Too good to throw away: The adaptive reuse.

Nowadays, with the climate change and sustainable development being at the spotlight, I would like to write about the adaptive reuse. You may quickly grasp the concept only reading these words but, just in case, I will answer the following question for you: What does adaptive reuse is? In general, we understand that it “is a process that changes a disused or ineffective item into a new item that can be used for a different purpose”. Here the concept of circular economy is now being heard. The main point in this economic sustainable view is the 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycling). We can get off it to find new life in everything from bottles, clothes, boxes, vehicles, buildings and so on. I can see that this can be greatly translated to the “adaptive reuse” concept. As I said, we can try to adapt almost everything, but today I would like to focus in the last that comes to mind here: the building sector1635eb21dcdbf11dd81c38193a7c1080

We live and spend the majority of our time inside, so without sustainable buildings it is difficult to achieve a sustainable development. Buildings will have to be adaptable to the changing needs of the users. Flexibility in design, materials and thorough planning is the key. However, what happens if it is a building that already exists and was not planned according to these new needs? Then it is necessary to pursue a way which is sympathetic to give it a new purpose. All over the world, we find buildings which are abandoned, left unattended and unmaintained, causing a rapid deterioration and space misuse. Therefore, when a building can no longer function with its original use, a new use through adaptation may be the only way to take advantage and preserve it. We could say that the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle concept is applied here, because we consider that we preserve the building and there is no need for demolition and to build a new one. As a result, bypassing the wasteful process of demolition and deconstruction we alone see the benefits that this adaptation has for the environment. However, we could go further and prove that adaptive reuse is an essential component of sustainable development because it provides social and economic benefits as well. Let’s present it: In the social side, the recycling and adaptation of a building can restore the heritage significance of it as well as new housing or commercial or cultural opportunities to the community. Finally, in the economic side we have obvious savings for not having to acquire all the resources, materials and machinery to build a complete new building along with the embodied energy savings from not demolishing it. Is it good, isn’t it? It is like reinventing recycling.

To end, one great example (and a favourite of mine!) of adaptive reuse in buildings could be the transformation of the former Bankside Power Station in London to the art gallery Tate Modern. In a short span of time, Tate Modern has changed London and revitalised a previously underdeveloped area helping give the city a new image. It has become a key landmark for London skyline, while its concept and architecture have won international acclaim.

tate modern

As Viollet-Le-Duc said, “the best of all ways of preserving a building is to find a use for it, and then to”.

Too good to throw away: The adaptive reuse.

Back to basics. Waste-free shopping.

Imagine yourself entering to a supermarket where no endless, distracting bright colourful and packed shelves are found. Instead, imagine a relaxed, neutral space with a pleasant atmosphere that allows you to enjoy the shopping experience. Have you succeeded? If it’s difficult, pictures of Original unverpackt grocery store can help you. It opened in Berlin one year ago and it’s Germany’s first waste-free supermarket.

uk supermarlet

Original-Unverpackt

“It’s about learning to buy in a different way, ending with full endless shelves of products that promise salvation, shopping without waste. We are in search of slow food and zero waste, contrary to those other buzzwords on ecological awareness some brands use to mislead” said Milena Glimbovski and Sara Wolf, the project’s founders.

We have to know that tonnes of waste packaging come from the food and household industry. Although recycling and more efficient ways to address packaging waste are in the order of the day, the great amount of waste going to landfills is unsustainable. It is not just the packaging that requires attention but also our lifestyles and habits of consumption.

Therefore, the shopping Capture 2concept which is practiced in Original unverpackt is great, the customer only buy what they really need and there’s no need to worry about expiration dates. It works like this: The food is stored in bulk containers and customers serve themselves as they wish in their own containers that they have brought from home. If you don’t have or have forgotten them, there’s no problem. The shop can provide you reusable containers or any recycled paper bag (no plastic bags, of course!). After the shopping, you get to the till and the weight of the containers is subtracted, you only pay for the net weight of your groceries.

It is not a new idea of course, is more the concept of going back to the basics. Or how our grandfathers, great grandfathers usually bought. Or how some developing countries actually do it. Moreover, this practice allows making organic food cheaper for everyone as the packaging is being removed. People on lower income can start affording it and more social equality can be achieved, as well.

We know that nowadays more people are aware about the importance of sustainability, equality and green living. There’s a rising demand for products and services that deal with it and people demand alternatives to the expensive handling of our resources. We have to start thinking more about it and try to learn for good. We continue to exploit resources and extend our development into the Earth’s limited fields. A sustainable path is the answer to live in a better world and to secure a place to our future generations.

Again, come on, it’s hip to be green!

Back to basics. Waste-free shopping.

The Light Bulb Conspirancy: Planned Obsolescence.

“The light bulb conspiracy” is one of those documentaries which not leave you indifferent; it hits a nerve and develops a critical spirit on you.

ligh bulb conspirancy

It discusses the issue of planned obsolescence, that is to say the scheduled reduction of the useful life of some products to increase their consumption. The documentary begins with the example of a printer and discovering the real reason why it has stopped working. Then, it starts by explaining the origins of this plan, which lies in the creation of a cartel (Phoebus). This cartel consisted in changing the light bulbs’ manufacturing patents with the aim to last only 1000 hours. And up to cases such as cars, nylons and latest products-generation such as iPods (with a battery of only 18 months for the purpose you have to buy a new appliance when finished). It was between the decades of 1920-1930 that the following idea emerged: An item which did not break down was a tragedy for businesses and for their employers. So since then, the fact that there is the need to create fragile products or with a limited lifetime has been promoted. Therefore, sales and profitability remain constant, thus the global economy can keep going. The businesses defend themselves saying that the consumers are free to buy whatever they want. Let us not fool ourselves; nowadays advertising and fashion have a lot of influence in our consumer society.

technology

The film fulfils its goal, to make you think about consumerism in a society of constant growth. Where there is this cycle of constant acceleration of production, consumption and waste. It makes you consider the fact that if we carry on with this model a day when we run out of resources will come. So, additionally, we should take into account that “there is an infinite progress head in a finite planet.” One important consequence to keep in mind is that with greater consumption comes higher waste. The documentary wisely shows us that a large amount of waste end up in Ghana, Africa. They enter the products with the label of second-hand ones. There, they try to repair and use the again, but mostly they end up in landfills increasingly full.

Finally, the film gives a few examples and an interesting proposal: That is essential to create more laws to ensure that companies eliminate their products in an environmentally friendly way. I totally agree with it and we should start finding ways and alternatives to reconsider this existing planned obsolescence and rethinking the values of our present society and economy.
I believe it is a complicated issue, but today there are already moves up against this planned obsolescence. Should we need to start asking ourselves these challenges and promote them? Of course, yes. We need to try changing and overcoming the barrier that one day Gandhi said:ghandi

The Light Bulb Conspirancy: Planned Obsolescence.