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

Part 3: The genesis of Sustainable Minds - How we met Philip White and Okala

By Terry Swack on September 1, 2008

Philip and Terry in front of Philip’s favorite type of cactus – saguaro

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

Part 2: The genesis of Sustainable Minds – Things happen in threes | Terry Swack

At the end of Part 2, Ines and I were conducting a round of research that validated there was a real need for greater awareness, education and new design and engineering software tools for sustainable product design. During this research, enough people mentioned Okala that we decided to take a closer look. The learning surrogate LCA was done as research, but Okala was out there in practice. Based on what we learned, we updated our prototype to include concepts from both approaches. This combination really struck a chord with the product teams we met with subsequently.

We decided to give Philip a call to find out more about Okala – who was using it? How was it being used? What were people doing with the results? Were there plans for the future?

On this first call with Philip, we learned that:

  • Philip, Steve Belletire and Louise St. Pierre had been working on the methodology and curriculum for a number of years — the first edition having been published in 2003!
  • Many colleges and universities around the world were using it in their design and engineering curriculum.
  • Philip and Steve had been giving workshops and seminars in companies and professional design settings to seed the practice.
  • The Okala Impact Factor single scores are derived from data from 10 individual environmental and human health impact categories. Providing different views of the data could offer product design teams even more insight into which design decisions create which types of impacts — and software was the way to enable this.

Our goals were clearly the same — to bring sustainable product design to mainstream product design — and they had made a terrific start. What was now required was the ability to scale and to get the information and tools into the hands of product teams in an accessible, empowering, and credible way. We all thought the synergies were there and decided to move forward together.

So that’s what we’re doing here at Sustainable Minds, beginning with our Industry Blog and Ask the Okala Experts sections. Sign up for our company updates to stay current with our progress!

Image credit: Naotake Kakishita