Can psychedelics offer support in designing more sustainable futures?

Alexandra Plesner
3 min readMar 30, 2024


In an age defined by mounting environmental crises and a growing demand for sustainable innovations, psychedelics are surfacing, not solely because of their therapeutic promise, but also for their ability to evoke profound shifts in consciousness.

Against the backdrop of escalating sustainability dialogues, a compelling query emerges: Can psychedelics play a role in shaping more eco-friendly futures? We are interested in thinking of potential synergies that could guide us towards a more balanced coexistence with our planet.

Humphrey Osmond coined the term “psychedelic” from the Greek words ψυχή (pronounced psychḗ), meaning soul or mind, and δηλείν (pronounced dēleín), meaning to manifest. How might these mind-manifesting traits guide us toward designing healthier futures?

As designers, we believe deeply that design transcends mere aesthetics. Even when aesthetics are a priority, extensive research and profound thought underpin every project.

Design thinking is a dynamic, iterative process that empowers teams to empathize with users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and innovate solutions for prototyping and testing. At its core, design thinking prioritizes human-centred approaches, urging organizations to centre their efforts on the people they serve, resulting in brands, products, services, and processes.

When finding solutions for a business challenges, the initial query therefor would be: What human need does this address? Yet, amidst our human-centric focus, how about also asking: What is nature’s need behind our creations?

Created by Alexandra Plesner with Midjourney

“After an enforced hiatus of nearly 60 years, I believe that humanity is on the brink of (re)opening this research and practice as a “fourth path for psychedelics” to amp up our nerdiest states for creative breakthroughs in science, technology, design, leadership, and other fields.” Bruce Damer wrote in a recent article for Lucid News.

Psychedelics could prove to be our most overlooked catalysts for paradigm-shifting breakthroughs.

Drawing from historical precedents and burgeoning contemporary research, we contend that pairing mindfulness practices with psychedelic exploration has the potential to ignite transformative insights among a new wave of “solutionists.” These insights could be translated into tangible products and services that bridge humanity and our planet toward a thriving future.

The next frontier of psychedelics indeed could help to tackle some of our planet’s most urgent challenges.

Creativity is undeniably one of humanity’s most cherished attributes, fundamental to our scientific pursuits. Here’s our initial hypothesis: Can psychedelics enhance our ability to design a brighter future by fostering a deeper connection with ourselves, others, and the world? Once a designer embraces this perspective, it’s hard to overlook the importance of sustainability in every aspect of design. Design isn’t just about aesthetics or creative experimentation — it shapes the very fabric of our existence and influences how our creations impact the planet.

“I like doing it in the Grand Canyon or in the woods… It does remind you of your space in the universe — your place in the universe — and reframe things for you. I think you can have some very profound experiences.” — Susan Sarandon, actress

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