Visualizing Sustainability

Visualizing Sustainability

 

John Thornton, posted on September 25, 2009

A great picture can be better than lots of words, especially when depicting big concepts.  Conveying sustainability is a challenge as it means so many things to different folks.  The common definition of “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations” is a start, but what does that really mean?

Take a look at Computing for Sustainability’s collection “Visualizing Sustainability” for images and graphics to convey sustainability concepts and frameworks – up to 179 images at present.  There are many ways of depicting sustainability as shown in all of these different diagrams.  One of my favorites so far is IDEO’s Product Lifecycle model (listed as number 52), included here:

 IDEO Product Life Cycle Many ways of Visualizing Sustainability

I like the way IDEO’s Product Lifecycle model represents an entire supply chain, including inputs (materials and energy) and outputs (products and waste) throughout the complete lifecycle while also including the concept of closed-loop flows (like a simplified version of Cradle to Cradle).  Of course the real world is much more complicated than this picture, yet this image presents a clear framework to visualize sustainability and reflect on how to make a positive impact. 

What’s your favorite sustainability framework or graphic?

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