Positive Impact Awards: Carl Zimring, Pratt Design Educators for Technology and Sustainability


This year, to celebrate the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator’s first year in operation, we want to acknowledge some of the individuals who have been alongside us, have inspired us and are part of the journey forward. With that, we are launching the first annual Pratt Institute/BF+DA Positive Impact Awards.

Professor Carl Zimring, Sustainability Minor program at Pratt Institute is being awarded the Pratt Design Educators for Technology and Sustainability award.

We asked Carl where he is seeing the intersection of technology and sustainability being explored most and what seems the most exciting to him.

“I look at technology and the environment from the prospect of history, and especially historian Melvin Kranzberg’s law that “technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” Applications of technology have had catastrophic consequences for the environment (for example, the use of fossil fuels to produce climate change), and also have greatly benefited human health and ecosystems (for example, the application of wastewater treatment to reduce pathogens in waterways).

In addition, technologies intended to aid the environment can have unintended consequences (the automobiles celebrated as manure-free “horseless carriages” a century ago have produced air pollution problems). I see my role at Pratt as working with the other disciplines to give students perspective on the complex relationships between technology and the environment in the hopes that such an education will allow them to develop better practices for employing technology in the future.

What is exciting to me is the hunger Pratt students have for using their skills to benefit the environment. In discussing design for disassembly, life-cycle assessment, and other sustainable design strategies (including the strategy to not make anything at all), I see the creative leaders of the future grappling with the serious problems we face and trying to apply their knowledge to address those problems. For an environmental historian concerned with the ways waste classification and production have hurt peoples, ecosystems, and other species over time, this is tremendously gratifying to see.”

RSVP for our awards ceremony here.