Monday, November 24, 2008

no more …
posted by pantopicon

ironing shirts, wasting energy, shortening the lifespan of your shirt’s cloth. The Swedish brand Eton shirts has developed a coatingless cotton-fibre which returns to its original shape after washing. In fact bodyheat is enough to iron your shirt as you wear it. The fibre responds to heat - not unlike shape memory alloys) - to maintain its form.

Let’s extrapolate such a development for a second: imagine a world in which no shirts need to be ironed any longer. Consequences: significant decrease of energy usage since irons no longer need to be heated, presses are no longer necessary, thereby also increasing the lifespan of the shirt since the cloth is spared from several aggressive interactions. Combine that with a waterless washing machine such as Electrolux’ Airwash system. In terms of saving the environment. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how energy- & eco-efficient the production of the special cotton fibre (and the rest of its lifecycle) is before we can truly assess its impact. From a socio-economic perspective however - like any technological development which renders human (inter)action obsolete - the no-iron cotton fibre - if used on a large scale - might put extra stress on or obliterate ironing shops.

On a higher level of abstraction: think of all the kind of products which nowadays, because of their systemic or material makeup, require labour (implying usage of all kinds of other resources) in order to remain functional, usable etc. Windows need to be washed, houses need to be heated or cooled, etc.

What if … changes at the material/systemic level of these products, which nearly all of us use, could make these ‘wasteful cycles’ of energy. If employed at a large scale, effects (both positive and negative) of these changes can often be exponential in nature as they work their way through the chain of reactions linked to the lifecycle of the product. They alter the system of their ‘ecology’, their context (whether bio-, techno- or homosphere). Glass can be self-cleaning, houses can go without or using a minimum of heating/cooling energy, etc.

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