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

Strategies

Life cycle thinking in daily life

By Joep Meijer on July 20, 2009

Sustainable design is more than a philosophy for the work space. It should also become a philosophy for living, driving the decisions we make every minute of the day. For some people it is like dieting; sometimes you go overboard and sometimes you forget about it altogether.

I like to integrate more and more sustainable design philosophies in my personal life as well. I have the most fun uncovering what is behind the immediate impact of our choices; asking “what all happened before I made this decision, and what will have to happen because I made this decision?”

Let me talk through some of my thought processes, and how they apply across the life/work divide.

Let’s talk about food OK, so you are hungry and want to eat something. What do you do? Should you go for fresh, local, organic, all Whole Foods, or that delicious burger that is staring at you from the billboard?

There is no simple answer, but some things are clearly not sustainable — for example, fresh produce that is flown in from around the world. And yet this is still what you can find at Whole Foods.

Becoming an agent of change by applying systems thinking

By Jim Hall on July 10, 2009

In my last blog, I applied systems thinking to the concept of sustainability. I explained that the evolution of all systems is governed by a set of natural laws that are consistent whether we are talking about the organization, or the world at large. I also suggested that you could apply these principles to efforts to reduce your company’s GHG emissions, and become a change agent within the microcosm of your corporate culture in order to affect the macro-environment we all live in.

I also promised to return and explain how that might be done. So let’s get down to it.

Systems thinking and the inevitability of ‘green’

By Jim Hall on June 22, 2009

A green destination is inevitable for every American company. How that is achieved is the point of this blog post. At the outset, I’ll just say this: those companies that follow the defined path toward sustainability may survive, but those that chart their own course will become leaders, and thrive in the new business environment that is upon us.

It’s easy enough to find the soon-to-be well-trodden path; a Google search or quick meeting with a consultant will reveal literally hundreds of cases, articles and essays that can be used to put your company on the path of sustainability. However, the fact is that the optimal path is different for every company. Organizational drag, budgetary considerations, and the technologies employed will affect the complexity of the mission to make the company and its products more sustainable.

A basic law of the organization is that it makes its own survival paramount. In that, it’s no different from any evolutionary model. For that reason, it is vital to understand the organizational landscape in order to accomplish anything worthwhile. Understanding this landscape provides a starting point, a direction, and a route, highlighting obstacles and opportunities along the path to sustainability. In short, the organization is its own environment, within the larger environment we all inhabit.

Pratt Institute professor reviews SM's LCA workshop: "Quantitative Sustainability and the Practice of Life Cycle Analysis"

By Guest contributors on June 5, 2009

This post is by Christopher X J. Jensen, Ph.D. assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Science at Pratt Institute. He is also active in Sustainable Pratt's efforts to bring ecologically-conscious practices to the campus and beyond. Christopher was an active participant in Sustainable Minds’ life cycle analysis (LCA) workshop at Pratt Institute on May 23rd, and wrote an extensive review of the event.

Quantitative sustainability and the practice of life cycle analysis

What is Sustainable Interaction Design? Part Three: Renewal and Reuse

By Guest contributors on June 1, 2009

This is the third of three blog posts by our managing editor Jeff Binder exploring the concept of sustainable interaction design as put forth by Eli Blevis of the School of Informatics at Indiana University, in a paper entitled Sustainable Interaction Design: Invention & Disposal, Renewal & Reuse.* In the first he reviewed the basis of sustainable interactive design and the second examined the principle of linking invention and disposal.

According to Eli Blevis, that’s the second principle of interaction design -- promoting renewal and reuse. Blevis gives us an example in a familiar product:

The DaS Symposium: Collaboration as the Face of Sustainability

By Ken Hall on May 22, 2009

When I converse with colleagues passionate about sustainable design, I frequently hear frustration concerning the lack of tools that might help us better understand the impacts of our design decisions. This frustration is amplified by urgency – a sense that we are running out of time and could have used these tools yesterday!

Yet software vendors tell us that only 1% of their customers demand software for the purpose of sustainable design, making it difficult to prioritize the development of sustainable performance software. That’s a true sustainability paradox; we need users demanding this software providing feedback on how to improve it, but it’s slow out of the gate reaching a critical mass of users until Sustainable Performance Software congeals in our industry.

The DaS (Design and Sustainability) Symposium, an exploratory group representing a broad cross-section of the design industries – including architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and manufacturing – was founded to address this paradox and other questions of design and sustainability.

SM’s inaugural workshop: “Mastering Environmental Impact Assessment in the Design Process”

By Terry Swack on May 18, 2009

On April 29th, we hosted our first workshop to great acclaim. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had more than 200 people participating in our alpha and beta product development. Workshop participants included designers and engineers representing a number of these organizations.

How Sustainable Thinking Can Change Design

By Terry Swack on May 9, 2009

This article and podcast interview with Sustainable Minds co-founder Terry Swack was conducted by Jonathan Bardelline and published April 16, 2009.

Greener design methods hold a world of possibilities for businesses, from saving a bit of money on materials to developing completely new products, packaging and distribution methods. They also have the potential to change how designers learn, how they think about projects and, on a larger scale, alter designers' careers.

Terry Swack, co-founder and CEO of SustainableMinds.com, spoke with GreenBiz Radio about how sustainable design can help companies through the economic downturn and into the future, and where design changes need to be made to have the biggest impact.

Swack will be speaking at GreenBiz.com's Greener by Design conference May 19-20 in San Francisco.

The world’s first chocolate-powered, vegetarian race car: the F3

By Guest contributors on May 4, 2009

This post was submitted by guest contributor Matthew Heatherington, a PR executive with Life Agency.

The steering wheel is made from carrots, the engine is powered by waste chocolate and vegetable oil, potatoes were used to help produce the bodywork… and it goes 125 mph round corners!

Following the recent turmoil in Formula 1 arising from the high costs of running competitive motor racing teams, and doubts in sponsors’ minds over the commercial value of their involvement, the viability of motor racing is being critically questioned.

With this in mind, the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (WIMRC), part of the University of Warwick, is seeking to prove to the motor industry that it is possible to build a competitive racing car using environmentally sustainable components.

The new WorldFirst racecar is a clever piece of lateral thinking. It is the first Formula 3 racing car designed and made from sustainable and renewable materials.

Recession or not, consumers still buying green

By Linda Chipperfield on April 20, 2009

Has the worst recession since World War II dampened consumer demand for green products? Not according to a study* commissioned by my organization, Green Seal, and our research partner, EnviroMedia Social Marketing, in January of this year.

We discovered that four of five consumers are still buying sustainable products despite the recession. That’s great news for manufacturers who have made the commitment to include sustainability in their cost-benefit analysis when planning new products. It’s proof that as a nation, our growing commitment to living more sustainably runs deeper than economic fears.