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

  • What is Sustainable Interaction Design? Part Two: Invention and Disposal

    by Guest contributors on November 21, 2008

    This is the second of three blog posts by our managing editor Jeff Binder exploring the concept of sustainable interaction design as put forth by Eli Blevis of the School of Informatics at Indiana University, in a paper entitled Sustainable Interaction Design: Invention & Disposal, Renewal & Reuse.*

    LINKING INVENTION & DISPOSAL

    What happens to your old laptop computer? The disturbing reality is that even under the best of intentions, many of our most advanced products can end up in developing countries, part of a “charity shipment,” where they are not only useless, but unrecyclable.

    Such an outcome demands a new approach. In a paper entitled Sustainable Interaction Design: Invention & Disposal, Renewal & Reuse Eli Blevis presents the idea that we should be more cognizant of where products might end up when we sit down to design them.

  • Going down stream: a work in progress

    by David Laituri on November 15, 2008

    When is the right time to develop a product end of life strategy? Now, roughly – give or take a day. Even though our first product has been in-market for about a year and we shouldn’t expect to ‘need’ a product take-back/recycling program for our customers for many years to come, we believe there is plenty that can be learned by working on it now. We’re testing our prototype process with a small batch of un-recoverable, stripped carcasses from early development and customer service returns; it turns out that our systems have been surprisingly easy to repair and upgrade, leaving very few to work with in this test. It’s an important victory for our sustainability mission; many early design decisions are already paying off. While our customer service return rate is fairly low (good quality), the scrap rate from those is even lower (good sustainable design features).

  • So where is the Green Mafia?

    by Lorne Craig on November 15, 2008

    Picture Big Oil, and what comes to mind? Lush, leather and dark-wood upholstered boardrooms, thick polished tables surrounded by equally thick, polished grey-haired old men, lit from spotlights above, their cold, steely eyes in perpetual shadow. These are the power brokers who, with a single conference call, can arrange corporate tax breaks, kill environmental legislation, and install dictators in questionable democracies like Canada.

    So who does the Green Business Movement have? Ralph Nader on a megaphone? Leonardo DiCaprio firing killer looks from his Prius? Al Gore and his laser-powered Powerpoint pointer?

    Face it, to make any serious difference, we need a secret society. A group of influential people who have the ear of every politician in power, who can make things very uncomfortable for businesses who don’t play by Mother Nature’s rules, not to mention greasing the wheels for entrepreneurs who need a little government help to get things going.

    Categories: Strategies, Teamwork
  • Can China renew an ancient idea of sustainability?

    by Ken Hall on November 7, 2008

    China has fascinated me since my youth, and yet when the invitation came to give a speech in Beijing on Sustainability, I felt some trepidation. As the fossil-fueled economic might of China grows and its population achieves increasing affluence, our fear in the West increases – we worry about contaminated products and worker safety, a new coal plant a week and pollution drifting across the Pacific to the West Coast. We worry about escalating costs due to increasing competition for fossil fuels and industrial materials such as cement and steel. Having just returned from Beijing, I am greatly encouraged – and although we still have much to fear, that fear should be equally placed (and perhaps more so) with ourselves.

  • What is Sustainable Interaction Design? Part One

    by Guest contributors on November 7, 2008

    This is the first of three blog posts by our managing editor Jeff Binder exploring the concept of sustainable interaction design as put forth by SM blog contributor Eli Blevis of the School of Informatics at Indiana University, in a paper entitled Sustainable Interaction Design: Invention & Disposal, Renewal & Reuse.*

    We humans have a love affair with interactive technology, and why shouldn’t we? Inventions like the telephone, the Internet and the camera have made it easier it to communicate concepts of both immediate practical value and broader cultural worth.

    Whether it’s to get driving directions or view a photo exhibit, technology has made our lives easier and has enriched our understanding of the world. But that comes with a price.

    Because we love technology, we admire early adopters, awarding them status merely for owning the latest laptop first. We overlook the fact that early adopters are also by definition early rejecters; like bored children they toss out gadgets without considering where they might end up.

    It’s up to product designers to retool the process, says Eli Blevis, a faculty member of the School of Informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington.

  • 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.

  • The death of global warming: Sustainability 2.0 and design’s dirty little secret

    by Scot Herbst on November 3, 2008

    Escape with me for a few moments here – let’s play a visualization game. Close your eyes. You’ve inherited the role of Climate-Change Agent Alpha. You’re a relatively affluent consuming American, capable of meeting the fight against carbon emissions head-on. Your typical day looks something like this:

    Wake up in the morning; refer to a series of wall-mounted monitors in your home that give you an endless relay of appliance energy consumption. You escape to work in a hybrid vehicle equipped with an unavoidable heads-up display offering a relentless series of digital algorithms to immediately inform your driving power usage. You’re greeted at work by an active-energy savings billboard espousing the minute-by-minute virtues of the power friendly LEED certified building. Throughout your day you refer to a special app on your cell phone that intermittently monitors your homes regenerative solar capacity. And finally, at day’s end, you retire confidently, having seen your ‘smart-home’ monitor flash a graphic depicting your ‘carbon neutrality’ for the day! An endless blitz of data and graphic information injected into your cognition, affording you the tools to continue consuming, eating and breathing in a responsible manner. The assumption could be that given an ambiguous concept like the ‘carbon footprint,’ we need constant reminders of our mission’s grand purpose. Mission accomplished Climate-Change Agent Alpha. You’ve made the world one day better by staving off your footprint… right?

  • Green Seal’s revised paint standard works to get out the VOC

    by Linda Chipperfield on October 24, 2008

    Because paint is one of the biggest contributors to indoor air pollution, Green Seal has recently updated its environmental standards in a new Green Seal Standard – GS-11.

    The revised standard works harder to protect indoor air quality by increasing the number of prohibited chemicals, reducing allowable VOC (volatile organic compounds, which have both short and long term health effects) levels, requiring more accurate VOC testing, and giving shoppers more information on how to reduce their impact through paint use, storage and recycling.

  • 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.

  • In the age of financial meltdown, does sustainability matter?

    by Scott Boutwell on October 17, 2008

    I was in the UK at a CIO workshop last week and missed a lot of the ongoing maneuvering on the part of both political parties here in the US. It made me think about sustainability market drivers (again; yes, I need a life...), and whether we have turned the corner from sustainability as a 'vitamin' (nice to have), or an 'aspirin' (critical need).

    Right now, I would guess that most people (consumers) and many corporations are focusing on very tactical and survival-based activities, such as cost control and risk/exposure management. Where sustainability programs are already established, there is probably little impact from the financial crisis, in terms of potential termination, cancellation, etc.