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

Teamwork

What is fair play when comparing product LCAs?

By Joep Meijer on November 20, 2009

You’ve just developed your eco-champion product and have set out to know everything about it. You’ve performed a full-fledged lifecycle analysis (LCA) – with all the bells and whistles – and have some vital results: the methodology report that describes your product, and the interpretation report, which explains the results.

You are all excited about the results. You feel the need to express yourself publicly. What better way to do that than in a comparison to other products? And the great game begins…

The Rules
Most games begin with the creation of rules. The ‘game’ of marketing sustainability is no different.

Is it fair to compare your sustainable product to someone else’s and not invite their input? Not really. In fact, ISO standards require that you involve relevant stakeholders to foster a positive conversation about the approach and the interpretation. One way to do that is for you and all stakeholders to sit together and write up a methodology report.

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.

Regenerative design gives back more than it takes away

By David Laituri on October 12, 2009

“Meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” – Report of the World Council on Environment and Development, 1987

This definition of sustainability is powerful in its sheer simplicity: replace what you take, period. Achieving sustainability in practice turns out to be much more challenging and elusive - which is probably why little has been written about what lies beyond sustainable design.

Wood plays a major role in our systems & accessories. It looks great, has awesome sound reproduction and impact resistance characteristics - and it’s eminently renewable. Because of our fundamental commitment to sustainability, we’ve always sought sustainably-managed wood sources near our shops in the Southeast Asia. While our softwoods are locally-sourced and plantation-grown, reliable sources of sustainably-managed hardwoods are harder to come by.

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

Sustainable purchasing - the indirect upstream bill

By Joep Meijer on September 13, 2009

When organizations want to improve their triple bottom line1 they usually start with the internal processes. It seems to fit the direct-responsibility focus that makes good managers most successful. Internal processes are within reach, and most easily grasped. Looking at it from a life cycle perspective, the indirect responsibility usually comes later, if at all. However, for some sustainable design solutions the critical area lies in the indirect upstream responsibility.

Indirect responsibility For a lot of products, a major source of environmental and social impact lies in the materials and energy that are purchased. Think about a product made of steel. A whole industry exists whose sole purpose is to roll-form steel into shapes that we need. Their contribution to the overall impact of the steel industry is limited to directly-quantifiable losses (material efficiency) and logistics (transportation efficiency).

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.