Eliminating Waste Through Design

Ever heard of the 3 R’s? Well, there’s a 4th one, too.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Regenerate. Great concept, and a thoughtful way to help people work to diminish waste.


Except, it doesn’t exactly approach the problem from its source… And the source of waste is often hidden within its means of production, not in the last phase of the product life-cycle.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to do all of this. And it helps tremendously. I still recycle, work to reduce, and reuse whenever I can. And it’s making a difference. Truly is.

But there are better ways to approach the problem of over-consumption and waste.

Although the idea behind recycling — the one most focused on, not reduction or reuse — is seemingly sustainable and intelligent, it proves rather futile. Instead of addressing the problem (consumption) from it’s source (production), companies have ingeniously thrown the burden of environmental responsibility on the consumer. It’s YOUR responsibility to be environmentally friendly, not the company’s.

So lets think…

… do you know how much Walmart is wasting? What about petroleum giant, BP? What about plastic bag companies? Ever looked into what the process of making a plastic bag does to the environment? How about Apple or Microsoft? Ever wondered what happened to electronics once discarded? Greenpeace can tell you.

“Bring your aluminum can back, get 5 cents! (wink, wink)”

While that may work and help for many, it’s not enough. Not by a long shot.

Thus, for example, we find the same companies advertising recyclable — perhaps, “environmentally friendly” — water bottles doing great environmental damage, regardless. Its not their responsibility, nor in their interest, to create reusable water bottles, as THAT hurts their sales. And that’s what capitalism is predicated on; consumption.

Well, damnit, that sucks. But what else can we do?  

Try this one for size: 

What about eliminating the possibility of waste — the very existence  — through design? 

Probably sounds like a load of crap to many; and perhaps too good to be true for others.

But be assured, my friends, it is possible.

One of the best and most common examples is with water. Check out this diagram:


  1. Rainwater is caught and filtered, and used in sinks or showers.
  2. The sink/shower drains into edible plant garden beds.
  3. This “grey water” is caught, filtered and used in toilets.
  4. After flushed, the “black water” drains into non-edible plants.
  5. The black water evaporates and the process repeats.

Boom. Water reused 3 times. Waste averted.

Ever thought of a bicycle in this way? You should.


But, what about other systems that we can change to eliminate waste? Can we extend this concept elsewhere? If so, where and how?

Let’s think about modern gardening and farming.

Today, large-scale industrial farms pour hundreds of tonnes of chemicals: growth chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, and/or herbicides, onto large swathes of mono-cropped lands. Not only do these chemicals destroy the micro-ecosystems of the surrounding lands (and maybe farther), but large fields of a single crop effectively drain the soil of its nutrients – the lifeblood of the earth.

This turns into a vicious cycle: mono-crop, spread chemicals, soil degradation, add chemicals, super-bugs, add more chemicals, further soil depletion, even more chemicals, etc.

A truly vicious, abhorrent cycle.

We have discovered, through tedious observation of nature, that humans can do much better. Much, much better.

Lets switch to modern permaculture and building a guild for some ideas.

“A “guild” in Permaculture is a system of efficiently grouping different plants together in order to use everything to its fullest potential. When planting a guild there are several things to keep in mind:
Nature plants in steps: Large plants depend upon the smaller plants around them.
Nature always plants a variety: Observe the large diversity of plant life that occurs in an undisturbed forest, each plant has a specific purpose.
Nature “stacks” plants in both time and space: A natural forest is comprised of many layers of plants that grow and die according to the season and which extend from high above the earth to deep below it.”


Use nature, don’t fight it: save energy, labor, and soil, all by design.

Want more? Click here.

I also wanted to share something I discovered 4 years ago; a project lead by a man called Jacque Fresco – and he’s determined to create a bright, intelligent, and technology based future.

It’s called, The Venus Project. Now, it might see far off… but then again, getting to the moon seemed impossible until John F. Kennedy said we would do it. And we did.

Mr. Fresco is full of ideas for creating the future: check out the Venus Project website.

Sounds a little out there, doesn’t it?

But if you don’t believe any of this is possible… lets review some badass sustainable technologies already created:

  1. 3-D Printers: printers that can build homes 4 x faster and use 1/3 the material, by Dini.
  2. Transparent Solar Spray that “turns windows into watts” by EnSol As.
  3. Piezoelectric floor tiling system converts energy from human foot traffic into electricity – applied to train stations, sidewalks or even inside homes to harness the wasted energy from our footsteps into power for the grid, by POWERleap.

Although many are prototypes, people all across the world are proving that new, sustainable, and creative technologies are not only possible, but likely to be produced and shared… soon. And the best part is, we’re just scratching the surface. Just last week I watched a video of a team of scientists eating the first “plant based omelet.”

The unimaginable is now imaginable.

And that’s good news for our environment. And in turn, us.


About tkvogelsang

I'm a people person. I enjoy pointed conversation and mature debate. I admire the great thinkers: those who uplifted reason, scholar, and secondary opinion. I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, but find i'm nothing like the people there. I'm liberal, but no Democrat; peaceful, but no pacifist; competitive, but no capitalist; ambitious, but no elitist; a "Buddhist Athiest" (someone who reads and strives to follow the Buddha's teachings, but avid skeptic) raised Christian; and many other dichotomies. In many ways, I'm surprised to be the product I am. I love the outdoors. I love gardening, admire sustainable creation and design, endorse creative thinking and problem solving, and strive to learn as much as I possibly can. I am in a constant search for more travel. Travel, to me, is of utmost importance. It opens the mind and heart. I have many mothers because of it. I have many families that have taken me in and treated me as their own child. It's experiences like these that are not discovered at home, and worth experiencing. Just do. Go. You'll like it.
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3 Responses to Eliminating Waste Through Design

  1. mrjonmoore says:

    Waste is simply a misdirected input for some other system. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Futuristic Homes: Earthships, Shipping Containers, Tiny Homes… What? | A People's Planet

  3. Pingback: Eliminating Waste Through Design | A People’s Planet | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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