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

Sustainability paradox

The eight biggest myths about sustainability in business

By Vijay Kanal on November 30, 2009

In our research, and in engagements with dozens of Fortune 1000 companies, we are sometimes surprised at the reluctance to pursue environmental sustainability initiatives, because of misconceptions about their cost or benefits. But we have also seen how some companies have embraced sustainability whole-heartedly, and are profiting from it.

Sustainable Minds release 1.0 is getting great reviews!

By Terry Swack on November 15, 2009

When you launch a new product, it’s not as though you don’t know what people will think. You’ve already taken a lot of time working with your customers to get it right.

At Sustainable Minds, we’ve spent the better part of three years making it our business to understand what product design teams need in order to help them create more environmentally sustainable products.

Nonetheless, we’ve been delighted at the positive results we’re hearing from all sorts of practitioners – from product designers to engineering teams (the un-staged photo of product designers trying out Sustainable Minds software above was taken at our Boston workshop on November 11). Now that we’ve launched R1.0, it’s great to hear that others think we got it right.

Take a look at this blog post by Kenneth Wong, a contributing editor for Desktop Engineering magazine. He attended a recent Sustainable Minds workshop in San Francisco.

Glass or Ceramic?

By Travis Lee on November 6, 2009

One of our designers here at LUNAR was recently working on a project that required a material with a cold, smooth, high-quality feel, and she asked me which was a more sustainable material, ceramic or glass. This is what I told her:

Glass: There are many different types of glass, but I’ll focus on soda-lime glass here, the type most commonly used in containers, windows, etc. Glass is heavy and often gets a bad rap for that, but if recycled properly it is one of the few infinitely recyclable materials in common use today. It is also one of the few materials with a well-developed recycling infrastructure in almost every developed country. It can be fragile, but can also be made to be durable with various geometries and wall thicknesses (think about how long old Coke bottles stay in circulation). Glass can be considered, for all intents and purposes, to be non-reactive, so it won’t off-gas or leach like plastics.

Sustainable Minds release 1.0 is live!

By Terry Swack on October 28, 2009

It's been a long time in the works. We've been fortunate to develop our extensive and knowledgeable alpha and beta communities, and now very excited that the official release is out and available to everyone.

Re-nourish, re-launched

By Guest contributors on October 18, 2009

This post was submitted by guest contriburor Eric Benson, an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois. His research explores how design can be sustainable and consequently how to teach it.

After nearly two years of planning and research, Re-nourish.com has finally relaunched its new site, making it the graphic design industry's only comprehensive resource on sustainable graphic design theory and practice.

Dashboards and Meters: the Next Blinking 12:00?

By Sandy Skees on September 25, 2009

We are bombarded with data, visuals, advertisements, tweets, updates and videos, so do we really need our products to beep, change colors, add leaves or update graphs? Especially since many people never use all of the functionality built into most products or, worse yet, simply discard the product when its complication oversteps its usefulness?

Recent product design is incorporating dashboards and metering capabilities as consumer features. Prius, Honda, Google Smart Meter, and even Mint.com are examples of products that incorporate a feedback mechanism into the product itself. ‘Hypermiling’ is the term for how to wring every last drop of efficiency from hybrid automobiles and can be found on sites like CleanMGP. While these dashboards provide a clear and powerful way to display data, they introduce a set of design challenges that must integrate social science strategies in order to be most effective.

The Art Of Numbers

By Rajat Shail on September 18, 2009

We as a generation have become so desensitized by numbers and statistics thrown at us that large numbers fail to find impact and we remain largely bored by the gigantic amount of data available to us in the modern world.

Careless consumerism and its unseen, unaccounted for aftermath are finally getting some attention in the major information forums, however it remains difficult to engage the masses in a meaningful discussion for lack of a visceral response among the general population. I recently stumbled upon the work of an artist – Chris Jordan -- who tackles this with great ingenuity.

His artist’s statement expresses his deceptively simple approach:

“Finding meaning in global mass phenomena can be difficult because the phenomena themselves are invisible, spread across the earth in millions of separate places. There is no Mount Everest of waste that we can make a pilgrimage to and behold the sobering aggregate of our discarded stuff, seeing and feeling it viscerally with our senses. Instead, we are stuck with trying to comprehend the gravity of these phenomena through the anaesthetizing and emotionally barren language of statistics.”
-Chris Jordan

Red, blue and green all over: the politics of sustainability

By Jim Hall on September 4, 2009

I’m not one of those people who can say that I’ve always cared about sustainability. My turning point came about four years ago when I toured a landfill and personally saw the obscene amount of waste that society creates each and every day. Somehow I knew intuitively that what I witnessed wasn’t sustainable. I deduced that every paper cup, plastic container, broken glass, diaper and appliance that was being buried embodied natural resources – wasted resources – that were going right into the ground.

Now I find myself in a position in which I can make a difference. I’m fortunate enough to have been exposed to some of the leading minds in the field of sustainability. I’ve attended numerous conferences, seminars, classes, and educational events across the country in order to advance my knowledge and experience. I’ve made new friends and met new colleagues. And they’ve all made me feel like I’m part of the family.

But there’s one thing that continues to perplex me.

Autodesk's Rob Cohee previews Sustainable Minds LCA software

By Sustainable Minds on August 28, 2009

Rob Cohee, Industry Solution Evangelist from Autodesk's Manufacturing Industry Group, has been entertaining the design and manufacturing industry for quite some time with his fun, informative, and sometimes irreverent video demos. Now he takes on green product design using Sustainable Minds LCA software. (Even though Rob's met us, I don't remember wearing my 'steel-toed Birkenstocks' that day. How did he know?)

What's great about Rob's demo is that he shows off the usefulness and ease of use of Sustainable Minds. It's easy to learn and use, but most importantly, it provides meaningful and actionable results. Rob was very quickly able to model the environmental impacts of a wine bottle opener made from aluminum, and based on the results, explore alternative materials (plastic) and end of life methods to improve the environmental performance. Importing the BOM from Autodesk Inventor made the process even faster.

There is no such thing as a 'green' product.
All products use materials and energy, and create waste. There is no explicit definition of what 'green' means. Industry groups and third-party certifiers are working on definitions and standards, but, as yet, there is no standardized set of metrics to qualify a product as 'green.' The best we can do is make products greener than the ones we make today.