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

Standards & regulations

What is fair play when comparing product LCAs?

By Joep Meijer on November 20, 2009

You’ve just developed your eco-champion product and have set out to know everything about it. You’ve performed a full-fledged lifecycle analysis (LCA) – with all the bells and whistles – and have some vital results: the methodology report that describes your product, and the interpretation report, which explains the results.

You are all excited about the results. You feel the need to express yourself publicly. What better way to do that than in a comparison to other products? And the great game begins…

The Rules
Most games begin with the creation of rules. The ‘game’ of marketing sustainability is no different.

Is it fair to compare your sustainable product to someone else’s and not invite their input? Not really. In fact, ISO standards require that you involve relevant stakeholders to foster a positive conversation about the approach and the interpretation. One way to do that is for you and all stakeholders to sit together and write up a methodology report.

Sustainable Minds release 1.0 is getting great reviews!

By Terry Swack on November 15, 2009

When you launch a new product, it’s not as though you don’t know what people will think. You’ve already taken a lot of time working with your customers to get it right.

At Sustainable Minds, we’ve spent the better part of three years making it our business to understand what product design teams need in order to help them create more environmentally sustainable products.

Nonetheless, we’ve been delighted at the positive results we’re hearing from all sorts of practitioners – from product designers to engineering teams (the un-staged photo of product designers trying out Sustainable Minds software above was taken at our Boston workshop on November 11). Now that we’ve launched R1.0, it’s great to hear that others think we got it right.

Take a look at this blog post by Kenneth Wong, a contributing editor for Desktop Engineering magazine. He attended a recent Sustainable Minds workshop in San Francisco.

Sustainable Minds release 1.0 is live!

By Terry Swack on October 28, 2009

It's been a long time in the works. We've been fortunate to develop our extensive and knowledgeable alpha and beta communities, and now very excited that the official release is out and available to everyone.

Re-nourish, re-launched

By Guest contributors on October 18, 2009

This post was submitted by guest contriburor Eric Benson, an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois. His research explores how design can be sustainable and consequently how to teach it.

After nearly two years of planning and research, Re-nourish.com has finally relaunched its new site, making it the graphic design industry's only comprehensive resource on sustainable graphic design theory and practice.

Sustainable purchasing - the indirect upstream bill

By Joep Meijer on September 13, 2009

When organizations want to improve their triple bottom line1 they usually start with the internal processes. It seems to fit the direct-responsibility focus that makes good managers most successful. Internal processes are within reach, and most easily grasped. Looking at it from a life cycle perspective, the indirect responsibility usually comes later, if at all. However, for some sustainable design solutions the critical area lies in the indirect upstream responsibility.

Indirect responsibility For a lot of products, a major source of environmental and social impact lies in the materials and energy that are purchased. Think about a product made of steel. A whole industry exists whose sole purpose is to roll-form steel into shapes that we need. Their contribution to the overall impact of the steel industry is limited to directly-quantifiable losses (material efficiency) and logistics (transportation efficiency).

Red, blue and green all over: the politics of sustainability

By Jim Hall on September 4, 2009

I’m not one of those people who can say that I’ve always cared about sustainability. My turning point came about four years ago when I toured a landfill and personally saw the obscene amount of waste that society creates each and every day. Somehow I knew intuitively that what I witnessed wasn’t sustainable. I deduced that every paper cup, plastic container, broken glass, diaper and appliance that was being buried embodied natural resources – wasted resources – that were going right into the ground.

Now I find myself in a position in which I can make a difference. I’m fortunate enough to have been exposed to some of the leading minds in the field of sustainability. I’ve attended numerous conferences, seminars, classes, and educational events across the country in order to advance my knowledge and experience. I’ve made new friends and met new colleagues. And they’ve all made me feel like I’m part of the family.

But there’s one thing that continues to perplex me.

Autodesk's Rob Cohee previews Sustainable Minds LCA software

By Sustainable Minds on August 28, 2009

Rob Cohee, Industry Solution Evangelist from Autodesk's Manufacturing Industry Group, has been entertaining the design and manufacturing industry for quite some time with his fun, informative, and sometimes irreverent video demos. Now he takes on green product design using Sustainable Minds LCA software. (Even though Rob's met us, I don't remember wearing my 'steel-toed Birkenstocks' that day. How did he know?)

What's great about Rob's demo is that he shows off the usefulness and ease of use of Sustainable Minds. It's easy to learn and use, but most importantly, it provides meaningful and actionable results. Rob was very quickly able to model the environmental impacts of a wine bottle opener made from aluminum, and based on the results, explore alternative materials (plastic) and end of life methods to improve the environmental performance. Importing the BOM from Autodesk Inventor made the process even faster.

There is no such thing as a 'green' product.
All products use materials and energy, and create waste. There is no explicit definition of what 'green' means. Industry groups and third-party certifiers are working on definitions and standards, but, as yet, there is no standardized set of metrics to qualify a product as 'green.' The best we can do is make products greener than the ones we make today.

LEEDing the Economy to Sustainability

By Ken Hall on August 14, 2009

It has been fascinating to watch how quickly people respond to market forces.

When gas was over four dollars a gallon, metro transit systems experienced record ridership and hybrids were on lengthening backorder. Now with our global economy in a tailspin, front lawns are being replaced with vegetable gardens and backyards are filling with chicken coops. But I wonder…with a probable resumption of a (more slowly) growing economy, will we see a majority of people return to more comfortable but less sustainable behaviors?

Sustainable Minds Makes Life Cycle Analysis Easy

By Guest contributors on August 10, 2009

This post by guest contributor Steve Puma, a sustainability and personal technology consultant, first appeared on Triple Pundit. His personal blog, ThePumaBlog.com, deals with the intersection of sustainability, technology, innovation, and the future.

Paper or plastic? Diesel or hybrid? Extrude or blow-mold? Some of the most difficult problems in designing sustainable products involve making the right choices in materials, processes and transportation methods. However, choosing the options that will actually have a lower environmental impact is much more complex that one would think.

Deciding what metrics to use, where to draw the boundaries and how to compare wildly different materials is a highly involved and technical art known as Life-Cycle Analysis, or LCA. Sustainable Minds, a Boston-based software company, is making LCA much more accessible to designers with its new web-based software service. I was recently able to see the software in action at a seminar entitled, “Mastering Environmental Impact Assessment in the Design Process.”