|First Published, April – May 2012, Craft Revival Trust|
|Sustainability is a dynamic concept born out of the environmental debate of the last quarter of a century. The Rio Summit emphasized economic growth and poverty alleviation for sustainable development. Developing a sustainable product design is an important step towards achieving sustainability. It requires that products, goods and services are designed to comply with the principles of sustainability.
Product design: Life cycle assessment
This means that designers need to consider how the product interacts with the environment in material production, manufacture, transportation and packaging, use and disposal. McDonough and Braungart states that the designers should consider the life of the product’s materials beyond the first product lifecycle in order to ensure that they can serve a useful purpose indefinitely, rather than being down cycled and eventually disposed off. When re-designing an existing product, designers might research these interactions based on the existing products, or if designing new products they might consider using methods such as Lifecycle Brainstorming or product storytelling method, whereby the design team develop the life story of a unit of the product to help identify the possible impacts and events that may occur. This can be useful because the reality of many products lives does not follow the exact route planned during the design phase, and so alternative eventualities should be considered.
The next step is to establish exactly what the impacts of the product are, how big they are and how are they are caused by. By doing so, the designers can identify where they require the need for improvement and will be able to focus their efforts effectively. Full life cycle assessment can be extremely time consuming and complicated, and so is often not practical in the high speed product design and development process. However, a number of other systems exist that allow products and designs to be assessed and compared quickly and easily.
Sustainability: dimensions and key issues
Sustainability is a wide-ranging term. In order to design products effectively, it should be environmentally, socially and financially sustainable. The product shouldn’t falter in any of the mentioned areas as any such disadvantage can lead to various issues. The dimensions and key issues of sustainability are –
Environmental Sustainability –
Major environmental issue are-
Economic Sustainability –
An economically sustainable system should have the following characteristics:
Major economic issues are-
Social Sustainability –
Major social issues are-
A sustainable designed product should be able to promote economic, environment and social sustainability.
An earthen pot has been chosen as the logo for the Ecomark scheme in India. The familiar earthen pot uses a renewable resource like earth, does not produce hazardous waste and consumes little energy in making. Its solid and graceful form represents both strength and fragility, which also characterises the eco-system. It is to be placed on all products which don’t harm the environment form it birth to grave and its rebirth.
|Marketing: Green labels-
If designers succeed in reducing the environmental damage caused by their products, then they must ensure that their achievements are effectively communicated to customers. Green labels acts as an identification mark for the consumers as they are able to identify the green products from the rest. It instils confidence in the maker and consumers alike. In India, the practice of green labelling has started getting encouragement but in Europe it is an established norm. The green label available are-
|The official award for non-food products sold within the EU, it indicates that efforts have been made to minimise the products impact on the environment. Products must meet all criteria set out by EU.|
|It is a legal requirement within the EU that many electrical products indicate their efficiency at point of sale in a form similar to that shown here. The label rates products efficiency from A-G (A being the most efficient) and also displays some more detailed performance data. The label applies to:
Refrigerators, Freezers and Fridge-Freezers, Washing Machines, Electric Tumble Dryers, Lamps, Electric Ovens, Air Conditioners etc. In India we have a similar rating system from Bureau of Energy Efficiency.
|It indicates that a product is one of the most efficient of its kind on the market. It can be applied not only to energy consuming products, but also to energy saving products such as building insulation and draught proofing products.|
|The Energy Star symbol indicates that the stand-by energy consumption of the product is below an agreed level. Voluntary label applicable in Europe and USA.|
|Mobius Loop, Widely used symbol to indicate that a product can be recycled or that it is produced from recycled materials. Where a product is recyclable, the loop is accompanied by an indication of the material type. For polymers this is usually done with the use of a polymer identification code. For products made of recycled material, the loop is usually accompanied by a percentage. Materials and percentages can be displayed either inside or adjacent to the loop.|
|Therefore, it can be summarised that to design a sustainable design it is imperative that the product is assessed for its environmental, social, and economics impacts. A well designed product should also be assessed for its impact once the life is over. Such a scenario includes – reusing and recycling. Once such a product is manufactured it is important that it is marketed in a similar spirit using green labels. Such green products will not only reduce carbon footprint but will also provide new and alternate employment opportunities to people, who were earlier engaged non -sustainable development.