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Alex Steffen’s Changing Our World

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We met Alex Steffen last night and he seems like a pretty upbeat guy in light of all the bad news he must run into all day as editor of Worldchanging: “We have inherited a broken future.”

(We don’t think we need to go over all those problems right now and bum you out.)

But basically, we are Americans, living a five-planet lifestyle. We have to fix it because we caused the problem in the first place. Thank god we have moved environmentalism into the mainstream. But even the small changes–all those little steps–can’t solve these problems.

We can’t just swap out all the Hummers for Priuses, we have to think differently. Like Netflix, who has dematerialized the movie rental system. Or Ze Frank‘s Earth Sandwich project as a method of sustainability. If you know where you are and where things are you can relate to them better. Car sharing is another example of a brilliant dematerializing of resources. Power tools are another thing–we just don’t use them enough to own them. Shared tool libraries are the answer. Like a pillow on an airplane, once we use something, we don’t need to keep it, and we should give it back. More producer take-backs need to happen.

So. People want guilt free affluence, but we can’t just rely on the bombardment of information, we need to know the backstory of our decisions. For example, the speed at which people have decided they don’t want to eat crap, and know where their food has come from, has increased exponentially because it became trendy.

How companies tell their backstory is going to be the most critical job for designers of the next decade, and so here, designers, is the challenge. The rest of the world needs you to show us how to engage. and you need to show the rest of the world that you can be beautiful. We should build it to be better and build it to be more fun.

And let’s finish with this uplifting quote by Paul Hawken that we’re sure keeps Steffen going back to the office every day: “You are brilliant and the world is hiring.”

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