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Dreaming in Green

By JESSICA CURRY
Questions for Peter Nicholson, executive director of Foresight Design Initiative, which “seeks to improve and sustain the quality of life in the urban environment through smart design”

How is creativity integral to sustainability? 
The pursuit of sustainability involves doing things in new ways, whether this means developing products that have reduced environmental impacts, changing the way we travel from one part of town to another, or how we use and generate energy. We are at the beginning of developing a new paradigm for how we live.

How can we nurture creativity to order to protect the environment? 
I’m not sure everyone can or is inclined to, which is okay. What we need to do is understand the compelling need to change, to make wiser choices and to support creative approaches.

Do you think creative minds are increasingly drawn to sustainability?
To some extent, but not nearly enough. In Chicago, we’re fortunate to have several established sustainability-related organizations doing great work. We have a good handle on the science, public policy and data-driven side of the equation. I’m not sure there is widespread appreciation yet, however, for the need for creativity—in particular, design.

What do you think are some of the most creative projects going on in Chicago?
I’m particularly impressed with several social venture enterprises that seek to create more than one kind of value—places like The Enterprising Kitchen, WomanCraft (a project of Deborah’s Place) and Planet Access. They are enterprises that generate both economic profit, as well as social good, like job training for people who might not otherwise have access to it.

What aspect of sustainable design needs more attention? 
In general, we need to develop a sustainable design methodology [and] learn how to practice it. With regard to specific issues, political campaigns and more sustainable transportation are two topics begging for attention.

Published: October 14, 2007
Issue: November 2007