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

Green Economy

Sustainable Minds release 1.3 – Unit conversions

By Sustainable Minds on May 19, 2010

Release 1.3 of Sustainable Minds allows you to enter data in the units your BOM or project uses and includes a broad range of both metric and imperial units. For example, 0.25 kg of aluminum can now be entered as 0.25 kg, 250 g, or 0.00027558 short tons. Sustainable Minds then converts the measurements to a common unit to deliver the impact assessment results.

Unit conversion is available for the manufacturing, use, and transportation stages of the product’s lifecycle, for both manual part and sub-assembly entry and BOM import.

The power of a stamp

By David Laituri on May 4, 2010

I attended a sustainability conference recently in which the main speaker, a seasoned LCA engineer, gave an overview of the LCA process, using range of products as examples. During his overview, he pointed out the stark differences between the big-impact elements and the small ones and suggested, in so many words, that an impact really must be big enough to be worth any effort in an LCA-driven impact reduction exercise.

That’s where he lost me.

This emphasis on big impact elements may make sense on paper - but what happens when all of those small, ‘insignificant’ impact elements on a lifecycle BOM from literally millions of products gang up in one place at one time? A good example is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Another is from Lake Erie where I grew up, pictured in the photo above. CO2, lead, Mercury and DDT also come to mind – small and seemingly insignificant at their original point of use, nasty once they reconvene elsewhere. Over time, and displaced from their original LCA, insignificant elements can accumulate into a much larger problem.

Building A Sustainable Company — Part I

By Vijay Kanal on April 20, 2010

Clients who are new to building sustainability in their organizations often ask what their first steps should be. Recognizing that every company has a different set of business goals, hierarchy and culture, we recommend a valuable first step: start by measuring all things related to carbon emission, energy and resource consumption, and waste.

Even if it's not a precise measurement, a quantified approximation will establish a baseline against which all of your future efforts can be compared. Then, we recommend that you look across your industry and even beyond, to see what leading companies have achieved in lowering their environmental footprint. Based on this external benchmarking, you can begin to set goals and prioritize your own sustainability initiatives.

This prioritization must include input from, and assessment of the impact on different stakeholders, including customers, employees and investors. Draw up a Materiality Matrix that shows the relationship between impact on stakeholders and the impact on the company. This matrix can form the basis of setting the company’s strategy on sustainability.

The Car, 2.0

By Sandy Skees on April 5, 2010

Is the world ready for a new generation of cars, particularly the electric kind? There are at least 41 teams hard at work, and competing, on the assumption that the world is not just ready, but that it’s in desperate need for Car 2.0.

Energy and transportation analysts as well as green media sites like Earth2Tech have begun using the Car 2.0 moniker and predicting a sizable market opportunity. The new electric car infrastructure has implications beyond reducing the highly toxic impact that current fossil fuel transportation has on the environment. Electric cars will link to the smart grid, making them efficient and connected communicating transportation.

New in Sustainable Minds Release 1.2

By Sustainable Minds on March 19, 2010

This release makes it easier to purchase for use on a short-term project, purchase for your school, and distribute and include assessment results in all your presentations.

Printable and exportable assessment results
Now just click a button to print results views to a file (such as PDF), or saved as HTML files for inclusion in presentations, web sites, workshops or simply to print to share with the team. Additionally, results from each concept can be downloaded as a file. SBOM items are displayed by life cycle, and include the scores for all items, including impact category results. When you’re designing a greener product, Sustainable Minds LCA results in your presentation means you’ll have quantified information to support your design and manufacturing recommendations.

Sustainable Minds: Candidate for WEF Technology Pioneers 2011

By Sustainable Minds on March 9, 2010

2010 is turning out to be an incredible year for Sustainable Minds. We recently found out that Sustainable Minds has been nominated as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer Candidate for 2011.

The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world. It’s motto is 'entrepreneurship in the global public interest.’ The WEF engages world leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas and is well known by its annual meeting in Davos in January every year.

Patagonia – A Good Model for a Post Consumer Era Manufacturing Company

By Guest contributors on February 22, 2010

This post by guest contributor Gerard Furbershaw, designer, speaker, co-founder and COO of LUNAR, first appeared on LUNAR’s blog. He has served as President and Chairman of the Board of the Association of Professional Design Firms, Chairman of the San Francisco chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America, and is a Trustee of the Design Foundation.

Manufacturing companies interested in transitioning to sustainable business models would benefit from considering what Patagonia has done. Through a combination of their values, mission, life cycle assessments, and actions, they have become pioneers on the path towards sustainability.

Part III: What intrinsic qualities enable sustainable built environments?

By Ken Hall on February 15, 2010

This is the third of a three-part posting on the concept of intrinsic sustainability. In this post, Ken Hall describes the intrinsic qualities of sustainable built environments.
Read Part I: What intrinsic qualities enable sustainable societies?
Read Part II: What intrinsic qualities enable sustainable design teams?

In the last two blogs I discussed what it took to create sustainable societies and sustainable design teams. I’ll close this series on the idea of intrinsic sustainability by discussing the most obvious and ubiquitous public expression of a society and its culture: the built environment.

The history of architecture reveals indigenous design solutions that are intrinsically sustainable- they operated on solar income, the materials were local and non-toxic, and comfort was maintained with mass, ventilation, solar energy or seasonal migration.

Part II: What intrinsic qualities enable sustainable design teams?

By Ken Hall on February 8, 2010

This is the second of a three-part posting on the concept of intrinsic sustainability. In this post, Ken Hall describes the intrinsic qualities of sustainable design teams. Read Part I: What intrinsic qualities enable sustainable societies?

My last post ended with the thought that the degree to which a society is able to shift its worldviews to become intrinsically sustainable is the degree to which we can achieve sustainability. David Korten calls this The Great Turning.

As the website devoted to Korten’s ideas explains, “…we humans are a choice making species that at this defining moment faces both the opportunity and the imperative to choose our future as a conscious collective act. We can no longer deny the need nor delay our response.”

Sustainable Minds and MAGNET Partner to Advance Sustainability in Manufacturing

By Sustainable Minds on February 3, 2010

We are happy to announce a new partnership with MAGNET, The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network, a professional organization that is focused on helping manufacturing and technology-based companies in Ohio adopt innovative methods and technologies.

Manufacturers are struggling to learn how to adopt sustainable practices in their current processes, and this partnership will help advance the adoption of greener product design practices for manufacturers. This partnership will also serve to assist Magnet’s eco-SMART Manufacturing Program to deliver education to Ohio manufacturers about sustainable manufacturing and ecoInnovation strategies.