The Global Post Disposable Design Challenge Briefs

Leyla Acaroglu
Mar 7, 2018 · 6 min read

We have a collective global challenge unprecedented in the history of humans on this Earth. We have designed ourselves into a tightly wound system of disposability that is wreaking havoc on the systems that sustain us all.

No human is immune to these outcomes from our collective actions, as no one can deny that they need food, air, and water to survive and thrive. Thus, we are all implicated in the necessity to dramatically redesign our manufacturing, production and consumption systems to be post disposable.

From the oceans to the air, our natural systems have become innocent victims of our hyper-disposable cycles of meeting human needs. This is not an alarmist warning — this is a biophysical realty of the planet we all share.

Everything is interconnected, so whatever we produce will end up contributing back to the natural systems around us. And given that we are in a dynamic interconnected relationship with the planet (due to the very human need for oxygen and fresh water), it will all eventually impact us like it or not.

Here are just 3 very real examples of how this is happening:

  1. Air pollution is one of the biggest killers globally
  2. Table salts around the world are contaminated with micro-plastics
  3. By 2050, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish

All of these issues are connected to production and consumption cycles.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

In 2017, the United Nations released the Global Sustainable Development Goals, and nearly all of the 17 global goals connect to the cycles of production that manufacture unintended consequences of inequity, pollution, and waste.

We have designed ourselves into a linear system that maximizes waste and value losses over time, which has led to the negative environmental and social issues we see around us.

Do a Google image search for any one of these topics to see the magnitude of our current predicament: ocean plastic waste, sixth mass extinction, Anthropocene, e-waste trafficking, or air pollution. What we need is action and ideas to redesign the systems that contribute to the proliferation of these issues.

We live on one planet with a finite amount of resources and a limited capacity to absorb all of the outputs of our industrial actions. The issues we have in front of us are all solvable with good design, systems change, and services that reconfigure how we get what we need as humans in ways that don’t damage the biosphere.

The post disposable challenge really looks at addressing these SDG goals

The Global Post Disposable Redesign Challenge

Now the global challenge is for us to figure out how to meet our needs without continuing to destroy ecosystems and human rights. How do we redesign our production and consumption systems for a post disposable future?

Our big design challenge is: How do we meet our material needs without negatively impacting the systems that sustain us?

This is the Global Post Disposable Design Challenge. Design helped get us into this mess, and design can get us out. We are calling for citizen designers to activate their creative potential to help redesign systems for a sustainable, regenerative, and post disposable future.

The Design Briefs

To help activate this global movement, we have developed a series of free resources that anyone can download and start to use. This design challenge brief is a set of 3 global challenges that require many different approaches and design ideas to help solve and evolve them. We have focused on 3 big issues:

  1. Single-use plastics
  2. The clothing industry
  3. Electronic waste

Each of these areas has significant disposability issues, from technology being designed to break intentionally and lock consumers out so that they can’t repair or recycle broken products, to reusable cups and plates being replaced by single-use disposable items in places where food and drinks are served. The clothing industry is one that no matter who you are, you participate in it, and the impacts of fast-paced fashion cycles dramatically affects people and the planet.

How to use the Post Disposable Design Briefs

These briefs are intended to activate people to collaborate and participate in the evolution of these challenges into changes that have positive effects, each in your own unique ways. From university classes through to design studios and even government agencies, these challenges affect and implicate all of us. We all have the power and capacity to elevate our sphere of influence to help activate change in the way we achieve our goals as humans on this planet.

Here are some tips to get your started:

  1. Find a team of people who share your passion
  2. Set a clear timeline for your project
  3. Use a systems thinking approach to uncover the issues and opportunities in the area within your sphere of influence to activate change
  4. Communicate your ideas out into the world, tag the companies involved in social media, share your sketches on Instagram, find a designer to prototype your idea — the more conversations about the actions, the more change will happen
  5. There is no such thing as failure, just exploration, experimentation, and ideation — challenge yourself to think differently, explore the positive opportunities in every action of change, and be involved in activating the type of future you want to live in

What’s the prize?

There are many challenges out there that offer you cold hard cash for your ideas (check some out here), and whilst this is great as an incentive to get more people interested in these important topics, we believe that the collective beneficial outcome and personal potential to start a new product/company/initiative/movement is a strong enough reward to motivate action and engagement with the post disposable movement.

That’s why you are not applying to us, nor giving up your ideas. We are all working towards the same goal of a positive future. So, get started! Who knows what kind of positive change your actions can have on your own life and the larger world that’s the beauty of learning to love problems and take actions rather than the negative side of the issue.

You will only know once you start and experience the positive neurological energy of ideation, problem loving, and positive perspectives of the future. That’s the key here: we are collectively, from the heads of government to the kinds in preschool working to design our way out of problems and into positive solutions.

Get started, download the free post disposable action pack and design brief set here. Connect with others on our Facebook group and share your ideas and actions with the world using the hashtag: #postdisposable

The United Nations have a huge movement brewing around the #beatpollution hashtag too.

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Our Post Disposable Initiative also includes all FREE resources we developed to help you activate positive change in your life and community. Get the activation kit with communication and action tools to launch your leadership for change skills now. Download it here.

Please also join our Facebook page for the post disposable change

We also have a free class on using the Disruptive Design Method to activate change here

Disruptive Design

Going against the grain; disrupting the status quo. This curated collection of articles explores the themes of disruptive design, sustainability, cognitive science, gamification, social innovation, positive change interventions and the systems that connect it all.

Leyla Acaroglu

Written by

UNEP Champion of the Earth, Designer, Sociologist, Sustainability Provocateur, TED Speaker, Educator, Founder of, &

Disruptive Design

Going against the grain; disrupting the status quo. This curated collection of articles explores the themes of disruptive design, sustainability, cognitive science, gamification, social innovation, positive change interventions and the systems that connect it all.

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