What is Systems Thinking?

Everything is Related

Systems Thinking is an approach to understanding anything and everything! The idea is that everything is related – everything is part of a system!

Empty Water Bottle no markings

A great example of applying a Systems Thinking approach is the plastic recyclable water bottle:  

It’s good to drink lots of water (sustains human health!)

It’s good to drink filtered water (it’s convenient to buy it in a plastic water bottle!)

When it’s empty you can recycle the water bottle (great! But maybe there’s a better solution)

What’s the problem with recyclable plastic water bottles?

Recyclable plastic water bottles are part of a complex system that uses a lot of resources beyond water!

The system includes:    

  1. drilling for oil to make the plastic (uses a lot of energy!)
  2. making bottles (uses a lot of energy!)
  3. filling bottles (uses a lot of energy!)
  4. transporting bottles (uses a lot of energy!)
  5. refrigerating bottles (uses a lot of energy!)
  6. recycling bottles (uses energy!)

And what is source of the energy?           

  • Coal? (large carbon emissions!)
  • Natural gas? (about half the carbon emissions…)
  • Wind? (zero carbon emissions!)
  • Solar? (zero carbon emissions!)

Poster For Water Bottle Refille Station, click for a pdf versionWhat if there was a better solution?

Buy a permanent water bottle

Refillable Javelina Habitat Water Bottle

and refill it yourself at a water bottle re-fill station!    

Campus Waterbottle Refill Stations

You can refill it at home and at three locations on campus:

  1. The Memorial Student Union Building
  2. The Steinke Physical Education Center
  3. The Student Recreation Center (coming soon)

To learn more:

Thinking in Systems: A Primer, Donella H. Meadows - Wikipedia link 

This page was last updated on: October 8, 2015