What does it mean to be life-friendly?
Life-friendly means to live and work in ways that support life – all life – to flourish, to create a world that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling.
Rather than going for the usual ‘less bad’ approach of reducing our negative impact on the world, which doesn’t solve our global problems but just ekes things out for longer, life-friendly re-frames it in the positive. It aims to have an actively benign or restorative impact on ourselves, on other people and on the rest of the natural world: win-win-win.
This means fundamentally re-designing the way we do things, which is both challenging and exciting.
Imagine a workplace where you leave feeling as good if not better than when you arrived:
- Interior design that helps you focus or to exchange information and is ergonomic
- Furniture and equipment made of materials free of toxins
- Plants that absorb toxins in the air
- Windows with views of nature
- Fair working conditions and practices
- Working culture that nurtures mutual respect and trust, resolves conflict in healthy way, and empowers people to make their own decisions about how they fulfil their work objectives
These things are all possible to embed into the DNA of an organisation in a systemic way, if the commitment and knowledge is there. Likewise with impact on the natural world.
Another example of positive impact: Desso has produced a carpet tile that not only is made from non-toxic materials (an achievement in itself) but also traps dust and chemical particles thereby improving internal air quality for the benefit of human health. This is surely the future of product design!
There is a lot of information out there to help us make ethical choices. ethicalconsumer.org ranks companies and products on a range of measures throughout the entire supply chain from extraction of rare earth minerals in conflict zones such as eastern Congo, use of toxic materials in manufacture, management of workers’ rights (see recent furore over Apple and its supplier Foxconn), air, water and land pollution in manufacture, product lifecycle, as well as fossil fuel consumption in manufacture, distribution and use.
There are organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that are exploring how to eliminate the concept of waste through a circular economy.
I developed the concept of life-friendly in 2010. The concept has been influenced by thinking in the fields of biomimicry, cradle to cradle / circular economy, ecological ethics, social psychology and ecopsychology, and game theory.
The idea of having a benign or restorative impact relates to playing a ‘positive sum game’ where in order for you to do well the other player doesn’t have to lose. But equal value of outcomes can’t be assumed, it may be a case of ‘win more-win less’. There will be competing moral claims and finding solutions that benefit all stakeholders equally will be extremely difficult, maybe impossible. However, there is something about the mindset of seeking win-win-win solutions that invites us to think creatively to redesign what we do and how we do things. Personally, I find it hugely inspiring and energising.