deal. I wanted it to last a life-time . I wanted to see it age and shape my own James Bond history into that product that I did not have yet….

Dedicated to find the real life-deal – that I could afford- I scanned through a secondhandmarket platform, where consumers re-sell preowned items to others. Its more a local or regional type of site. Well, so there were some leather chairs that looked quite nice, but here I was weighing around 60 kg, doing a little weight lifting without car and there was no way I could have it transported. But there it was. The real deal, waiting for me, for 43 WOW Euros, only 200 km away from me.

And so I took my chance, called the owner, asked to send it via post, realized the many complications with the product, because the leather was not much bendible (how great!) and I decided to pick it up the next day via train. I knew it was worth it. Just when I saw it, I felt this instant connection. I loved how the previous owner maintained it , it was real thick leather, a nice upper cut, nicely aged in time- giving me that instant mystic , luxurious old and fancy feeling. Not only that, but the comfort also outweighted many other chairs I had previously been sitting in.

To be honest, I never had a better train ride, and never before had sitting and waiting been that comfortable. Also never before had I realized what an amazing panorama view one could have, if a chair was placed into the direction of the window in the train. Never had I felt such James Bond, advanterous but likewise luxurious trainride than this one. It was a James Bond (whatever James Bond at that point means) experience in itself. And so I was also congratulated by the train staff for my fancy way of travelling. 😀

And of course, the real deal and I eventually made it home, where it now fits well in my tropical lounge home. Now James Bond chair and I will have a sit and think about the feelings we wanted to create around us and based on that choose new materials that make us happy and according to my favorite interior designer Kelly Wearslter – are at the same time useful 😉

Space and Sustainability?

Besides the fun – much space is often not used efficentily, and we may pay a higher price for rent or houses, to have that extra room or space we do not use much. For instance, in families kitchens are used actively more often then bed rooms. So there is the cost-question on what type of space you need, what for and how you can design it to fit your needs.

On the other hand, a lot of materials are produced cheaply with a short-life. Buying materials that are more durable, last longer, have a higher re-sell value and can also be more easily maintained, provides yourself but also the industry incentives for sustainable production – > Circular Economy : ) . Though there is for instance much debate around leather – leather still remains a waste product and using the material for multiple years, might be more beneficial than the use of synthethics, that likely have to be replaced more often.

Of course, I am not a designer and neither does my space now look like from a James Bond movie, but being connected, a story or a feeling, also motivates us to keep materials longer and it also helps to create homes that reflect us, our feelings – homes that feel like homes.