Compostmodern Setting the Sustainable Tone for Design Industry

Compostmodern is quickly becoming one of the largest conferences in the design industry, which might not be interesting to greenies right away, except that it is specifically focused on sustainability.

This particular conference is doing important work to shift the mindset of the people who design all those products we admire and consume. Founder of the event Phil Hamlett took some time to speak with us about the event, including the responses and changes it has generated. Compostmodern is a Compass for the Design Industry
Compostmodern began as a biannual conference in 2004, but with the rapidly growing popularity, it has shifted to an annual event starting this year. The core focus is sustainability. As Hamlett put it, it is important to be a bug in the ear of designers so that incorporating sustainability into design is unavoidable.

Thankfully with the expanding awareness about the environment in the mainstream and the global growth of the green movement, it is getting easier to get designers to consider how they design the products that become reality, from materials to manufacturing to recyclability.

Compostmodern is a place for designers to get the inspiration and knowledge they need to carry a green thread throughout their creative process and into the world we live in and enjoy. It is a volunteer effort of huge proportions. Each person involved in putting on the conference is attached to the project as if it is their full time job, and the amount of energy and skill that goes into its creation is impressive.

Compostmodern has grown from a three person operation to a conference with a volunteer staff of about 40, and an attendance rate that rivals national conferences of AIGA, the professional association for designers, all in just five short years. But the reason for it shouldn't come as a surprise. At CompostModern, inspiration is almost palpable.

The Influence of Compostmodern on Emily Pilloton of Project H

One designer in particular can vouch for that. Emily Pilloton, a favorite here on TreeHugger and founder of Project H, attended the conference in 2008. She had started up Project H just two weeks before attending Compostmodern, knowing little to nothing about how to run the project, but holding tight to passion behind its conception.

She was blown away by the caliber of the speakers at the event, and met two in particular with whom she'd form career-shifting relationships. Pilloton says it is the one and only conference she has attended where it didn't end at the close of the day. She gathered tools for Project H, and inspiration that carried her through that formative year and into this year, where she was invited back as a speaker.

Pilloton is excited to bring to this year's attendees the same effect the conference had on her last year - that it is a starting point, not just a conference where you listen to some speakers, take some notes, and go home.

She plans to challenge the audience to take action, not just talk about sustainability. She will ask them to set a goal and then document it in some way so that each person is held accountable for accomplishing that goal. She notes that the design industry can be insulated and self-congratulatory, so she urges, "Stop massaging egos, and go out and work for nonprofits, the government, etc....use skills in places outside of the design world."

Pilloton says, "Design isn't going to single-handedly change the world, but it is a tool. The skills of a designer are problem solving with creativity and beauty. That kind of thinking is always needed in a time of crisis. It has to be collaboration."

Compostmodern's Speakers and Green Edge

That is in essence what Compostmodern stands for - that designers are a core piece of changing our world as we know it. They hold influence in altering everything we consume and the way in which we consume it to be more sustainable. This conference, thankfully, is growing in popularity and the line up of speakers in addition to Emily Pilloton shows it. Other speakers at this year's event include Joel Makower of GreenBiz.com, Saul Griffith of Makani Power, Allan Chochinov of Core77, and Pam Dorr of Hale Empowerment & Revitalization Organization
(HERO), just to name a few.

From high quality speakers all the way to the minimalist use of printed materials, elimination of plastic water bottles and other steps to hold as green a conference as possible, CompostModern is becoming a flagship event for sustainability and design.

If you're interested in attending this year's event, it is being held February 21 in San Francisco. Check out Compostmodern's website for more information. If you can't attend the event in person, there are opportunities to attend the event via webcast. TreeHugger will be at this year's event, as usual, so if you can't make it, don't worry - we'll give you the whole scoop.

More on Compostmodern and Project H
Compostmodern 2008: All about Sustainable Design
Project H Design: Initiatives for Humanity, Habitats, Health and Happines
Project H Delivering Water in Africa with Hippo Rollers
Sponsor a Lifestraw Family Water Filter with Project H Design

Tags: Cradle To Cradle | Designers | Education