A Box for Salmon

Last week I attended in Oslo a very entertaining day of celebrations among Norwegian designers: THE DESIGN DAY. This is an annual day run by the Norwegian  Design Council, – a kind of an Oscars Ceremony for Norwegian designers. It is organized by the one head of the double headed Norwegian design promotion institutions: The Design Council representing the Norwegian industry and business while the other half Norsk Form (Foundation for Design and Architecture in Norway) is funded by various ministries and projects and is much more leaning towards social and environmental issues.

Here is a small photo album from the event

There were maybe two ok speakers, one quite out of touch and my friend John Thackara looking at the future of our planet and how designers can be actors in dealing with that. His presentation gave a picture of the global scenario and can be reached soon on the web. You can access his posts on the excellent site DesignObserver. One can now access podcasts of all the speakers of the day HERE.

As in such celebrations there were handed out prices for good design, in various classes, but I want to discuss the price given for the improvement of the environment.

This price was given to only one product. There there were actually only seven nominations in that category, much less as in some of the others, highlighting that this issue is not overst on the agenda of the Norwegian Industry, and in that perspective Norwegian designers. This situation is the absolute opposite to the projects that our students in the Oslo National Academy are doing. And I also admit in opposition to the agenda of the Design Council that has been inviting people to speak that work for social and environmental issues. Changes come slowly but they do, lets be positive although one grumbles!

I want to quote the directive for the jury: “The jury attaches importance to the measures that have been taken in the design phase to reduce or eliminate environmentally harmful behavior, or in terms of material choice, packaging solutions, the solution’s product life, logistics etc.”

The price was given to a polystyrene fish box for exporting salmon over the world! The explanatory text says that 834000 tonnes of salmon were exported from Norway in 2009 measuring around 40 million fish boxes! The act of giving this product a price for environmental improvement is a complete inversion of environmental evaluation, to make the boxes lighter to improve the logistics of global transport. Food transport is something that has gone completely out of control during the last decades. I must say that I do not mind that the Norwegian export industry improves its efficiency, but to award them a price for environmental awareness is completely ridiculous! I have written previously about ECO-BLING, a term that we made up in a Design Conference last year. I put a link to my thoughts here about how we Decorate Ourselves with Sustainability.

A whole load of plastic ready to go out in the world. Ca 40 million per year the text says

The development of this polystyrene box is evolution but not revolution. And today unfortunately we desperately need a revolution if there is not to be a global collapse.

With the corrections of the price for energy that we are going to see happen in the coming decade it is going to be very difficult to sustain the transport of food globally. Local production, urban farming, seasonal understanding of food consumption etc is going to become essential for the society of the future. I know that we in the North have very little understanding of the seasons in the consumption of fruits and vegetables, being able to buy mangoes, strawberries etc the whole year around. This will all change.

In the past I did participate in the workings of Norsk Form with the group of people dealing with design. They run many varied projects, from promoting design among youth, inclusion into Norwegian society, environment and Design Without Borders, a development agency. I know that the mental change is happening in Norway and this price will be seen as an amazing event in the future.

Here is posted the Jury’s argumentation for giving out the price, in Norwegian.



March 23, 2011   Posted in: DESIGN, PONDERINGS