The idea is that good usability can help create a more sustainable world by creating products that use recycled components, work to insure a better use of resources, or are so delightful to use that they don’t have to be replaced as often.
A good example of this is my new cell phone. I can actually say, “I really love using it.” This surprised me, since I haven’t even liked any of my previous phones. They were functional, but not very usable. Over the years, they did get more attractive, but the functionality never got me excited. I always opted for a simple phone and just used it for making calls. I never thought I would use the Internet on my phone or any other applications, partly because they didn’t work well.
This all changed with my new phone. Not only do I find it visually attractive in it’s purple flip design, but it gives me email, the Internet, and GPS with a relatively easy user interface. The camera is high resolution, and the phone provides me with a full keyboard that is big enough to type, but small enough that when it flips, I can put it in my pocket. I really love it.
The GPS can save addresses and tell me directions while I drive or walk, like any good GPS application. I find myself anticipating my need for directions by entering addresses before I start driving.
My new phone has improved my life by making many everyday activities easier and more fun. I love my phone and will use it forever, I promise.
My new phone is a great example of what I call “accidental sustainability.” The product is so well designed, so easy to use, that I have no reason to replace it. I do not need to worry about planned obsolescence and other reasons to get a new phone every year.
The problem with badly designed products is that they need to be replaced, which means that precious resources are used up in developing and producing them. Not only that, these badly designed products overload our landfills, creating more trash that will be around for many years to come.
Accidental sustainability is creating useful, satisfying, meaningful products and services people don’t need to replace and help conserve our resources.