The psychology of wastefulness

Dan Phillips addresses wastefulness — and some of the psychology behind it — via the building industry in this TED talk.

Watch the video embedded below if you have time. If not, here are a few excerpts.

What causes waste in the building industry? Our housing has become a commodity.

Human beings have a need for maintaining consistency of the apperceptive mass. What does that mean? It means for every perception we have it has to tally with the one we had before or we don’t have continuity and we become a little bit disoriented.

It does no good to be responsible at the point of harvest in the forest if the consumers are wasting the harvest at the point of consumption, and that’s what’s happening. So if something isn’t standard it goes to the dumpster . . . I feature all those warped things.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

2 Responses to The psychology of wastefulness

  1. Julie says:

    Thanks for posting this, Paul! One great point is that patterns can be made from things that are imperfect and irregular. I think of Gaudi. A couple of contributing factors, also…
    1) craftspeople increasingly separated from the design process.
    2) technology has allowed the made world to become increasingly precise and specific.

    • pcNielsen says:

      On your first point, this is why I’ve become interested in the Design-Build movement. It makes perfect sense to me, what I know of it.

      Have you read A Pattern Language? A friend of mine recommended it to me years ago and it’s been on the Amazon Wish List since, but I haven’t gotten it yet.

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