Designing Sustainability

One of the articles in Business On A Small Planet (IC#41)
Originally published in Summer 1995 on page 7
Copyright (c)1995, 1997 by Context Institute

Eco-design is not new. In fact, Sim Van der Ryn has been teaching ecological design at the University of California, Berkeley for 30 years – now Van der Ryn and friends have organized to bring sustainable design concepts into the mainstream.

Earth Day 1995 marked the debut of the International Ecological Design Society, formed by Van der Ryn, John and Nancy Todd, Pliny Fisk, Paul Hawken, David Orr, Wes Jackson, and others.

According to the society’s director Stuart Cowen, the group will act as a "trade association for ecological design" – a forum for people working on sustainability/design connections, with a focus on defining how sustainable systems really work. The group is committed to moving beyond the rhetoric to the application of eco-design principles in areas as diverse as building and agriculture systems. The founders hope to attract a core group of 500 designers.

The society will also advocate for the teaching of ecological design at every level – from kindergarten through university.

"We believe young people need training in dealing with a complex world that’s making a transition from unsustainable practices to sustainability," said Cowen. "They need ecological literacy and design literacy so they can begin to understand how our world is put together and how to create alternatives."

Contact The International Ecological Design Society at PO Box 11645, Berkeley, CA 94712, tel. 510/869-5015, e-mail:

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