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Humane Educator’s Toolbox: Changing Systems Through Design

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | 1 Comment | Published on February 9, 2015 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2015/02/09/humane-educators-toolbox-changing-systems-design/
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reusable bag with word "reuse" on it

Image via aaronHwarren/Flickr.

by Marsha Rakestraw

Many of us make the choices we do because we’re trying to do the right thing – we want to do the most good and least harm for people, nonhuman animals, and the earth. But what we think we know about making more sustainable choices is often based on incomplete information.

And we’re often limited in our options because of the way our systems and products are designed.

In her TED talk “Paper Beats Plastic? How to Rethink Environmental Folklore,” sustainability strategist Leyla Acaroglu highlights the challenges we face because we humans tend to “like really simple solutions” to complex choices. As Acaroglu says, our choices tend to be based on our experiences and things we’ve heard from other people, rather than on a scientific framework; and “ … this is really hard, because we live in incredibly complex systems.”

Acaroglu highlights the importance of life cycle thinking, looking at the entire life cycle from the extraction of raw materials to disposal. She notes that design-led system changes, which pay attention to designing the product to solve the problem, can make a significant change in our impact on the planet.

Watch the video (18 min):


Acaroglu’s talk is especially useful for exploring with older students the complex impact of our choices and the creativity needed to develop meaningful solutions. With maker spaces and project-based learning growing in popularity in schools, learning about how design can solve real-world problems is a beneficial skill for students and can help them realize their potential as solutionaries who can solve actual problems.

To introduce your students to the interconnected impacts of our choices, use our free activity True Price.