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

  • Should some products just not even bother trying to go green?

    by Lorne Craig on August 15, 2008

    Call me a hypocrite, but I’m a green guy who owns a chainsaw. Not an electric hedge-hacker. A big, gas-powered two-stroke Stihl – the Mercedes-Benz of chainsaws, if you will. I use a handsaw for some of the cutting around our cabin, but for bucking up a few cords of firewood, there really is no replacement. It is big, noisy, scary to use and effective as hell.

    The other day I received Stihl’s new customer newsletter, the Outdoor Buzz. To my surprise, jammed in between the ‘Spring Savings’ box and the ‘Ignite Your Soul’ Harley Davidson contest, was a feature called Discover the Greener Side of Stihl. Was there hope for my guilt-ridden tree-massacring darker side? Clicking the link leads to an unnecessarily complicated bit of flash brochureware that opens to a picture of the BR500 Backpack Leaf Blower. Hmmm.

    Categories: Marketing, Products
  • TGIC: A good idea turns toxic

    by Chris Frank on August 15, 2008

    How many times have you done something ‘green’ and found out that your good intentions had unintended consequences? I recently fell victim to a potentially dangerous misconception.

    As part of my objective to eliminate the use of solvent based paints at Sun Microsystems, I began to move toward very low-VOC (volatile organic compound) water-based paints and powder coatings. Powder coatings seemed to be one of the most green options. Powder coatings are inert, can be applied efficiently, the waste material is easy to recover and is not considered a VOC. I have been to many powder lines and have seen applicators spraying powder while wearing no dust masks or other safety gear. Then I heard about TGIC (triglycidyl isocyanurate).

  • What would you be willing to change to reduce your energy consumption by 98%?

    by Richard Kubin on August 8, 2008

    A new personal computer company called CherryPal is betting that many PC users will be willing to change their concept of what a home or institutional PC should provide, how it works and what it looks like. The company is set to launch their initial PC desktop product, the CherryPal C100, with shipments expected to start at the end of July.

    This remarkably compact PC is the size of a paperback book and, according to the company’s Web site, contains 80% fewer components than a typical desktop while consuming less than 2 watts of power, which the company claims is 98% less than a comparable desktop.

  • Starbury Shoes: Slam Dunk or Foul Play?

    by Zac West on August 8, 2008

    T.J. Gray, left, and Ashley Brown, principals of Rocket Fish, an industrial design company in Portsmouth, designed the Starbury sneakers, which retail for $14.98. The affordable basketball shoe is endorsed by New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury.

    If you shoot hoops you're probably aware of the Starbury line of shoes, endorsed by basketball star Stephon Marbury. The owners, Steve & Barry’s LLC, market the line as inexpensive, high-performance basketball shoes.

    You may have also read about the controversy surrounding exactly how “sustainable” these shoes are.

    Starbury shoes target an underserved market segment: inner-city kids.  Their product addresses the social injustice of young underprivileged street players not being able to afford top-performing athletic shoes.

  • Sustainability through design and engineering

    by Travis Lee on August 8, 2008

    Co-Author: Scot Herbst — Gone are the days when people of different disciplines worked successfully in their independent silos within organizations. Collaboration and integration are the hallmarks of today’s successful businesses. At LUNAR, we’ve organized our practice to build this kind of powerful collaboration among creative disciplines, like industrial design, interaction design, engineering, graphic design, and manufacturing. Collaboration between designers and engineers at LUNAR is especially important in product development projects. Engineering liaisons attached to design initiatives and vice-versa help ensure that aesthetic expressions and functional solutions are never mutually exclusive. And while we recognize the benefits of this interdisciplinary collaboration in all areas of product development, it’s especially vital for pioneering successful sustainable design.

  • 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.

  • Part 2: The genesis of Sustainable Minds - Things happen in threes

    by Terry Swack on August 1, 2008

    Inês explains her thesis work to Terry during their first meeting

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

    Early in 2007, I started a company called Clean Culture,  a customer experience research and strategy consultancy focused on cleantech and sustainable business trends and their impact on culture, the economy and the planet.

    In March of that year, as Ines states in her blog, my great friend Lauralee introduced us. You know the expression ‘things happen in threes’?  This is a classic example. In the months prior to our meeting, two things had happened that, for me, proved to be seminal:

  • The Promise of the Future

    by Ken Hall on August 1, 2008

    When I was 19 years old, I was feet away from my best friend as he took a chance and lost his life to a whirlpool in a western mountain stream of ice-melt. The choices he made that day cost him his life. Today, we stand at a threshold as a young adolescent species, clever enough to rule the world, and foolish enough to throw it all away. I believe truth is found in paradox, and that our choices about sustainability require us to embrace paradox.

  • A bold new standard in eco-design for electronic products

    by Richard Kubin on August 1, 2008

    One of the general criticisms about standards is that they are almost always out  of date - those leading technical innovation are usually guessing where things are going and hoping they make the right bet. 

    Given the increasing awareness and focus on sustainability and on minimizing the overall environmental impact of products across their entire life cycle, is there a useful role for standards?

    The folks involved with the creation of the International Electrotechnical Commission's draft standard for Environmentally Conscious Design (ECD) for
    Electrical and Electronic Products and Systems (IEC 62430) would answer, "absolutely!"

    The new standard, which was released in draft form for final review March 21st (the review period ends September 5th) was initiated by the delegation from Japan, but developed with the participation of technical experts from 26 additional  countries.

    In a nutshell, the standard promotes "life cycle thinking" (LCT), which is defined as the "consideration of all relevant environmental aspects during the entire life cycle of products and systems." The key elements of LCT are:

  • Sometimes, getting greener means being less brown

    by David Laituri on August 1, 2008

    I was sitting in a humid conference room at our assembler’s factory in Dong Guan, China wrapping up one of the hundreds of loose ends that seem to puddle at the final pre-production stages of a product, when it hit me – this is my product, my company, I get to decide…