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

Webcast: Creating Knowledge Workers for the Greener Product Marketplace, Part 3: Integrating Ecodesign & LCA

By Sustainable Minds on September 24, 2012

On August 28th, we held the third in a series of webcasts that feature educators from leading colleges and universities demonstrating how Sustainable Minds is being used in education. Sustainable Minds merges practice and science, ecodesign and LCA. This webcast showcases three educators and practitioners – teaching materials, industrial design and geography – demonstrating their success stories. Educators with different expertise can use Sustainable Minds to teach lifecycle thinking through hands-on experience.

The connection between greener product development education and industry demand for graduates possessing this type of preparation is strong and growing. Integrating sustainability and sustainable decision-making and assessment into curriculum is becoming a more important part of the product development education system. Sustainable Minds helps educators integrate environmental considerations, providing the opportunity for different disciplines and perspectives to come together and reach common agreement and for students to understand how their decisions make a difference.

People responsible for sustainability training in industry are also using Sustainable Minds to get everyone in the mindset of systems thinking and whole product lifecycle. There is the potential to create a powerful connection between academic and commercial partnerships when people from industry work with colleges and universities.

This webcast spotlights educators from a range of disciplines, with both professional and academic careers, are using Sustainable Minds to not only improve students’ understanding and practice of ecodesign and LCA but also to establish its significance for the greater community.

Following is a summary of the presentations.

RMIT University: Life Cycle Thinking in Industrial Design Education in Australia

Leyla AcarogluLeyla Acaroglu teaches Studio 2, the Core design studio subject in Industrial Design and lectures at most major universities in Australia on LCA/LCT. She is a leading proponent of systematic and life cycle thinking in sustainability and design decision-making. Leyla has a background as a product designer and studied social science, majoring in environmental sustainability with the objective of increasing the capacity of the design and product development industry to integrate sustainability considerations.

Second year industrial design students are required to understand ecodesign and life cycle assessment and this is the main course in which environmental innovation and assessment are core teachings. Leyla discussed the importance of understanding sustainability from a holistic perspective and that doing is much better than just thinking about something.

Leyla showed two students’ projects. One examined refrigerators for domestic use with the goal to develop a multifunctional, modular refrigeration system. The students were given a ‘Life Cycle Mapping’ exercise where they conceptually mapped the environmental impacts of the product across its lifecycle stages and then brainstormed around the main environmental impact areas. This demonstrated the sphere of influence the student has as a designer to make decisions to reduce the environmental impact of a product.

Leyla observed that what was interesting about the process and assessment was that it was able to disprove the assumptions the student had about where the environmental impacts were occurring. The student used ecodesign strategies to generate more design iterations and focus on the appropriate solution areas. Life cycle thinking and assessment enabled him to make different design decisions that improved the environmental performance of his product.

University of Oklahoma: Teaching Life Cycle Analysis Through Classroom Lecture and Sustainable Minds Software

Mark MeoMark Meo is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability. Mark teaches undergraduate courses on renewable energy, corporate environmental strategy, and life cycle analysis and is developing a Master’s degree curriculum in Environmental Sustainability. The school launched the new undergraduate degree program in Environmental Sustainability in 2011. The program has experienced extraordinary success, with enrollment doubling in 6 months. Of the current 130 students, 60 are environmental sustainability majors. The department is the fastest growing department on campus right now.

Mark uses Sustainable Minds in the course Geography 4543 Life Cycle Analysis. The goals of the course are to provide students with a conceptual and practical understanding of life cycle assessment and to demonstrate how it can be applied to solve problems. Mark observed that LCA is a key technical skill and it had been a challenge to find accessible LCA software that was easy to use for beginners, affordable, data rich, current, and not restricted to use in a lab setting. As such, he was excited to discover Sustainable Minds.

This LCA course plays a central role in undergraduate courses and there is nothing like it offered elsewhere on campus. Students from across campus and other colleges enrolled and found it useful. The course has also captured the interest of professionals and several have asked if the course is being taught outside the classroom. Mark commented that developing student awareness of life cycle thinking is manifested in large-scale policy initiatives being developed around the country. It is likely that there will be increasing applications of life cycle thinking in public policy and that this experience will help students to become more involved.

Integrating sustainability into courses is desirable to both students and employers. When designing the curriculum, industry leaders in sustainability were consulted. The expansion of this academic program will lead to more research that blends public and private sector concerns.

San Francisco State University: Design and Materials

Nasser JalaliNasser Jalali is a lecturer in the Department of Design and Industry. He teaches two courses that teach sustainability and green materials design: DAI 210 Industrial Science and DAI 340 Design and Materials. Nasser has been teaching in this department for eight years. Nasser’s approach is to bring the real world of product design and engineering into classrooms by training and educating students so that when they join organizations they will be well prepared to handle tasks and to be creative.

Nasser showed several examples of students’ work using Sustainable Minds. In the first, students invented a new showerhead and examined conservation, water usage, eco-friendly materials, and energy. Students compared their design to a standard product and were able to demonstrate an environmental performance improvement of 67%. They considered the carbon footprint and water usage to household and global magnitudes. They also looked at packaging and identified greener packaging materials, another example of the ways in which this courses nurtures students to be prepared for industry.

Nasser described preparing students for industry and enabling them to practice addressing policy, for example, the new State Law for Global Warming Solution Act. Nasser believes that students will take their initial experiences and utilize Sustainable Minds in workplaces in product development processes to promote sustainable design and a concern for the carbon footprint of products. He is a proponent of extending coursework outside of the classroom to the greater communities and to educate members of the community and professional fields like architects, engineers, and designers.

Summary

Leading edge educators are integrating Sustainable Minds in their courses to develop students’ understanding and practice of ecodesign and LCA and to establish its significance for the greater community. Using Sustainable Minds, students can understand the influence they have as designers and engineers to make decisions that improve the environmental performance of products. With Sustainable Minds as a catalyst for enriching business, design and engineering curriculum, schools can excel in preparing students to make substantial contributions to industry.

Watch for more webcasts in this series, where we showcase more educators learning new things, building on what they know and getting started teaching in new ways. If you’d like to learn about our Education Programs including class, department or unlimited subscription packages; curriculum, training and support, contact us at (617) 401-2269 or sales@sustainableminds.com.

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