If the tools we design  - even the ones that are supposed to conserve resources - don't work, then the resources invested in them are wasted. Have you ever put a brick in a toilet tank to save water?  I picked up this conservation tip during a grade school program (many years ago), came home, and promptly asked my dad to add a brick to our tank.  He humored me for a day or two, then retrieved the brick.  At the time, I thought he was anti-conservation.  But he understood how the toilet worked.  He also paid the water bill and knew that if everyone in the family was flushing the toilet twice as many times as normal, he'd be paying a lot more money.  Maybe you had better luck with your toilet model, but ours simply wasn't designed to work effectively with any less water than it was using.

My car mechanic recently told me a similar story about car air conditioners.  During the 1970s gas crisis, people would disconnect their air conditioners for the cold winter months to improve mileage and save gas.  The problem was that there's a reason that AC compressors cycle on regularly, even during cold months: it keeps the compressors from seizing up.  Any monetary savings these people achieved in gas was quickly lost when their compressors broke down.  And any energy they saved was likely more than made up for in the manufacture, storage, and shipping of a new compressor.

That's why dMass isn't just about reducing mass.  It's about performance. 

We create and use tools for our benefit, to enhance our wealth.  If the tools don't work, if they don't perform a useful function, the resources invested in them are wasted.  dMass is about expanding wealth while reducing the resource mass required to produce it.  It requires thoughtful planning and design focused on benefits, function, and outcomes.

The prevailing perspective on something like the toilet has been to look at the existing product and ask how we can improve on it to conserve water.  The dMass perspective looks at the function the toilet provides and asks how we can accomplish the same or better with less resources, fewer by-products, and fewer long-term impacts.  Dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals are steps in this direction.  But what we're really talking about is a perspective that considers the design of a whole house or building and how waste is handled, where water for the waste system comes from (if it's needed), where the waste and wastewater goes, and all the resources and by-products associated with handling waste.  It's a perspective that recognizes that resources and pollution, or waste, are fundamentally the same.

To the extent we're able to see waste as lost resources, we'll be able to enhance our wealth.  It's the kind of thinking that might lead to an innovation that takes what we now think of as waste and transforms it into something we can use, like fuel.

Comment