Sustainable design in Africa


What part are you playing?

Sustainable design is creating products and services with the intention of eliminating or reducing negative environmental impacts throughout its lifespan from the production to disposal/end of service. Sustainable design is a concept and design philosophy that is applied to all types and stages of design. It encourages outcomes that incorporate non-toxic materials and processes that only adds to the wellbeing of the community and end products that emphasise quality and durability over price.

Sustainable design is not another type of design such as web design, graphic design or textile design, rather it is a property that should be added to all types of design. According to the United Nations, design needs to meet ‘the economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of the planet to provide the needs of future generations’.

Here in Nigeria, many products are profit-driven with little consideration to the end users and the environmental impact. One the highest sustainable design issue is the use of plastics. This is very evident even on the streets of Nigeria as you see heaps of discarded plastic bags and bottles piling up year after year from improper disposal and the fact that the material is not biodegradable. You can spot the odd black or yellow plastic bag, packet ice-cream, biscuit wrappers and the infamous pure-water packet.

We can pinpoint the reason for our poor sustainable development practices to a lack of education, motivation and financial support. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of green solutions very cost effective and profitable with the right form of marketing. For example, taking old used tires which themselves are being disposed of poorly, are not bio-degradable and have no facilities for proper recycling and then converting them to beautifully crafted stools and coffee tables. This process is called upcycling which reduces the need to source new materials and it reduces the cost of production while taking care of the environment.

It is important for designers to move away from planned obsolescence and begin to incorporate Sustainable design because although our current mindset and processes may be profitable in the short term, this will only add to greater long-term environmental issues that will cost our country billions to undo.

Ature by Bev.Ola

Ature is a design blog and a growing platform for creatives and creative discussions related to art and design.

Our content is aimed primarily towards Africans and its diaspora. With all our talent, our creativity and willingness to learn, grow and collaborate is the key ingredient of the creative economy, a term that encompasses visual arts, crafts, cultural festivals, paintings, sculptures, photography, publishing, music, dance, film, radio, fashion, and video games to architecture. It is serious business, one of the most rapidly growing sectors globally. 

Get involved with Ature in bringing to life design related discussions that create awareness of sustainable design in Africa and more.


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