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

Marketing

Taking the hit: not letting perfection get in the way of progress

By Travis Lee on January 11, 2009

Co-author, Scot Herbst

Recently, quite a few people have been asking me the same two questions: how do I feel about greenwashing and do I think we will see more or less greenwashing in the coming years? To which I usually respond that it depends on what they mean by greenwashing. Their definitions vary in the details, but they usually include two categories.

  1. The company that makes no sustainability efforts, but claims that they care about the environment more than we know.
  2. The company that releases a product and brags about the sustainability efforts involved in its creation, even when the product is not really sustainable.

The first category is obviously despicable, and companies that engage in that kind of blatant falsity are bound to soon be exposed for what they are by the increasingly educated and concerned consuming public.

In a world gone ‘green crazy’, how can you tell who’s telling the sustainable truth?

By Linda Chipperfield on December 12, 2008

Green Seal Laureate Program

More and more companies are recognizing the marketing benefits of ‘being green’ – or at least of claiming to be so. It will come as no surprise to those who read this site, but some of those claims are less than honest.

That’s why Green Seal is asking for input on a recognition program called “Green Seal Laureate” (working title). The program will provide a guide to continuous improvement and identify companies that are committed to sustained environmental leadership. It will provide a path to honesty and credibility when companies proclaim their commitment to sustainability.

The Laureate Program will focus on a company’s major environmental impacts and promote the environmental certification of products where recognized green standards exist. It will utilize life cycle analysis to evaluate impacts from products, including material sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, consumer use, and end-of-life.

In addition, the program will look beyond products alone, to the company's impacts related to corporate governance, operations and supply chain.

Transmaterialization

By Guest contributors on December 1, 2008

This post was submitted by guest contributor and author Nathan Shedroff. In his upcoming book, Design is the Problem, Nathan explores one of the most interesting sustainable design strategies available to product developers.

Transmaterialization is a strange word, but the process is a new phenomenon not easily recognized by most people. Sometimes called ’servicizing‘ or ’product service systems,’ defined simply, it’s the process of turning a product into a service. Because this is often abstract and foreign to many people, the best way to explain it is in an example:

Consider how people bought music in the past. First, there were records, followed by tapes of different types (reels, 8-tracks, cassettes, and so on), and finally, starting in the 80s, compact discs (CDs). All of these are physical products, even though the music itself wasn’t necessarily physical. (It could already be transmitted across radio waves, for example.) Most people associated music with a physical object. Now, however, music is completely digital and even more virtual. The rise in music downloads (both legal and illegal) is displacing the sale of the physical CDs (though some, like records, will probably always be traded by collectors). In this way, the physical product has been displaced by a nonphysical service.

The death of global warming: Sustainability 2.0 and design’s dirty little secret

By Scot Herbst on November 3, 2008

Escape with me for a few moments here – let’s play a visualization game. Close your eyes. You’ve inherited the role of Climate-Change Agent Alpha. You’re a relatively affluent consuming American, capable of meeting the fight against carbon emissions head-on. Your typical day looks something like this:

Wake up in the morning; refer to a series of wall-mounted monitors in your home that give you an endless relay of appliance energy consumption. You escape to work in a hybrid vehicle equipped with an unavoidable heads-up display offering a relentless series of digital algorithms to immediately inform your driving power usage. You’re greeted at work by an active-energy savings billboard espousing the minute-by-minute virtues of the power friendly LEED certified building. Throughout your day you refer to a special app on your cell phone that intermittently monitors your homes regenerative solar capacity. And finally, at day’s end, you retire confidently, having seen your ‘smart-home’ monitor flash a graphic depicting your ‘carbon neutrality’ for the day! An endless blitz of data and graphic information injected into your cognition, affording you the tools to continue consuming, eating and breathing in a responsible manner. The assumption could be that given an ambiguous concept like the ‘carbon footprint,’ we need constant reminders of our mission’s grand purpose. Mission accomplished Climate-Change Agent Alpha. You’ve made the world one day better by staving off your footprint… right?

Insights from the Green Event

By Grant Kristofek on October 24, 2008

The ‘Green Stamps‘ panel helps attendees learn about what is available in the market to support their green claims.

I was recently on Broadway — not in the latest production of West Side Story — but at the Hudson Theatre for The Green Event. The two-day conference brought together textile industry stakeholders — suppliers, buyers, designers, and regulators — to share ideas for developing eco-conscious practices across the board.

