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

Materials & processes

Going upstream – WAY upstream

By David Laituri on August 22, 2008

As many of you already know, developing a truly sustainable product in any category, one that is implemented without shortcuts along the way, delivered profitably, on schedule and within cost is like threading a needle in the dark – underwater.

Having spent half of my design career in consultancies and the other in corporate environments, it's been my experience that designers and design teams tend to find themselves in the 'middle' of the product development activity. This is particularly true for consulting designers, whose clients usually handle the balance of the product delivery activities. Designers have critical relationships with just about every other discipline; the middle just makes sense.

TGIC: A good idea turns toxic

By Chris Frank on August 15, 2008

How many times have you done something ‘green’ and found out that your good intentions had unintended consequences? I recently fell victim to a potentially dangerous misconception.

As part of my objective to eliminate the use of solvent based paints at Sun Microsystems, I began to move toward very low-VOC (volatile organic compound) water-based paints and powder coatings. Powder coatings seemed to be one of the most green options. Powder coatings are inert, can be applied efficiently, the waste material is easy to recover and is not considered a VOC. I have been to many powder lines and have seen applicators spraying powder while wearing no dust masks or other safety gear. Then I heard about TGIC (triglycidyl isocyanurate).

Part 1: The genesis of Sustainable Minds - The conception of 'learning surrogate LCA'

By Inês Sousa on August 1, 2008

From 1998-2002, I was at the MIT CADlab working on my Ph.D., focusing on how life cycle assessment (LCA) can be wisely used in design for the environment. Early design stages are critical in shaping the environmental performance of a product over its life cycle, yet they create particular challenges for environmental assessment. I focused my research on this question: “How can product design teams quickly evaluate and trade off competing product concepts using the scarce information available at early conceptual stages?“

My exploration of this topic was informed by a core practical requirement: environmental evaluation techniques must be operable within the constraints of real-world product development and provide credible, timely information that is sufficient for decision-making.

Part 2: The genesis of Sustainable Minds - Things happen in threes

By Terry Swack on August 1, 2008

Inês explains her thesis work to Terry during their first meeting

Part 1: The genesis of Sustainable Minds – The conception of ‘learning surrogate LCA’ | Ines Sousa

Early in 2007, I started a company called Clean Culture,  a customer experience research and strategy consultancy focused on cleantech and sustainable business trends and their impact on culture, the economy and the planet.

In March of that year, as Ines states in her blog, my great friend Lauralee introduced us. You know the expression ‘things happen in threes’?  This is a classic example. In the months prior to our meeting, two things had happened that, for me, proved to be seminal:

A bold new standard in eco-design for electronic products

By Richard Kubin on August 1, 2008

One of the general criticisms about standards is that they are almost always out  of date - those leading technical innovation are usually guessing where things are going and hoping they make the right bet. 

Given the increasing awareness and focus on sustainability and on minimizing the overall environmental impact of products across their entire life cycle, is there a useful role for standards?

The folks involved with the creation of the International Electrotechnical Commission's draft standard for Environmentally Conscious Design (ECD) for
Electrical and Electronic Products and Systems (IEC 62430) would answer, "absolutely!"

The new standard, which was released in draft form for final review March 21st (the review period ends September 5th) was initiated by the delegation from Japan, but developed with the participation of technical experts from 26 additional  countries.

In a nutshell, the standard promotes "life cycle thinking" (LCT), which is defined as the "consideration of all relevant environmental aspects during the entire life cycle of products and systems." The key elements of LCT are: