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

  • Now and Zenn? Potential game changer for electric vehicles

    by Richard Kubin on October 17, 2008

    I recently attended the 5th Annual Merriman Curhan Ford Investor Summit in San Francisco. While there were a broad spectrum of companies represented (I found the Smith & Wesson presentation interesting), the largest number fell under the ’clean-tech’ or ‘green-tech’ category. These were also quite diverse, ranging from energy storage and smart grid technologies to solar to ’clean’ coal to hybrid and electric vehicles to Brazilian bio-fuels – I could easily write a blog on each!

    Of the presentations I saw, the one that had perhaps the broadest potential impact (and a standing room only crowd) was from Ian Clifford, CEO of Toronto, Canada based Zenn Motor Co. Currently, they manufacture and sell the ZENN Low Speed Vehicle (LSV), also referred to as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). This is a ‘traditional’ small electric car that uses six lead-acid batteries for energy storage, has a 30-50 mile range, and is limited under FMVSS 500 regulations to 25 mph. While it’s an interesting design and quite useful for campus, fleet, gated community and even city use, it is not going to replace the family car.

  • What’s the alternative? Fossil fuel health hazard highlight

    by Guest contributors on October 11, 2008

    This post was submitted by guest contributor James O'Shea,  from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center.

    Designers today find themselves juggling the pros and cons of traditional energy and the value of more sustainable sources. Automobile and home designers are forced to choose between perhaps more expensive, yet more sustainable structures, and cheaper but less efficient structures. We know now the value of alternative energies from a planetary perspective, but did you know that a reliance on fossil fuels is actually endangering our health?

  • 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.

  • If I was King I’d make the world out of Lego®.

    by Lorne Craig on October 4, 2008

    OK, this is going to rile a lot of young, over-imaginative product designers out there, but when elected Supreme Monarch of the World, (or when my Loyal Armies seize power in a dramatic yet bloodless coup) I’m putting the entire LEGO® staff in charge of the newly created Ministry of World Product Redesign.

    No other product is as modular, flexible or backward-compatible as LEGO®. My kid can take the newest, flashiest, most market-hyped construction set and mash it up with bricks that have been stepped on in our family since 1973.

  • 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.

  • A letter to the big guys: join us

    by David Laituri on September 26, 2008

    This is a letter to the big guys: Nike, Dell, Sony, Apple, Microsoft, Motorola and HP, to name a few – the Fortune 100, companies with scale and financial clout; companies who can drive change overnight with a single request. I’ve worked with many of you over the years, I’ve seen first-hand what you can do – and I sure could use your help.

    There are just three of us at Sprout Creation at the moment, but like most start -ups, we’re idealistic, ambitious and full of enthusiasm about leading our category in sustainable product development practices. We want to change the world. Even though we’re small, we use the same factories in Asia as you do. We’ve seen your product samples in their show cases, your parts on their lines and your boxes on their loading dock. We’re always impressed by what can be accomplished with big-company resources like yours with some of these ‘average’ factories in terms of quality, fit and finish. A single project from you can really put a factory on the map, and they know it.

  • Green Seal standards keep up with product evolution

    by Linda Chipperfield on September 19, 2008

    As an independent non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding the environment, Green Seal’s science-based certification standards help to promote the manufacture, purchase, and use of environmentally responsible products and services.

    But products change, taking advantage of market trends, new technology, and consumer demand. An important part of Green Seal’s work is to constantly update and add new ‘GS’ standards to stay current with a constantly changing world. Please visit Green Seal to view all our current environmental standards.

    You might also be interested in some of the standards in development we have recently revised or are working on revising. Consider this a snapshot in time of where sustainability standards were in the latter half of 2008.

    GS-5: Compact Fluorescent Lighting

    Major technological advancements have taken place since our first CFL standard was published in1997. Reduced mercury content, increased performance and recyclability improvements have made CFLs an even better choice for protecting the environment. In order to acknowledge this new technology and include life cycle issues other standards don’t, we are in the process of updating the standard. Although other energy efficient lamp options, such as LED, have also advanced, the standard will focus on criteria only for fluorescent lamps. We anticipate publishing this standard later this fall.

  • 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.