Leyla Acaroglu is a disruptive designer, social scientist and serial entrepreneur. She has founded the UnSchool of Disruptive Design, and two design agencies, Disrupt Design and Eco Innovators. Through her TED talk on sustainability and UNEP Champion of the Earth title, she has become an international activist on sustainable issues.
As part of World Design Organization Co-living Series, we spoke with Leyla about the power of design to better co-exist with nature and her latest project – the Co-Project where an old olive farm is transformed it into a living learning lab and creative retreat space for social change makers.
Design is a powerful tool for sculpting our surroundings
We are all in a dynamic relationship with this designed world. We design the world and in turn, it designs us. The way we plan and design communities, be it cities or rural environments, has far reaching impacts both on the health of inhabitants and the natural environment which we need to sustain life. Along with that, there are also impacts to our cultures that emerge from within these designed spaces.
So many decisions made around the design of cities comes from a linear perspective, based on efficiency and economic gains rather than community, sustainability and thriveability. From the way we lay out roads, to urban architecture designed to influence behavior, xwe shape our cultures and societies through the design of the city.
Protecting nature is about protecting humans
All humans need air – no one is beyond this very biological necessity, and air pollution is one of the biggest killers of humans globally. When we talk about protecting nature, we often assume it’s about ‘other’ species such as bees, trees or polar bears, when actually it is just as much about us. Most of the negative impacts that we have on the planet come from the associated activities of consumption – be it our cell phones or the pizza we had for dinner. Everything that is created takes from nature and returns pollutants – unless we change the way we conceptualize how to meet human needs in the varying forms of goods and services. Understanding the cycle of life as well as circular and systems thinking, and applying these to design decisions so that more holistic and transformative decisions are made, is crucial.
The Co-Project, a living lab for exploring how nature works