March 1, 2024

We need billions of people doing sustainability imperfectly

Farrell Calabrese leads the 2024 Core77 Design Awards jury in the Sustainability category. This category presents any product, service or system designed to resolve issues related to sustainability in a careful and research-backed manner, through strategies ranging from materials, production methods, efficient systems, packaging and shipping.

Farrell Calabrese challenges you to choose how you present yourself based on who you are and what you are uniquely passionate about. Because, as she says, “we don’t need a handful of companies that do sustainability perfectly – we need billions of people who do sustainability imperfectly.”

Crowe’s Director of Purpose and Sustainability, Farrell Calabrese

As Crowe’s Director of Purpose and Sustainability, Farrell is dedicated to accelerating the positive impact that people and organizations can make, inspiring visions for a more sustainable future. She has spent two decades working in communications, design, innovation and corporate sustainability, simplifying complex topics to make them actionable and studying and applying leadership principles to help purpose-driven teams and organizations achieve progress at scale.

Farrell’s results-oriented approach stems from the ability to engage, educate and train others to see themselves as part of the solution, while leveraging the creativity, knowledge and diverse perspectives of the business environment. She believes in celebrating successes and amplifying the impact of the great work happening within companies, knowing that there is still much work to be done across the world and in its supply chains. Farrell also believes in intentionally designing the world we want to live in – that our place and circumstance, decisions and habits collectively impact people, society, our environment and our connected world, granting each of us the agency to make decisions that have a positive or negative impact.

As a sustainability professional, Farrell is optimistic about the future and the global journey toward sustainability. She sees this as a time of opportunity to rethink and redesign our systems, processes and products accordingly. “We have reached a critical point where we must be aware of the reasons behind our actions, the methods we employ and the long-term impacts of our decisions,” she said. “The choices we make today will have far-reaching effects, both positive and negative, and it is our responsibility to ensure that these effects are beneficial for our planet and future generations.”

In Farrell’s opinion, the waste of resources in the face of a changing planet and rapid population growth is unacceptable. It encourages designers to create within planetary and societal constraints, with intentionality in action and systematic planning to retain the value of goods and services for as long as possible. This means not only minimizing waste, but also maximizing efficiency and promoting circularity in economic systems.

Through his work, Farrell sees enormous potential for innovation and transformation, an opportunity to redefine our relationship with the environment, moving from a linear “take-make-waste” model to a circular model, where waste and pollution are systematically eliminated. As she said: “It’s not just about preserving resources; it’s about creating a more equitable, resilient and sustainable world.”

Farrell cautions designers to consider the broader long-term impacts of a design on our environment and society, rather than prioritizing immediate needs. As designers help shape the way the world is “made,” Farrell encourages them to go beyond form and function, to systematically eliminate waste and pollution from products, while continuing to delight consumers. As she said: “We need to ensure the longevity of a product and its materials, mitigating the negative social and planetary impacts of bringing that product or service into the world.”

Farrell highlights a common lack of knowledge and experience on materials and processes in the design industry. These elements are crucial in creating successful projects that can make a positive impact. It is important that designers recognize the importance of the environmental impact that their work can have, both positive and negative. By understanding the carbon footprint of their designs, designers can strive to create not only visually appealing results, but also results that are fair and regenerative for people and the planet. She is passionate about educating this community on these topics as she believes sustainable design is at the forefront of large-scale change.

Farrell’s advice to Core77 Design Award participants? “Be very clear about the ‘why’ of your design.” What is your purpose? What environmental or social problem are you addressing? What materials and processes will be used? Whenever possible, she encourages participants to state which Sustainable Design Principles were used in creating their design and the positive and negative impacts their design can have on people, society and the planet. Some to consider could be: Circular Design, Eco-efficiency, Cradle-to-Cradle Design, Biomimicry, Service and Flow Economics, Green Building Design, Life Cycle Assessment, Social Sustainability, Renewable Energy, Material Selection, Minimization of Waste, Durability, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Local Supply and User Participation.

As Farrell said: “Raising awareness and celebrating designs that address these issues can inspire a collective shift towards more sustainable design practices.”

The winner of the Sustainability category of the Core77 Design Awards 2023 was The Pollinator Kit™ by Mitchell Heinrich of What For Design, Julian Goldman and Dierdre Shea of ​​Fun Stuff Design, and Rory Smith. This product for Checkerspot offers a more renewable option for 2-part polyurethane casting.

Are you one of the billions of people who practice sustainability imperfectly? If so, we’d love to see your work. Participate in the Core77 Design Awards now!

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