What is Green Hacking?

pensive woman browsing laptop near books

If we didn’t know it a minute ago, you probably didn’t either, and that’s okay. We’re starting the idea of “green hacking” right here on Design Baddie and we think it’s something that should catch on!

What is Green Hacking?

Green-Hacking: The art of finding a way to design and live more eco-consciously without sacrificing quality of life, good aesthetics and enjoyment. It could also refer to using technology to help us live more sustainably.

This idea is a simpler take on a design philosophy pioneered by the Danish star architect Bjarke Ingels, known as “hedonistic sustainability“.

The thinking behind it is that sustainability and personal enjoyment don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Rather, we can find ways to save the environment while having fun doing it.

Not a lot to complain about with that philosophy, is there?

However, how to actually successfully execute on hedonistic sustainability is another story, entirely.

Even as Bjarke’s message to us seems to indicate that “saving the environment” is simple, we find ourselves thinking “simple doesn’t mean easy”, and that maybe (or very obviously) Bjarke is just a genius.

The Challenges of Creating Greener Homes

If it’s so easy to be green why doesn’t it feel like that in real life? Why is it so hard to make the greener choice?

We can think of a few reasons.

-Green interior options, like many green products, are either more expensive or we have to go out of our way to find them.

-Sometimes we don’t really know where to concentrate our efforts or focus in order to pack the most punch.

-Even worse, sometimes changes threaten our current lifestyles. We have to change up the predictable, safe and comfortable thing we’re doing already.

‘Saving the Environment’ Causes Mixed Signals

woman in blue blazer holding white paper

The truth is that on some level, we all want to be greener, but it isn’t always clear how. It seems that even the experts disagree.

We might fear that putting in a lot of time and effort doesn’t actually translate to making a real or noticeable difference.

If we fail in our attempt, we feel guilt for not being green enough.

Sometimes Green Options Suck.

Some of the ideas I read when researching this article surprised me when they seemed to miss the larger point. Here are a few examples:

Descrepancies and Erroneous Advice

-Should we hold off on buying a new appliance just to be saving?

What is the true cost in terms of time conserved, and even total lifetime assessment, when it comes to selecting or holding off on using products and services?

-Will anyone actually know or be better off that we sweated it out instead of using the air-conditioning last night to conserve on energy, or that we took the stairs up 16 floors instead of taking the elevator for the same reason?

What is the cost to our sleep and our knees, and thus our productivity and health?

What if not using the machine often enough actually causes it to break down quicker?

-Does it actually make a difference to the greater environment if we eat a vegetarian dinner by candle light once a week?

What about swapping our old fixtures out for newer, more energy efficient types? We are, after all, living in the 21st century. Let’s not go back to candle light and torches, unless that’s our personal thing.

-Should we really all just take cold showers, shun paper and send our leftover food to neighbors?

Why not use a water saving showerhead and take a shorter shower, use the back of paper that comes to you anyway, and figure out how to cook the right amount or how to use leftovers yourself?

-Does everything need to be organic?

What about synthetic material hybrids (a combination between natural and synthetic) that are higher performance, safer, more hygenic and more durable, and the use of recycled plastic materials as used in 3D printing?

In design nerd speak: Material selection should be appropriate to the long term use case scenario.

Greener with Science

simple interior of modern bathroom
Materials which are long-lasting and also recyclable at the end of their lifespan are a green enough choice. Energy efficiency in this bathroom is also important to its “green rating”.

This, friends, is what we’re talking about when we say there are many “green advice” ideas that suck. Too many of them focus on the short term and ignore the longer term effects. It all comes down to bad economics.

If we are going to be greener and have more fun doing it, we are doing to have to be smarter about being green.

That means that we, as well as our homes are going to have to get smarter too.

Technology Delivers the Future and the Future is Green

I’m a firm believer that we should follow the technology. It goes without saying, technology is only going to be as good as we are at using it.

However, ultimately the solutions lie ahead of us, not behind us. Yes, we need to get back to nature, but it doesn’t mean shunning technology. We need technology that brings us closer to nature.

-Think about a solar tile on your roof that captures the sun’s energy for your home’s needs.

-Think about recycling your water and even collecting rain water to begin with.

-Think about energy conserving your home so that you reduce energy loss before you even think about saving it.

A New Way of Thinking about Green Interior Living

planet earth first poster on a concrete post

If we’ve had a hard time in the past with figuring out how to actually be green and not seem like an asshole, what can we do differently?

One way might be to flip or reverse our thinking to se if that makes any sense or at the very least, offers any insight.

If we’ve been approaching being “green” from the point of view that it is somehow uncool or not fun, or limiting us in some way, can we do anythign to flip that thinking on it’s head?

Conservation Shrinks, Optimism Builds

Even if our thought experiment is nothing but a thinking exercise, what are the possibilities of hedonistic sustainability that we might explore if we allow ourselves to?

If nothing else, certainly the possibilities are more fun to think about than the drudgery of mindless responsibilities or threatened liabilities?

Let’s flip the idea of designing and living sustainably as a burden to a privilege, and even as a bridge to a far better future life.

Instead of “I have to be greener”, “I get to be greener”.

Become a Green Hacker

businessman man person woman

There is actually a movement called Green Hack which invites hackers to use their knowledge and computer skills to work at solving sustainability problems as an organized movement.

We might not be at this level of green hacking , but change starts with each of us. We don’t make changes arbitrarily because we have to, but rather because we can see that the trade-offs are so worth it.

Taking this journey to finding ways to be greener while still enjoying your life, if not even enhancing it, should free you.

Use the Hack, Don’t Be a Hack

An enjoyably green future is in the cards for all of us if we can make the green choices that we need to make now.

Whether we are designers or construction professionals, retailers, students or home owners, there are changes that each of us can make that together will, in fact make a significant difference.

The time has come for us to find out exactly what it is that we need to do to help and figure out how we’re going to make that a reality.

This is the mentality that edges us closer toward solving the needs of the future as a design problem now and we will need to embrace it.

No more excuses.

No more half measures.

5D Chess

It’s certainly not all miserable. We’re design baddies as well as sustainable hedonists. We’re going to figure out how to be healthier, happier and have more fun! We’re going to stand apart from those who are turning a blind eye to a genuine science-recognized crisis, and what is assuredly a turning point in the history of our species.

As we like to say on this blog: It’s time to be on the right side of history.

food photography breakfast on bread illustration
When is it ever not time to appreciate the little things? Staying grounded keeps us sharp while we build the future.

We can do this because we’re focused on outcomes! The journeys may be different, but our destination is assured. We know where we want to go. We want a better future, not a worse one. To us it’s not that complicated.

What will we have to give up? Not all that much.

In the process of making positive changes we get to connect with nature (proven to reduce stress and depression and to boost health and creative thinking!) and take some of the stress of modern life off.

Ultimately, we get to consider what a better future for us all might look like.

Learn to ‘Green Hack’ and Position Yourself for the Future

The best part of being able to envision the future is that you also get to be a part of building it. We designers, builders and creators have the power to imagine a better world, and we can bring that world to reality.

None of it requires us to go back to being a cave man (appealing as it is) or shutting off our computer consoles.

Nobody wants the dark ages again.

Our fully integrated green and technologically advanced future is going to bring all of us to new heights of creativity and collaboration.

The power is moving from corporations to the creators and influencers, the dreamers and the designers. We have the power to shape the future.

The caveat?

We just need to make ourselves mentally prepared and available to build this future.

The day is today. The time is now.

Read our next installment where we share the best green hacks we know, whatever your current position and level of entry.

Happy designing and green hacking!


Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

Hottest Articles

%d bloggers like this: