DTMUSIC - Playing for keeps

30th March 2012 at 01:00
Well-made products could help us scrap our disposable culture

I was lucky enough to attend the 2012 Design and Technology Association Awards in London earlier this month.

At the end of the evening, Dame Ellen MacArthur (her father was a DT teacher) gave a speech about sustainability, during which she pointed out that we have around 118 years of coal supply left.

It got me thinking. Sustainability and the environment have, until recently, been the preserve of those with dubious facial hair and a penchant for multicoloured knitwear. But now it is everywhere. And surely the crisis point that has been so long anticipated has already arrived: we have 40 to 50 years of oil left. That's scary, isn't it?

But here is a controversial thought - and one you could work into a classroom debate. Why not design better and more durable products, instead of attempting to recycle everything in what has become a disposable society?

The switch on my wife's hairdryer broke recently. You can buy a new hairdryer for less than #163;5. But being a DT teacher, I thought I would mend it. I just had to take the case apart. But the manufacturer had apparently never considered that anyone might want to do this, for while I have every screwdriver under the sun (and a Torx set), I do not have the Security Torx set needed to fix the hairdryer. Result: my wife now has a new one.

Remember the vehicle scrappage scheme where the government encouraged us to crush perfectly workable cars in order to "save" #163;2,000 off the price of a new car? Nothing to do with money they said, all about getting old cars off the road and replacing then with environmentally friendly ones. But why do we need a car that is 100 per cent recyclable? Why not simply buy one that is well-designed and well-made in the first place?

I recently went into a large fast food chain and the amount of packaging was incredible. My straw was wrapped in paper and the cup was given a plastic lid before being placed in a pulped cardboard holder. Why? "Health and safety, sir." Oh, and everything had been recycled.

I have a suggestion: how about I have no holder, no straw sleeve, no lid and a cup made of thinner material? In return, I am charged less. The company saves money and we save the environment. Or would that be too simple?

Spencer Herbert was a five-times Young Engineer for Britain award winner. He is now a design technology adviser for TES and a senior advanced skills teacher and professional progression coach at a school in Kent

What else?

Find out more about the Believe in DT campaign at www.believeindandt.org.uk

Leave a trail of sustainability behind you with furno1877's dominoes game.

Hairdryers may stump even the most prepared DT teachers, but there are plenty of things that can be recycled: take inspiration from June21 and get inventive with old pairs of jeans.

Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources028

From the forums

Teachers are talking about the GCSE preliminary materials in electronic products, graphics, product design and food technology in the TES DT forum.

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