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

Packaging

Green Seal standards keep up with product evolution

By Linda Chipperfield on September 19, 2008

As an independent non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding the environment, Green Seal’s science-based certification standards help to promote the manufacture, purchase, and use of environmentally responsible products and services.

But products change, taking advantage of market trends, new technology, and consumer demand. An important part of Green Seal’s work is to constantly update and add new ‘GS’ standards to stay current with a constantly changing world. Please visit Green Seal to view all our current environmental standards.

You might also be interested in some of the standards in development we have recently revised or are working on revising. Consider this a snapshot in time of where sustainability standards were in the latter half of 2008.

GS-5: Compact Fluorescent Lighting

Major technological advancements have taken place since our first CFL standard was published in1997. Reduced mercury content, increased performance and recyclability improvements have made CFLs an even better choice for protecting the environment. In order to acknowledge this new technology and include life cycle issues other standards don’t, we are in the process of updating the standard. Although other energy efficient lamp options, such as LED, have also advanced, the standard will focus on criteria only for fluorescent lamps. We anticipate publishing this standard later this fall.

“Conservation is not done with the pen…it’s done with an axe.”

By Scot Herbst on September 15, 2008

Think about that for a second. It was written in 1949 by the seminal figure in ecological conservation, Aldo Leopold. It’s quite a powerful phrase, the simple articulation that man must consume and build. There is no greater asset than our ability to create. It comes at a great cost, but without question, we’re all beginning to better define the ‘right’ manner for this process of creation.

At the heart of the issue lies one fundamental truth: less is more. Less material. Less packaging. Less harmful content. Less shipping footprint. Less impact. Less, less, less… How paradoxical is it, then, that the U.S. Census officially predicts nine billion people will inhabit the planet by 2050 – one third more than currently exist. By definition, that’s a lot more stuff. More products. More packaging. More shipping. More consumption, on the grandest of scales.

At every point, the symbiotic act of creating all of this content will require the skilled designer and engineer: those members of the creation chain endowed with the knowledge and privilege to conceive of, form and specify the manner in which all of this stuff is brought to life. The great ‘axe holders’ of the future.

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.

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.

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.

Starbury Shoes: Slam Dunk or Foul Play?

By Zac West on August 8, 2008

T.J. Gray, left, and Ashley Brown, principals of Rocket Fish, an industrial design company in Portsmouth, designed the Starbury sneakers, which retail for $14.98. The affordable basketball shoe is endorsed by New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury.

If you shoot hoops you're probably aware of the Starbury line of shoes, endorsed by basketball star Stephon Marbury. The owners, Steve & Barry’s LLC, market the line as inexpensive, high-performance basketball shoes.

You may have also read about the controversy surrounding exactly how “sustainable” these shoes are.

Starbury shoes target an underserved market segment: inner-city kids.  Their product addresses the social injustice of young underprivileged street players not being able to afford top-performing athletic shoes.

Sustainability through design and engineering

By Travis Lee on August 8, 2008

Co-Author: Scot Herbst — Gone are the days when people of different disciplines worked successfully in their independent silos within organizations. Collaboration and integration are the hallmarks of today’s successful businesses. At LUNAR, we’ve organized our practice to build this kind of powerful collaboration among creative disciplines, like industrial design, interaction design, engineering, graphic design, and manufacturing. Collaboration between designers and engineers at LUNAR is especially important in product development projects. Engineering liaisons attached to design initiatives and vice-versa help ensure that aesthetic expressions and functional solutions are never mutually exclusive. And while we recognize the benefits of this interdisciplinary collaboration in all areas of product development, it’s especially vital for pioneering successful sustainable design.

Sometimes, getting greener means being less brown

By David Laituri on August 1, 2008

I was sitting in a humid conference room at our assembler’s factory in Dong Guan, China wrapping up one of the hundreds of loose ends that seem to puddle at the final pre-production stages of a product, when it hit me – this is my product, my company, I get to decide…

Can the G-string save us from our lust for power?

By Lorne Craig on August 1, 2008

Consulting for a retail chain, I recently had the opportunity to tour the store looking for products with ‘green’ attributes. Entering the appliance section, I was faced with a serious contradiction. Here, the message seemed clear that the MORE power the appliance uses, the better. “500 watts!” boasted one blender box. “600 watts!!” screamed another. Topping the list was the Krups Motor Technik with A THOUSAND WATTS of ice-pulverizing power!!! (Don’t bother with cubes, Honey, we can buy our ice in blocks now.) This theme continued with microwave ovens, fabric steamers, hair dryers, coffee grinders, and of course – power tools.

So how hard-wired is our need for “More Power, Scotty?” And what can replace that compulsion in an energy-hungry future?

In one article, from a 1972 issue of Time Magazine, Social Science Professor David Klein postulated that it goes way back. “The derring-do that had survival value in frontier days is still extolled in the U.S.; yet it is obsolete. In an industrialized nation where most jobs are routine, a man cannot win status through on-the-job valor. To compensate, he surrounds himself with power tools, outboard motors, high-performance cars. These give him, at play, the feelings of control, power, masculinity and risk no longer available at work.”