It's relative but on the whole, no.
Sustainability has long become a term naturally associated with ecological and environmental with it's definitions referring to maintenance and uphold. My definition of sustainability is utilizing resources found within our natural world that they follow a closed-loop format; that everything has a place and a purpose in the natural circuit even when it has perished. There is no 'end', no ultimate 'grave' and the nature cycle is instinctively sustainable. Yet, many look at sustainability from a different standpoint and associate sustainability with longevity.
Longevity, as the name suggest, signifies long life. Subsequently, the term 'sustainability from longevity' dumbs down to uphold through time. If we create a product that is sustainable through longevity have we succeeded in making something truly time-less? Or must we face the very real possibility that nothing is timeless?
Time has become increasingly more influential to me and how I think. As designers we plan timescales with products whether it be growth and decline, introductory upgrades and when our product will have 'served it's time'. I believe we are an evolutionary species, that has developed over time and changed over time. How can we expect to make something timeless if we are constantly changing with the times? Changes within our society has transformed from centuries to decades. We see the 17th Century as a time period the same way we see the 1970's. We group ourselves together based on our personal time whether you be an 'eighties child' or say 'you know you're a nineties kid when..' or read headlines like 'if only millennials were allowed to vote, Trump wouldn't be president'. If we are evolving faster than ever, that decades become the new centuries, how on earth can we expect design to timeless? Time is relative and so is design. Companies that were stars in our 'time' can become irrelevant because they refused to 'get with the times'. I firmly believe that we, are now more than ever, a fast-paced, throw-away society and instead of forcing everything to still be relevant, [like recycled products], we embrace our attitudes and design FOR them so that we do leave a negative impact because of our misjudgment.
However, I do believe, as individuals, we can own emotionally timeless products. These are the products that only need to be relevant to one or even a small number of individuals, such as a family. My engagement ring is timeless to me because I have such a strong emotional attachment to that product that symbolizes a very personal, relationship between myself and my partner than others will not replicate. Heirlooms are past through families to symbolize that longevity of names and bloodlines. Historic artifacts are protected and concealed behind glass cabinets as a relic to their time period. Without the emotion, these products would not be timeless, and in the hands of people who do not know of their origin, they are worthless.
Sustainability through longevity can also take on other definitions and examples such as 'hand-me-downs' and products with a 20 year lifespan when they normally have 10. This is not sustainability. It's extending relevance but not extending time. Therefore, true 'timeless' sustainability must work like nature and have an end that creates a new beginning: the circle of life of products. Nature and time are a pair that work continuously together and obscuring their relationship does not change their path. So in some ways there is sustainability in longevity, but the longevity lies within the philosophy and not the product.
looking for me?