I had an opportunity to participate on the ’Creating Green‘ retail panel alongside Marks & Spencer’s veteran cotton expert, Graham Burden. I shared Continuum’s insights about the consumer perspective on sustainability, sparking a conversation about the need to consider the demand-side of the sustainability equation. My talk followed an excellent keynote by Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold and founder of Winston Eco-Strategies. Mr. Winston spoke passionately about the business case for sustainability, citing numerous examples of companies that had achieved true competitive advantage by identifying upside opportunities or eliminating downside risks in this space.

TRIP REPORT: Sustainable Minds @ the IDSA 2008 National Conference, with Autodesk

By Terry Swack on September 26, 2008

Left: GREG CANAVERA, SM’s Director of Software Design manning the demo station. Right: DANE WESENBERG, our ASU intern, spreading the word about SM.

Our first trade show!
This was a very special event for us in many ways. We announced the big news about our strategic relationship with Autodesk, who made it possible for us to be at the show by providing a demo station in their booth. We are truly honored to have this special relationship with Autodesk, the only design and engineering software company out there actively building tools that enable their customers to design greener buildings and products.

I wrote in my first post, Part 2: The genesis of Sustainable Minds ― Things happen in threes, about the events that inspired me to start this company. This was one:

“In November, 2006, while attending the U.S. Green Building Council’s national GreenBuild conference, Autodesk announced its partnership with the USGBC to integrate LEED into their product, Revit® Architecture. I thought it was brilliant to integrate new knowledge with the software tools professionals are already using.”

That said, it was a profound experience for me to be at the IDSA national conference just shy of two years later, effectively working to accomplish a similar result for people who design and make products.

How product design can promote sustainable consumption

By Inês Sousa on September 5, 2008

In my previous post I told you about my work on a new approach based on learning algorithms to performing approximate life cycle assessment during the early stages of product development cycles. Now let’s go beyond ecodesign focusing on technical and engineering variables (e.g. use of life cycle assessment, materials optimization, design for disassembly and recycling) and look into different product design strategies addressing the other side of the equation – sustainable consumption.

Today’s patterns of consumption are increasingly offsetting the eco-efficiency created by clean production and ecodesign. Given a growing population with increased quality-of-life expectations, achieving sustainable development will require addressing and changing both production and consumption patterns. Indeed, sustainable consumption has been addressed by a number of United Nations and international agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations. The goals have been to improve understanding of global consumption patterns and their environmental and social impacts, develop policies and programs to change unsustainable consumption patterns, and promote sustainable and equitable consumption for human development.

Patagonia Footprint Chronicles – step in the right direction or sneaky sleight-of-foot?

By Lorne Craig on September 5, 2008

What happens when a giant of the corporate eco-movement opens some of its processes to full public scrutiny, with a tone that verges on self-flagellation? Depending on your love for the corporation in question, it’s either another reason to love them or a shameless marketing bauble designed to keep your eye off more pressing issues.

The green giant is Patagonia, and The Footprint Chronicles is their latest underbelly exposé.

Should some products just not even bother trying to go green?

By Lorne Craig on August 15, 2008

Call me a hypocrite, but I’m a green guy who owns a chainsaw. Not an electric hedge-hacker. A big, gas-powered two-stroke Stihl – the Mercedes-Benz of chainsaws, if you will. I use a handsaw for some of the cutting around our cabin, but for bucking up a few cords of firewood, there really is no replacement. It is big, noisy, scary to use and effective as hell.

The other day I received Stihl’s new customer newsletter, the Outdoor Buzz. To my surprise, jammed in between the ‘Spring Savings’ box and the ‘Ignite Your Soul’ Harley Davidson contest, was a feature called Discover the Greener Side of Stihl. Was there hope for my guilt-ridden tree-massacring darker side? Clicking the link leads to an unnecessarily complicated bit of flash brochureware that opens to a picture of the BR500 Backpack Leaf Blower. Hmmm.

What would you be willing to change to reduce your energy consumption by 98%?

By Richard Kubin on August 8, 2008

A new personal computer company called CherryPal is betting that many PC users will be willing to change their concept of what a home or institutional PC should provide, how it works and what it looks like. The company is set to launch their initial PC desktop product, the CherryPal C100, with shipments expected to start at the end of July.

This remarkably compact PC is the size of a paperback book and, according to the company’s Web site, contains 80% fewer components than a typical desktop while consuming less than 2 watts of power, which the company claims is 98% less than a comparable desktop.