Ergonomics and Sustainability

Sustainable options often lead to living better

Photo by asoggetti on Unsplash

Ergonomics has been on my mind as I set up my home office after moving into a new apartment. To get a desk of the right height, I had to build my own out of a plank from a hardware store and a couple of filing cabinets. I want my books and notebooks within arm’s length, and to be able to wheel my chair from the computer desk to the writing station to the sketching station with ease, without wires getting in the way.

I’ve also been thinking about cognitive ergonomics and how a slower pace of life suits our creativity. How walking is good for us. These aren’t efficient ways to live, but they are good ways.

Many technologies that were better for the environment than what we have currently are dismissed as obsolete because they are inefficient. It’s like when futurists thought that we’d take planes everywhere like the Jetsons, and cars were a thing of the past. And how we don’t need to know how to write by hand anymore because we have computers.

But the market for paper products is booming because we’ve burned ourselves out on screens. And flying isn’t most people’s preferred mode of transport.

The new options are just that — options. Not replacements. We have centuries worth of technologies to experiment with in creating our own portfolio of tools. There are still times when the best choice is a typewriter or vinyl record because ‘best’ is about more than efficiency.

Ergonomics, not efficiency, drives our product choices. And walking, bicycles, reusable containers, and natural fibers make our lives better.

Ergonomics and sustainability intersect. ‘Vintage’ and sustainability intersect. Technologies once considered obsolete may have a resurgence as sustainable technology becomes more widespread.

Originally appeared in Sustainability Experiments.

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