Conventions bind us in two ways:

  • from seeing related problems to be solved
  • from seeing new solutions to existing problems

One example I’ve been thinking about recently because of the drought is how wastewater is handled.

Sinks drain to the sewer. 99% of existing houses hook up to the sewage system, so it seems reasonable that 99% of new houses will also hook up to the sewage system (or a septic system).

There’s a convention that sinkwater is wastewater and goes through some sewage or septic system. Plumbers and contractors know how to build these systems, there’s an established building code that enforces standards around how such a system should be built.

But we need to water plants–for food, for gardens, for lawns–and there’s no reason sinkwater can’t be used for that purpose. To try and move away from the convention would take significantly more effort than following it. But it’s a better future in pretty much every way. How do we get from here to there? Break conventions.