“The best way to predict the future is to design it."--Buckminster Fuller


Thrivable Design

 The opportunity now exists to step beyond the perception of fighting against something or of desperately saving something, to the perception of choosing to design our world in a way that honors all and makes our hearts sing – simply for the joy of it.

Any effort to create sustainability as a lifestyle on this planet that comes from fear, guilt, or anything less than an expression of the best of who we know ourselves to be, will ultimately fail. Humans respond to the joy of self-love far more than to guilt or fear – which they will always find a way to react against.

A New Model For Design

We have the option of perceiving our world as a creative expression, lived in a moment to moment choice of creative design, that steps beyond mere survival to thriveability - (from Old Norse þrifask "to thrive," originally "grasp to oneself." ) The distinction between sustainability and thrivability is important. Would you prefer to simply sustain (endure) or to “clutch something to yourself” (in other words make it so fully a part of you that it becomes who you are – an expression of your innermost wisdom)?

Thrivability asks us each to step into the space in which our everyday choices are a testament to our truest knowing, our authentic selves. And it asks us to make all our choices from this space - to align our actions with our values - and to live through our passions. But how do we design in a way that honors our deepest knowing?

If you imagine that each designed product is a pebble tossed into a still pond, thrivable design sees not only the pebble but also all the influences it creates (especially the quality of feeling) – the ever-expanding circles of movement formed through the pebble’s impact — as part of the designer’s process. This represents a quantum leap in design, as it expands to include feelings, asking what design totality truly brings us JOY? Consider including the following concepts as you go about designing your world:

DFDDesign for Disassembly – designing specifically so that products can be quickly broken down into their component parts with raw materials separated. This allows for easy recycling, composting, and repair. Imagine what the world would look like if all of our products were designed using DFD principles.

• Design for the longest product life possible.

• Use only non-toxic materials.

• Design for optimum efficiency in materials and energy use.

• Design for the context of the product’s use and the ecological impacts that would arise in that context.

Design for an on-going process that includes methods for actively maintaining sustainability – in other words, include the ability for on-going learning, adaptation, and continued or even improved sustainability over time.

Design for what is being sustained, directly and indirectly, and not only just how it is being sustained.

• Use nature’s 3.8 billion years of testing as an inspiration and guideline. This is called “Biomimicry. ”

Eliminate waste entirely. Instead, design all “waste” as food for something else. Consider creating two different closed-loop systems of raw material recycling: a Biological Loop that handles all organic material, and a Technological Loop that handles all non-organic material, like machines, cars, and computers.  Then design the complete lifecycle of the product, from raw material – through product – then back to raw material.

Design to create an on-going experience that nurtures and supports the environment, just as the cherry tree, for example, fits usefully into it’s own environment. It provides food for animals, insects, and microorganisms; enriches the ecosystem, sequesters carbon, produces oxygen, cleans air and water, creates and stabilizes soil; and it harbors a diverse array of flora and fauna, all of which depend on it and on one another for the functions and flows that support life. And when the tree dies, it returns to the soil, releasing, as it decomposes, minerals that will fuel healthy new growth in the same place.

Design with relationships in mind - It is important to see the overall picture. As we begin to honor all life, our entire relationship with every presentation of life will transform to one of deep gratitude. You will find yourself thanking everything and seeing the infinite combination of events and contributors who brought you to this moment, this gift – whatever you perceive it to be. Additionally, you will begin to examine your relationship to energy of all forms – and the assumptions you hold about it.

Practice inclusion when designing for any population, by considering all who are impacted – including non-humans and those not yet born.

Even the design questions of the Earth Embrace Clubs, learned from an early age, could revolutionize the approach to design of subsequent generations.


Notice what design decisions lead to the creation of products and systems that create a sense of caring, gratitude, and joy. For example, creating a long-life product that requires maintenance forces the user to take care of it. This change in product treatment - the relationship between the product and the user - fundamentally shifts from a negligent throw-away mentality to one of deep caring and appreciation over time.

Remember the 1950’s and 1960’s car aficionado lovingly caressing the bumper of his favorite rare vehicle while polishing every fingerprint from the surface? That is the level of relationship we are seeking for all our creations - one in which the service provided both by the product itself and those involved in its making, maintenance, upgrading, and final return for recycling of component materials, is deeply and personally appreciated. It is a level of honoring that is just beginning to seep into our awareness, but one that essentially recognizes the sacredness of all.