Student Spotlight: Blogging for Sustainability



During my spring 2012 semester in the Master of Arts in Sustainable Design program at MCAD, I had the opportunity to deepen my engagement in social media through a practicum with Joshua Foss from Metro Hippie. Josh is an adjunct faculty member of MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design and teaches the Introduction to Sustainable Design course, a foundational course offered in the first semester of the MA program. His online magazine shows how low-impact living doesn’t have to come at the expense of high style.

The objective of my practicum was to build on my existing blog, eco-chic design, that I had founded in 2008. Originally I was interested in blogging to promote a sustainable lifestyle through the lens of modern design. My biggest “aha” moment during my classes at MCAD was that sustainable design not only considers the environment but human health and social justice as well. That’s when it clicked for me why I was blogging and how I could make a difference.

As a first step we took a fresh look at the mission statement and positioning of eco-chic design in addition to my bi-weekly posts. Two other classes that I had taken as part of MCAD’s fully online Sustainable Design Program were very helpful: Ethics-Based Marketing taught by Wendy Jedlička and Citizen Design taught by Dion Zuess (an expanded version, Design for Global Change, will be offered in summer 2013). In both classes we had drafted mission and value statements for sustainable businesses.

Joshua encouraged me to become more of a regional resource by creating NYC-centric posts under the tab “eco-chic NYC” because locality is a big part of sustainable design. It supports nearby communities through job creation and reduces the carbon footprint of a product while using fewer natural resources. As an eco-design blogger I’ve covered many eco-friendly products at tradeshows and green events within New York City. Now I also added Flickr slide shows to showcase my finds from the NYC Green Festival or the National Stationary Show to make the postings more engaging. Next I created several boards on Pinterest in conjunction with my blog like “design with a cause”, “green craft ideas”, “sustainable fashion”, or “fair trade design”. The pinboard-style image sharing site is a great way to categorize future blog posts and engage with readers or followers in a more visual way.

Since summer 2012 I’ve also been blogging as a weekly contributor for the Style & Design section of Organic Spa Living – the blog from Organic Spa Magazine. Whenever possible I look at the products I feature through the lens of systems thinking as taught by MCAD.
Social media is very time-consuming but also tremendously rewarding. I’ve gained many insights into sustainable business models through talking to people in the industry and asking questions.

Images courtesy of ElkeErschfeld of eco-chic design.

Elke Erschfeld

Elke Erschfeld, originally from Germany, is a New York City based ad agency creative director with experience in integrated advertising campaigns ranging from consumer electronics to sparkling wine. Founder of the Eco-Chic Design blog, she also contributes to the style & design section of Organic Spa Living. In 2010, Elke was interviewed on as an eco-design blogger as part of a series about the future of design. Elke is a former Fulbright Scholar and holds a BFA from Pratt Institute. She graduated from MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design program in 2013.