PSFK Conference Speaker Interview: Jill Fehrenbacher

The founder of Inhabitat talks about the challenges of green design and how collaborative consumption might turn the tide of environmental devastation.

Jill Fehrenbacher will be one of the panelists at our upcoming PSFK CONFERENCE NY 2011. She’s the founder and editor-in-chief of Inhabitat.com, as well as a LEED accredited designer and green design consultant based in New York City. In anticipation of the conference, we bring you a few thoughts from Jill :

What is the most exciting challenge that you’re addressing right now?

I think that one of the biggest challenges we have always faced as a publication focused around ‘green’ or ‘ethical’ design is how to keep this important subject matter interesting and appealing to people without dumbing it down, or getting too superficial. Certainly the world calling green a ‘trend’ back in 2006 / 2007 was useful to us at that time, but the flip side to that is that so many people have fatigue with the word ‘green’ or ‘eco’ now.

Thinking thoughtfully about design and the world around us is not a ‘trend’ and shouldn’t be viewed as a trend- its simply a way of looking at the world. We want to keep people perpetually interested in these ideas. We know that preaching and going on and on about problems in a verbose and self-righteous manner isn’t particularly appealing and isn’t going to help us expand into mainstream culture or further our quest for world domination, so we strive to keep our editorial voice uplifting, visually inspiring and focused on the positive. However, we also want to make sure we examine issues thoughtfully, provocatively and don’t simply fall into the lazy category of design porn – so its an interesting push and pull and an exciting challenge for us all the time to keep the romance alive.

Where do you find inspiration outside your industry?

Everywhere! I generally try to be pretty interdisciplinary with my approach to Inhabitat, but even beyond that I try to go out and engage with people and the world as often as I can. I find inspiration in movies, music, art, children’s books and toys, the built environment, gatherings with other people.

What emerging trend, idea, or technology are you excited to see develop in realm of sustainable design/thought?

I think the rise of ‘collaborative consumption’ – or digitally networked sharing a la Zipcar, Netflix, Bixi bike sharing – is hugely important because it marks a real shift in how our society views ownership and consumption. Wasteful overconsumption is perhaps the ultimate cause of the environmental mess we are currently in and there really needs to be a profound shift in how consumers in the developed world think about buying and owning products to really turn the tide of environmental devastation. I think that shift is happening now as more and more people get turned on to the idea of social sharing.

This is going to create a big change in the world of design as well, because I think many designers are going to need to shift their skill sets away from designing objects towards designing experiences and user interfaces.

Thanks, Jill!

Jill will be speaking at PSFK CONFERENCE NY 2011. Come listen to like minds as they share their ideas to make things better on stage and off.

Find out more about the full lineup of speakers at the PSFK CONFERENCE NY 2011 here.

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