A “hit” man walks into confession…

At The Formary we have been discussing carbon offsetting, a practice that we engage in to cleanse ourselves of carbon footprint guilt.

But is it the best solution to address the environmental costs of running a business?

Take Interface for example, the worlds largest manufacturer of synthetic modular carpet is seen as leading the charge in industrial environmental stewardship. By offsetting their production with tree planting, energy farms and a commitment to recycling used product into second generation products. Even though, in reality this amounts to less than 10% of their production. The other 90% of production is still derived from fossil fuels.

Is this merely a case of the hit man going to confession? If we didn’t commit the crime in the first place, then we wouldn’t have to do the penance.

Carbon offsetting is a great intermediary step in the move from the old pillage and dump system, to being aware of what the cost of our actions are on this planet, counteracting these with the equivalent in energy good deeds. But is it enough?

There are only so many solar farms that can be built before we start to change our thinking about the products we create. What was acceptable and even covetable last century may not have a place in the new world.

As designers we have some work to do in moving sustainable design on from the earnest and earthy, or as Justin McGuirk from The Guardian calls “Weetbix” designs (made from recycled cardboard, paper and wood) to more sophisticated products that meet the construction and deconstruction demands of the new market while also retaining aesthetic appeal.