Material sustainability defined.
The capability to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. For purposes of this part, “ecological sustainability” refers to the capability of ecosystems to maintain ecological integrity; “economic sustainability” refers to the capability of society to produce and consume or otherwise benefit from goods and services including contributions to jobs and market and nonmarket benefits; and “social sustainability” refers to the capability of society to support the network of relationships, traditions, culture, and activities that connect people to the land and to one another, and support vibrant communities.
There are many confusing and ambiguous definitions of the word sustainability. The definition listed above comes from The United States Forest Service – a subdivision of the Department of the Interior. It provides a clear, concise, and comprehensive definition of sustainability in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations. My research focuses on sustainability from a material science standpoint and examines how we manufacture products in order to identify inefficiencies and potential dangers. The depletion of the earth’s finite resources, the introduction of synthetic materials into our lifestyles, and how we discard these materials continue to plague our society. Currently, the way we consume and dispose of materials is chaotic and unsustainable. The term ‘disposable’ is a myth unless a material can safely return to the earth: an apple core, which not only dissolves into the soil, but also replenishes it with nutrients and genetic material, is a healthy example of a truly disposable material. My work in both art and architecture focuses on the introduction of synthetic materials into our built environment. Simply put – the materials we consume, whether it is at the scale of a paint can or the house in which we live, are not designed to die. This means that the disposable and synthetic materials that we consume can’t safely be returned back into our environment and the impact is evident and devastating.
My work as an artist attempts to reinvent these materials into something one might perceive as beautiful in order to raise awareness about how we consume materials and dispose of them. I reinvent post-consumer material on a canvas or a form in order to show how scrap and seemingly useless items can be something beautiful. By placing waste on a canvas and reinventing it’s perception into a work of art, I hope to inspire the viewer to become more creative with viable materials that are entering our landfills. My art serves to encourage all members of the community to use materials wisely as well as sustainably.
My research as an architect seeks to address three key issues: wasteful construction and manufacturing processes, materials that are not designed to die, and the inadvertent exposing of toxins to consumers through construction materials. By examining the way common construction materials are manufactured, my research as an architect highlights areas of concern related to toxicity, specifically identifying household sources of toxins we may inadvertently be exposing ourselves to. As we deplete Earth’s finite resources and fill our landfills with non-recyclable waste, it is clear that our materials and methods of procuring and disposing of them must address this problem. We must focus on constructing systems that are compatible with sustaining natural (environmental) systems.