The following outlines how complexity can hinder good environmental actions, and how you as an environmental planner or product manufacturer can overcome it. And yes, I am going somewhere with the coffee story.
Hi, my name is Mona and I’m a coffee addict.
Seeing as it’s one of my only vises in life, I don’t really mind it. But it does mean that I am not a functional human being without my morning Joe, and that is what prompted today’s post.
I’m currently staying with some friends who are very techy. Their house is filled with robots, drones, and really cool gadgets. As well, their coffee maker is really advanced, you know the kind that has an inbuilt alarm so it can have the coffee ready for you before you’re out of bed. It also has an inbuilt grinder so you can get fresh coffee. Amazing, right? Wrong!
The darn thing never works, and in its effort to be as simple as possible, it only has one on/off button and a nob that also works as a button. This morning I spend 15 minutes trying to get it to grind the beans. 15! I’m not gonna brand shame so I won’t tell you the name of the coffee machine.
There were just too few buttons and no matter what I pushed, or in which order, it didn’t work. In the end, I gave up. I sat defeated and ate my breakfast with a glass of water.
Why am I telling you this? Because green design matters.
Because a coffee maker that’s too complicated to operate is a spot-on example of how our world is way more complicated than it needs to be.
And the same goes for acting environmentally friendly.
If you live in a westernized country or the metropolises of high-tech South East Asia, you probably have some sort of waste management and recycling scheme.
Those schemes have rules, and those rules are often really complicated and with a large set of exceptions. This is because of technical requirements from the waste treatment facilities. It makes recycling confusing for us mortals who just want to know how to sort our waste in the right way.
Likewise, if you’re gonna purchase a new car, and you want to get one that is environmentally friendly, what do you get? One with good mileage? An electric? A used car? Which is better? The answer is the same, ‘Well it depends…’
But we don’t want to dig into why there are so many differences in regards to buying an environmentally friendly car, we just want the answer: What is the best car I can buy if I care about the environment?
Acting environmentally friendly can be hard and complicated because our world is unnecessarily complicated.
If you promoting a greener behavior, or selling a green product, it is your job to make it as easy as possible for your audience/consumer, to do the right thing.
How to make sustainable products or services
Seeing as I still haven’t had coffee yet, I’ll give you the bare minimum.
Test it! Then test it. And then test it again.
If you’re asking someone to act in a different way, you need to test if what you are asking them is sufficiently easy and understandable. Test your message or product over and over until you have made it as approachable as possible.
I call this the Grandma Test.
Edit (06.08.18): I was actually meeting my grandma after writing this, so I took the opportunity to put a face to the concept. Here she is.
If I can explain something in a way that even my stubborn, 82-year-old grandma gets it, then I’m on to something.
My formal education is Technological Socio-Economical Planner.
That fails the grandma test massively. Therefore I and most of my old uni buddies boil it down to the essence: Environmental Planner. Or as grandma says, ‘Something with environment.’
This is where the discussion of dumbing down usually comes up. I will say this until I am in my grave:
It’s not about dumbing down, it’s about removing unnecessary complexity.
I’m not a stupid person, nor am I a tech illiterate, but I’ll remind you that I battled the coffee maker for 15 minutes, and lost!
That’s what happens when things get too fancy.
Maybe when I have had my coffee, I’ll write the post about why humans always make things more complicated and what it means for our environment, and society as a whole.
For now, I highly advise you that whatever change you want to make in the world, you make sure that your actions are easy to follow and that you keep your instructions clear.
And on that note, I’m gonna dig out the old school Italian espresso maker, because that never fails me.