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

Strategies

So where is the Green Mafia?

By Lorne Craig on November 15, 2008

Picture Big Oil, and what comes to mind? Lush, leather and dark-wood upholstered boardrooms, thick polished tables surrounded by equally thick, polished grey-haired old men, lit from spotlights above, their cold, steely eyes in perpetual shadow. These are the power brokers who, with a single conference call, can arrange corporate tax breaks, kill environmental legislation, and install dictators in questionable democracies like Canada.

So who does the Green Business Movement have? Ralph Nader on a megaphone? Leonardo DiCaprio firing killer looks from his Prius? Al Gore and his laser-powered Powerpoint pointer?

Face it, to make any serious difference, we need a secret society. A group of influential people who have the ear of every politician in power, who can make things very uncomfortable for businesses who don’t play by Mother Nature’s rules, not to mention greasing the wheels for entrepreneurs who need a little government help to get things going.

Can China renew an ancient idea of sustainability?

By Ken Hall on November 7, 2008

China has fascinated me since my youth, and yet when the invitation came to give a speech in Beijing on Sustainability, I felt some trepidation. As the fossil-fueled economic might of China grows and its population achieves increasing affluence, our fear in the West increases – we worry about contaminated products and worker safety, a new coal plant a week and pollution drifting across the Pacific to the West Coast. We worry about escalating costs due to increasing competition for fossil fuels and industrial materials such as cement and steel. Having just returned from Beijing, I am greatly encouraged – and although we still have much to fear, that fear should be equally placed (and perhaps more so) with ourselves.

What is Sustainable Interaction Design? Part One

By Guest contributors on November 7, 2008

This is the first of three blog posts by our managing editor Jeff Binder exploring the concept of sustainable interaction design as put forth by SM blog contributor Eli Blevis of the School of Informatics at Indiana University, in a paper entitled Sustainable Interaction Design: Invention & Disposal, Renewal & Reuse.*

We humans have a love affair with interactive technology, and why shouldn’t we? Inventions like the telephone, the Internet and the camera have made it easier it to communicate concepts of both immediate practical value and broader cultural worth.

Whether it’s to get driving directions or view a photo exhibit, technology has made our lives easier and has enriched our understanding of the world. But that comes with a price.

Because we love technology, we admire early adopters, awarding them status merely for owning the latest laptop first. We overlook the fact that early adopters are also by definition early rejecters; like bored children they toss out gadgets without considering where they might end up.

It’s up to product designers to retool the process, says Eli Blevis, a faculty member of the School of Informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington.

How to get better product use data? Track it in environmental monitoring social networks.

By Inês Sousa on November 3, 2008

My last post asked a few questions about how new product design approaches could promote sustainable consumption. Along the same lines, let’s explore how product designers might collect better and more data on product use to inform the ecodesign process. Potential solutions present some quite promising ideas for product designers. Think of it as a wildlife-tagging program for products monitored in social networks.

Green Seal’s revised paint standard works to get out the VOC

By Linda Chipperfield on October 24, 2008

Because paint is one of the biggest contributors to indoor air pollution, Green Seal has recently updated its environmental standards in a new Green Seal Standard – GS-11.

The revised standard works harder to protect indoor air quality by increasing the number of prohibited chemicals, reducing allowable VOC (volatile organic compounds, which have both short and long term health effects) levels, requiring more accurate VOC testing, and giving shoppers more information on how to reduce their impact through paint use, storage and recycling.

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.

In the age of financial meltdown, does sustainability matter?

By Scott Boutwell on October 17, 2008

I was in the UK at a CIO workshop last week and missed a lot of the ongoing maneuvering on the part of both political parties here in the US. It made me think about sustainability market drivers (again; yes, I need a life...), and whether we have turned the corner from sustainability as a 'vitamin' (nice to have), or an 'aspirin' (critical need).

Right now, I would guess that most people (consumers) and many corporations are focusing on very tactical and survival-based activities, such as cost control and risk/exposure management. Where sustainability programs are already established, there is probably little impact from the financial crisis, in terms of potential termination, cancellation, etc.

Sticks, stones and words will break our bones…

By Ken Hall on October 11, 2008

Make no mistake – we are at war! Not the so-called ’war on terror,’ but rather active psychological warfare about the very contents of our minds! We see this warfare in words like ’free market,’ and ’tax relief.’

Why does this matter to sustainable minds? Because we will never achieve sustainability without the political will to do so. And yet it is increasingly difficult to have a conversation with family members or neighbors about contested ideas in our society – much less a meaningful conversation at a national level. The current political debate can barely consider clean energy in the context of national security, much less global climate change or sustainability.

Enter George Lakoff and his most recent book, “The Political Mind.” Lakoff is a professional linguist who studies how we think and explains “Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century Politics with an 18th Century Brain.” In “The Political Mind” Lakoff integrates recent findings from cognitive and neural sciences with linguistics, and reveals what progressive (sustainable) minds must do if we are to take back the battleground of ideas about whom we are and where we should be going.

If I was King I’d make the world out of Lego®.

By Lorne Craig on October 4, 2008

OK, this is going to rile a lot of young, over-imaginative product designers out there, but when elected Supreme Monarch of the World, (or when my Loyal Armies seize power in a dramatic yet bloodless coup) I’m putting the entire LEGO® staff in charge of the newly created Ministry of World Product Redesign.

No other product is as modular, flexible or backward-compatible as LEGO®. My kid can take the newest, flashiest, most market-hyped construction set and mash it up with bricks that have been stepped on in our family since 1973.

The Designer’s Field Guide to Sustainability

By Travis Lee on October 4, 2008

A few years ago we here at LUNAR noticed something. Plenty of people were talking about sustainability, but very few were actually taking tangible steps toward sustainable design. So we started asking around. Apparently, there were thousands of designers and engineers who wanted to create more sustainable products, but didn’t know where to start. Life cycle analysis not only seemed a daunting (and expensive) task, it required a tangible design before it could be used. Designers found themselves looking to engineers to choose materials that made their designs more eco-friendly and engineers looked to designers to conceptualize more inherently sustainable designs, but this chicken and egg game was leading nowhere. This stalemate gave us an idea: let’s give designers and engineers a sustainability guide for everyday use that not only gave them topics to discuss, but provided the beginnings of a roadmap to sustainable design. And thus was born The Designer’s Field Guide to Sustainability.