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The closest we have come to a sustainability orthodoxy is the "cradle to cradle" solution pioneered by Michael Braungart and William McDonough. According to their mantra, products need to be made fully recyclable so that, once they are discarded, each part can be turned back into itself again. The problem with that logic is that it promises infinite consumption with impunity. Businesses must love it. The drawback of putting so much emphasis on recycling, however, is that it makes us feel virtuous about throwing things away. Disposability – along with its henchman, planned obsolescence – is the real enemy.
The answer, it seems to me, is to buy fewer things that we value more: to design products that endure and that we can repair more cheaply than replace. And the real way to win the public over to sustainable design is not with a war of words but by tapping into their desires. We want things with sex appeal, not ones that look as though they are made of Weetabix.
To return to our "sustainist" authors, it's telling that they frequently square up to the futurist manifesto of 1909, setting themselves in opposition. They are right, of course. The futurists' machine-lust and speed greed are absurdly unhelpful in our age – too aggressive, too self-destructive. But Marinetti's screed had a libidinous energy that was never matched in any of the successive manifestos of the 20th century. At one point in his delirious fantasy on mechanisation, he and his futurist chums see some cars. "We went up to the three snorting machines to caress their breasts," he writes. Perhaps the sustainists could use a shot of whatever Marinetti was drinking.