Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Designers

What is Sustainable Interaction Design? Part Three: Renewal and Reuse

By Guest contributors on June 1, 2009

This is the third of three blog posts by our managing editor Jeff Binder exploring the concept of sustainable interaction design as put forth by Eli Blevis of the School of Informatics at Indiana University, in a paper entitled Sustainable Interaction Design: Invention & Disposal, Renewal & Reuse.* In the first he reviewed the basis of sustainable interactive design and the second examined the principle of linking invention and disposal.

According to Eli Blevis, that’s the second principle of interaction design -- promoting renewal and reuse. Blevis gives us an example in a familiar product:

The DaS Symposium: Collaboration as the Face of Sustainability

By Ken Hall on May 22, 2009

When I converse with colleagues passionate about sustainable design, I frequently hear frustration concerning the lack of tools that might help us better understand the impacts of our design decisions. This frustration is amplified by urgency – a sense that we are running out of time and could have used these tools yesterday!

Yet software vendors tell us that only 1% of their customers demand software for the purpose of sustainable design, making it difficult to prioritize the development of sustainable performance software. That’s a true sustainability paradox; we need users demanding this software providing feedback on how to improve it, but it’s slow out of the gate reaching a critical mass of users until Sustainable Performance Software congeals in our industry.

The DaS (Design and Sustainability) Symposium, an exploratory group representing a broad cross-section of the design industries – including architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and manufacturing – was founded to address this paradox and other questions of design and sustainability.

SM’s inaugural workshop: “Mastering Environmental Impact Assessment in the Design Process”

By Terry Swack on May 18, 2009

On April 29th, we hosted our first workshop to great acclaim. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had more than 200 people participating in our alpha and beta product development. Workshop participants included designers and engineers representing a number of these organizations.

How Sustainable Thinking Can Change Design

By Terry Swack on May 9, 2009

This article and podcast interview with Sustainable Minds co-founder Terry Swack was conducted by Jonathan Bardelline and published April 16, 2009.

Greener design methods hold a world of possibilities for businesses, from saving a bit of money on materials to developing completely new products, packaging and distribution methods. They also have the potential to change how designers learn, how they think about projects and, on a larger scale, alter designers' careers.

Terry Swack, co-founder and CEO of SustainableMinds.com, spoke with GreenBiz Radio about how sustainable design can help companies through the economic downturn and into the future, and where design changes need to be made to have the biggest impact.

Swack will be speaking at GreenBiz.com's Greener by Design conference May 19-20 in San Francisco.

The world’s first chocolate-powered, vegetarian race car: the F3

By Guest contributors on May 4, 2009

This post was submitted by guest contributor Matthew Heatherington, a PR executive with Life Agency.

The steering wheel is made from carrots, the engine is powered by waste chocolate and vegetable oil, potatoes were used to help produce the bodywork… and it goes 125 mph round corners!

Following the recent turmoil in Formula 1 arising from the high costs of running competitive motor racing teams, and doubts in sponsors’ minds over the commercial value of their involvement, the viability of motor racing is being critically questioned.

With this in mind, the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (WIMRC), part of the University of Warwick, is seeking to prove to the motor industry that it is possible to build a competitive racing car using environmentally sustainable components.

The new WorldFirst racecar is a clever piece of lateral thinking. It is the first Formula 3 racing car designed and made from sustainable and renewable materials.

Recession or not, consumers still buying green

By Linda Chipperfield on April 20, 2009

Has the worst recession since World War II dampened consumer demand for green products? Not according to a study* commissioned by my organization, Green Seal, and our research partner, EnviroMedia Social Marketing, in January of this year.

We discovered that four of five consumers are still buying sustainable products despite the recession. That’s great news for manufacturers who have made the commitment to include sustainability in their cost-benefit analysis when planning new products. It’s proof that as a nation, our growing commitment to living more sustainably runs deeper than economic fears.

When an artist approaches sustainability, all the lights turn green.

By Sandy Skees on April 13, 2009

 It might be presumptuous for me to talk about great design when my area of expertise is public relations and branding. But I can assure you that launching any product into the marketplace successfully has two basic requirements – a deep understanding of the market and its customer needs, and a beautifully intuitive response to those needs. Right now, I am working with a new company that perfectly demonstrates the value of great design for a shifting market. It began with a little known fact about electricity usage: 22 percent of all electrical power generated in the world is used for lighting. A quarter of that power is used for exterior lighting, which costs $3.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone.

Earth Hour 2009: inspiring example, or pointless flop?

By Guest contributors on April 3, 2009

Submitted by Keith Lehman

On March 28, Earth Hour was celebrated by the turning off of lights in more than four thousand cities and hundreds of thousands of households around the world. It's a major symbolic event intended to focus attention on the need to change our energy production and consumption habits. I celebrate it every year, and I'm proud to do so.

But there are those who believe that it's a wasted effort, or worse. Joel Makower of GreenBiz.com, whom we know and respect, weighed in with the viewpoint that Earth Hour is a “media event in search of a meaning,” is pointless because it’s merely symbolic, and sends the wrong message: that energy conservation means sitting around in the dark. Read his commentary on Earth Hour here.

I disagree, and here's why:

Although Joel’s right that Earth Hour is mostly a symbolic, feel-good gesture designed to raise awareness, I don't think that’s necessarily a bad thing, and I don’t find his article useful. Quite simply, Joel is missing the point.

Do We Need All this Stuff? It’s Now Quality over Quantity

By Sandy Skees on March 27, 2009

As sustainable design takes hold, there is increased focus on life cycle issues and growing demand that design become a change agent for transforming cultural and business systems. Daniel Pink’s book, The Whole New Mind, does a brilliant job of explaining how design has become one of the six senses that will thrive in the new world.

But it seems to me, and recent research bears this out, that the first question a designer must ask is, do we need this?

I was chatting the other day with a technology analyst seeking to understand how sustainability will impact the Web 2.0 start-up mentality prevalent in Silicon Valley. I suggested that the first question to ask any entrepreneur or inventor should be, “Does this heal or hurt the world?” Because when you can marry a beautifully-designed, innovative device or service that ALSO adds to the quality of life, then the market will respond favorably. Rethinking our approach might mean not making that new thing you were thinking of making!

The proof that this trend is real comes from a disparate set of indicators:

Recession killing your high-end products? Try marketing your junk.

By Lorne Craig on March 20, 2009

I was wandering blissfully through my local supermarket when a magazine caught my eye. Junk Beautiful it proudly proclaimed. And with its clean, well-styled photography, and a decent design, this magazine/DVD bundle actually does fair justice to its title. What’s more, it has lessons for any company that is facing recession pressure.

Now, I am an admitted scrounger. I love perusing thrift stores, yard sales and Craigslist for pre-used treasures that can live again while saving some landfill and manufacturing resources. So this sort of thing is right up my dumpster-dotted alley. But consider the marketing power of this concept for a moment. Here is a company that’s not extracting, manufacturing or even selling a thing. They simply offer education, inspiration and motivation, while encouraging people to save money with style (at 13 bucks an issue).