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

Teamwork

How to get better product use data? Track it in environmental monitoring social networks.

By Inês Sousa on November 3, 2008

My last post asked a few questions about how new product design approaches could promote sustainable consumption. Along the same lines, let’s explore how product designers might collect better and more data on product use to inform the ecodesign process. Potential solutions present some quite promising ideas for product designers. Think of it as a wildlife-tagging program for products monitored in social networks.

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.

The Designer’s Field Guide to Sustainability

By Travis Lee on October 4, 2008

A few years ago we here at LUNAR noticed something. Plenty of people were talking about sustainability, but very few were actually taking tangible steps toward sustainable design. So we started asking around. Apparently, there were thousands of designers and engineers who wanted to create more sustainable products, but didn’t know where to start. Life cycle analysis not only seemed a daunting (and expensive) task, it required a tangible design before it could be used. Designers found themselves looking to engineers to choose materials that made their designs more eco-friendly and engineers looked to designers to conceptualize more inherently sustainable designs, but this chicken and egg game was leading nowhere. This stalemate gave us an idea: let’s give designers and engineers a sustainability guide for everyday use that not only gave them topics to discuss, but provided the beginnings of a roadmap to sustainable design. And thus was born The Designer’s Field Guide to Sustainability.

TRIP REPORT: Sustainable Minds @ the IDSA 2008 National Conference, with Autodesk

By Terry Swack on September 26, 2008

Left: GREG CANAVERA, SM’s Director of Software Design manning the demo station. Right: DANE WESENBERG, our ASU intern, spreading the word about SM.

Our first trade show!
This was a very special event for us in many ways. We announced the big news about our strategic relationship with Autodesk, who made it possible for us to be at the show by providing a demo station in their booth. We are truly honored to have this special relationship with Autodesk, the only design and engineering software company out there actively building tools that enable their customers to design greener buildings and products.

I wrote in my first post, Part 2: The genesis of Sustainable Minds ― Things happen in threes, about the events that inspired me to start this company. This was one:

“In November, 2006, while attending the U.S. Green Building Council’s national GreenBuild conference, Autodesk announced its partnership with the USGBC to integrate LEED into their product, Revit® Architecture. I thought it was brilliant to integrate new knowledge with the software tools professionals are already using.”

That said, it was a profound experience for me to be at the IDSA national conference just shy of two years later, effectively working to accomplish a similar result for people who design and make products.

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.

“Conservation is not done with the pen…it’s done with an axe.”

By Scot Herbst on September 15, 2008

Think about that for a second. It was written in 1949 by the seminal figure in ecological conservation, Aldo Leopold. It’s quite a powerful phrase, the simple articulation that man must consume and build. There is no greater asset than our ability to create. It comes at a great cost, but without question, we’re all beginning to better define the ‘right’ manner for this process of creation.

At the heart of the issue lies one fundamental truth: less is more. Less material. Less packaging. Less harmful content. Less shipping footprint. Less impact. Less, less, less… How paradoxical is it, then, that the U.S. Census officially predicts nine billion people will inhabit the planet by 2050 – one third more than currently exist. By definition, that’s a lot more stuff. More products. More packaging. More shipping. More consumption, on the grandest of scales.

At every point, the symbiotic act of creating all of this content will require the skilled designer and engineer: those members of the creation chain endowed with the knowledge and privilege to conceive of, form and specify the manner in which all of this stuff is brought to life. The great ‘axe holders’ of the future.

Part 3: The genesis of Sustainable Minds - How we met Philip White and Okala

By Terry Swack on September 1, 2008

Philip and Terry in front of Philip’s favorite type of cactus – saguaro

Part 1: The genesis of Sustainable Minds – The conception of ‘learning surrogate LCA’ | Ines Sousa

Part 2: The genesis of Sustainable Minds – Things happen in threes | Terry Swack

At the end of Part 2, Ines and I were conducting a round of research that validated there was a real need for greater awareness, education and new design and engineering software tools for sustainable product design. During this research, enough people mentioned Okala that we decided to take a closer look. The learning surrogate LCA was done as research, but Okala was out there in practice. Based on what we learned, we updated our prototype to include concepts from both approaches. This combination really struck a chord with the product teams we met with subsequently.

We decided to give Philip a call to find out more about Okala – who was using it? How was it being used? What were people doing with the results? Were there plans for the future?

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.

Part 1: The genesis of Sustainable Minds - The conception of 'learning surrogate LCA'

By Inês Sousa on August 1, 2008

From 1998-2002, I was at the MIT CADlab working on my Ph.D., focusing on how life cycle assessment (LCA) can be wisely used in design for the environment. Early design stages are critical in shaping the environmental performance of a product over its life cycle, yet they create particular challenges for environmental assessment. I focused my research on this question: “How can product design teams quickly evaluate and trade off competing product concepts using the scarce information available at early conceptual stages?“

My exploration of this topic was informed by a core practical requirement: environmental evaluation techniques must be operable within the constraints of real-world product development and provide credible, timely information that is sufficient for decision-making.