Green Evolution: Designing Environmentally Friendly Products
The majority of the millennial generation says that they were willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings. And when the generation makes up a total of $600 billion of spending/purchasing in the United States alone, with that number only expected to climb, there’s no time than now to start thinking about how to be more eco-friendly as product design developers.
Poor packaging, toxic materials, disposable products, the list goes on of the problems brands and product design developers are facing in 2018. However, we’re seeing more and more companies combat these issues with smart and innovative products like the eco-friendly Desert Shell we featured on our blog for example or the company designing office chairs out of recycled plastic. So how can you start putting the environment at the forefront as product design developers?
Designing for the environment as product design developers
Environmental sustainability requires you to take a bigger look at the entire process of your product design. Designers need to look at the factors that go beyond the financial and practical considerations for their product design, paying attention to each step both before and after the product production. Such as: the sourcing and processing of the materials, and what happens to the product once it’s reached the end of its life.
The DfE approach
The Design for the Environment approach (DfE) is an approach that product design developers are starting to put into practice to reduce the negative environmental impacts of design. This approach is based off four concepts that cover the lifecycle of the product design.
1) Design for environmental processing and manufacturing
Consider how the raw materials that go into making all aspects of your product. Think about how they are extracted, processed and manufactured. How are they mined/grown/drilled? Does the answer constitute a large part of the products environmental footprint? Are the materials used recyclable or reusable? Are their materials available that are that you can use instead? Also think about how those materials were processed. Something that was once environmentally friendly can easily cause harm to the environment after its been processed.
2) Design for environmental packaging
Packaging of a product is one of the biggest culprits of harming the environment. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped in our oceans each year. Which is seriously jeopardizing our futures, our children’s future, and the future of the wildlife that calls the ocean their home. Products are likely almost always going to require packaging, but product design developers need to be responsible and ensure that the packaging used is not just the most convenient or cheapest, but the most environmentally friendly option. Using reusable or recyclable shipping and packaging products and eliminating any unnecessary packaging materials will make a huge impact!
3) Design for disposal or reuse
Everything has a lifespan and it’s important to not just think about when the product will be used, but also what will happen to it when it reaches the end of its life cycle. This is one of the most important stages because oftentimes this is where your product ends up in the trash, which ends up in our landfills, and so on. An eco-friendly designer will think about the reuse, recycle or reclamation of the product or materials.
4) Design for energy efficiency
This especially comes into play for electronic devices. The goal for this is to reduce the overall energy consumed by the product over the course of its life. Think energy efficient light bulbs for example of this in action.
Being an eco-friendly designer requires you to rethink what you may have been taught to do and think. However, like anything, designing eco-friendly products will come naturally with practice. Plus, don’t you want to create a world that is safe, and long-living for future generations?
Article Author: MAKO Design + Invent
MAKO Design + Invent is a full-service consumer product development firm servicing both high-growth corporate manufacturers and invention startups. With a 25-person team across 3 offices (Austin, England, Toronto), MAKO has complete in-house industrial design, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering design and prototyping services. To assist our start-up inventor clients, we also have a subsidiary branch called Mako Invent that, in addition to above, helps start-ups with patenting, strategy, marketing, and sales/distribution for all consumer product categories. For our corporate clients, MAKO Design develops world-class consumer electronics designs through our industrial, mechanical, and electrical design teams.
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