The Five Questions
- What natural resources were used to make this product? This simple question begins the journey of becoming aware of the material source for all the products we surround ourselves with on a daily basis.
- What energy was used to obtain the natural resources? Asking this question enlarges the picture to include not just the raw materials used, but the person-power, energy, shipping, handling, political decisions, etc. necessary to provide the raw materials.
- Does it function as intended? This is one of the most important questions. Many of our man-made products seem to be intended for an obvious use, but upon scrutiny, the intention for their creation may be something else. Take a ball point pen for example, many function poorly yet are imprinted with an advertising logo. Isn't it safe to say that the intended use was as an advertising vehicle and not necessarily as a well-functioning pen? When we discover the intention behind the creation of a product, we discover so much more than what is, first glance, readily apparent. Until one knows the intention, one cannot determine if it functions as intended.
- Can it be designed such that it becomes food for something else? Michael Braungart and William McDonough have succeeded in bringing the idea of designing products that, upon completion of their intended job, becomes the raw material for something else. Thus the concept of waste disappears. (Think of the way a tree produces far more seeds than is perhaps necessary to continue the species, yet none of it is waste - it is all used by others as food.)
- Does it truly contribute to the joy and well-being of the world? Perhaps this is the most important question of all. If the world has 2 million ball point pen designs, does it really need yet another? Is there an alternate way to accomplish the same goal without using the same amount of resources? Since this is always a subjective answer, perhaps the best test of all is the question of joy. Will it bring us joy? If the answer is YES when we view its impact on our well-being, then it will be a gift to us all.