At an Art and Design School where materials are being explored and used in many ways I would have to say that very little fall under the 3 principles of development; including, no waste, environmentally considered in every stage, and valuable.
In the architecture department most of the materials I use and see are not ecologically responsible, cardboard can be recycled and is a recycled product, although most of the time I see scraps of it in the trash can, not in the recycling can. The laser cutter, exacto blades, scissors, glues are all made of composite materials, cooked materials which are not responsible. Therefore, everything we use in the architecture department is cooked.
Architecture has so many pre-existing ideas of what a topography model is and what material it has to be made of. No one goes beyond what they don’t know and explore another material, we use what we are familiar with. As long as this investigation of alternative, valuable materials is not done then the cycle of using foam core, chip board, cardboard, or any other sheet material will always be used. Perhaps that is the problem; maybe there are not enough sheet materials out there that are eco friendly and responsible.
In addition to the models as a mode of representation in architecture, there is digital drawing. We spend lots of money on ink and paper, which all ends up in the trash at the end of the semester as we clean out our desks. In the computer lab there is a recycle trash which is full of paper at the end of the day. It surprises me how people just toss paper, why not use it for sketching ideas or notes? Printing and drawings are great ways of communicating ideas but, we need to be more responsible with the end life of our drawings.
As the architecture department is full of composite and hybrid materials, I would have to guess that most other departments use them the same way, I would assume the jewelry department to be one that saves all their scrapes. I especially appreciate RISD as a campus informing us to recycle and using recycled materials, containers at the food locales around campus. Providing (selling) stainless steel water canisters instead of plastic bottles. RISD is really trying to make an impact and do their part by reaching out to the students as well.
I think it is important that we start looking at the materials we buy to use as designers and even within our personal lives at the life associated with the material, buy local, and be more ecologically responsible.