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

Sustainability paradox

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.

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.

What I’ll say in China about sustainability and economic opportunity

By Ken Hall on September 1, 2008

At a national green building convention in Chicago last year, my ears were tuned for the specific words and phrases that Bill Clinton, one of our great communicators, would say to thousands of practitioners. The point of listening so intently was to hear the messaging and frames in order to better tell our story and tip the scale in favor of sustainability. This is what I heard:

“… de-carbonizing the economy .. is our single greatest economic opportunity since we mobilized for WWII!”

Wow! That’s a powerful statement. It builds rapidly from naming the quest to identifying the benefit and concludes invoking values and ideas deeply embedded in the American psyche from WWII – the urgent call to arms to defend the nation, the hero’s quest to ward off evil forces and epic battles that lead to victory. It also invokes the monumental collaborations between governments, military, research and industry that were necessary for the time.

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.

TGIC: A good idea turns toxic

By Chris Frank on August 15, 2008

How many times have you done something ‘green’ and found out that your good intentions had unintended consequences? I recently fell victim to a potentially dangerous misconception.

As part of my objective to eliminate the use of solvent based paints at Sun Microsystems, I began to move toward very low-VOC (volatile organic compound) water-based paints and powder coatings. Powder coatings seemed to be one of the most green options. Powder coatings are inert, can be applied efficiently, the waste material is easy to recover and is not considered a VOC. I have been to many powder lines and have seen applicators spraying powder while wearing no dust masks or other safety gear. Then I heard about TGIC (triglycidyl isocyanurate).

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.

The Promise of the Future

By Ken Hall on August 1, 2008

When I was 19 years old, I was feet away from my best friend as he took a chance and lost his life to a whirlpool in a western mountain stream of ice-melt. The choices he made that day cost him his life. Today, we stand at a threshold as a young adolescent species, clever enough to rule the world, and foolish enough to throw it all away. I believe truth is found in paradox, and that our choices about sustainability require us to embrace paradox.

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…