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

Supply chain

Going down stream: a work in progress

By David Laituri on November 15, 2008

When is the right time to develop a product end of life strategy? Now, roughly – give or take a day. Even though our first product has been in-market for about a year and we shouldn’t expect to ‘need’ a product take-back/recycling program for our customers for many years to come, we believe there is plenty that can be learned by working on it now. We’re testing our prototype process with a small batch of un-recoverable, stripped carcasses from early development and customer service returns; it turns out that our systems have been surprisingly easy to repair and upgrade, leaving very few to work with in this test. It’s an important victory for our sustainability mission; many early design decisions are already paying off. While our customer service return rate is fairly low (good quality), the scrap rate from those is even lower (good sustainable design features).

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.

What’s the alternative? Fossil fuel health hazard highlight

By Guest contributors on October 11, 2008

This post was submitted by guest contributor James O'Shea,  from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center.

Designers today find themselves juggling the pros and cons of traditional energy and the value of more sustainable sources. Automobile and home designers are forced to choose between perhaps more expensive, yet more sustainable structures, and cheaper but less efficient structures. We know now the value of alternative energies from a planetary perspective, but did you know that a reliance on fossil fuels is actually endangering our health?

A letter to the big guys: join us

By David Laituri on September 26, 2008

This is a letter to the big guys: Nike, Dell, Sony, Apple, Microsoft, Motorola and HP, to name a few – the Fortune 100, companies with scale and financial clout; companies who can drive change overnight with a single request. I’ve worked with many of you over the years, I’ve seen first-hand what you can do – and I sure could use your help.

There are just three of us at Sprout Creation at the moment, but like most start -ups, we’re idealistic, ambitious and full of enthusiasm about leading our category in sustainable product development practices. We want to change the world. Even though we’re small, we use the same factories in Asia as you do. We’ve seen your product samples in their show cases, your parts on their lines and your boxes on their loading dock. We’re always impressed by what can be accomplished with big-company resources like yours with some of these ‘average’ factories in terms of quality, fit and finish. A single project from you can really put a factory on the map, and they know it.

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.

Finding a sustainability consultant you can trust

By Eric Brody on September 19, 2008

After working in sustainability at two amazing companies (Nike and Nau) for the last decade, I decided it was time to launch a sustainability consulting business. As someone who used to select and hire consultants to assist in projects, I have tried to take those lessons learned to provide excellent service in my own practice. Sustainability may sound easy at first, but when companies start to dive in they realize the ’devil is in the details‘ and that due diligence is where a consultant can really help.

The challenges come in all shapes and sizes. Examples include quantifying sustainability metrics for products and production in meaningful and relevant ways, tracking and verifying material claims through the supply chain (which, for many companies, means diving much deeper in their supply chain than they ever have before), and communicating corporate initiatives to customers who are becoming more savvy.

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.

Where the trash cans go moo

By Rajat Shail on August 22, 2008

One advantage of being born in a ‘developing’ nation and moving to a ‘developed’ one is the viewpoint it gives me on both worlds. Often, this sensibility cannot be defined by a ‘logical’ analysis alone. I have seen a curious and often comical pattern in some of my American and European friends’ attitudes about India.

A frequent topic of amusement is the issue of street cows on Indian roads. We often engage in discussions about this urban Indian curiosity. "So why DO you have cows on the roads?" they ask, followed by an incredulous look. It’s easy to use the defensive religious stance, mentioning the Hindu masses of India to whom this is a sacred animal, who often engage in the worship of the cow and demonstrate an elaborate tolerance towards the bovines. But then again, it’s probably my attempt to logically explain the functioning chaos that India is.

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.