Do you want to design eco-friendly products but do not know how to get started?
This article shows you an easy to use brainstorming exercise to jumpstart your project.
In 2015 the United Nations approved 17 sustainable development goals to be reached by 2030. They are are a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a “blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all” (United Nations, 2015). One of the goals, number 12, is to enhance responsible production and consumption:
“Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.”(United Nations, 2015).
This target focuses on environmentally friendly production methods, reducing the amount of waste, adopting sustainable business practices, and publishing sustainability reports.
Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations Sustainable Development, 2015).
So how can we achieve this goal?
There exist three main strategies for converting existing business practices to more sustainable forms:
1. Efficiency Strategy
2. Consistency (Circular economy)
3. Sufficiency Strategy
Let us have a short look at the strategies:
1. Efficiency Strategy
Less resource- and energy consumption through improved
The efficiency strategy focuses on a significant increase in resource- and energy efficiency through the development of new technologies, production methods, and process optimizations.
An example of that strategy is energy efficiency in fridges. By using new technologies, the energy consumption of a single refrigerator is much less now than some years ago.
But there exists something called rebound effect that can slow down the gains of that strategy. For the fridge example, the rebound effect is that now more people are buying fridges worldwide as some years ago, so despite the increased energy efficiency of the single fridge, the overall energy consumption of refrigerators is growing.
2. Consistency Strategy (Circular economy)
Resources flow circularly in closed loops; energy is gained by renewable resources
On the contrary, the consistency strategy does not aim to reduce resource- or energy use. Instead of this, the strategy proposes a circular flow of resources where materials are kept in closed loops. The concept of waste does not exist; waste is seen as resources. All needed energy should come from renewable resources like wind, sun, or water.
One great example of using this strategy is the company Circos who has introduced a subscription model for baby clothing and maternity wear where members pay a monthly fee to access a range of high-quality clothing from different brands, delivered to their door. The clothes are returned when outgrown, and either cleaned and reused. Worn-out garments are recycled into something new. Because of that, the environmental impact and resource use are reduced because usually in the first two years of life, a child needs around 280 pieces of clothing that mostly is worn only for two or three months. These clothes are often ending up in landfills, losing their value, and creating environmental impacts. By using a circular model, fashion businesses are incited to make higher quality, more durable clothing, also considering that more revenue can be made through multiple reuse cycles.
Some difficulties by implementing this strategy can be the material choices for long-lasting use, as well as the collecting of the materials after the use phases. For example, consumers who do not use the offered take-back strategies can lead again to thrown away resources.
3. Sufficiency Strategy “Wellbeing instead of well having”
Transforming the way people access goods and services by matching people who need these items with those willing to provide them.
The focus of the sufficiency strategy is on well-being instead of having a lot of possessions. So the individual renunciate of a lot of goods and consumption. Wellbeing is defined here by qualitative goals like community, solidarity, individual self-fulfillment, and a healthy natural environment. This strategy can transform the way people access goods and services by matching people who need these items with those willing to provide them.
A popular example is the sharing of power tools like a drilling machine in the neighborhood, including having a little sign at the letterbox showing the neighbors who have which tool available for sharing. In that way, the resources for tools are reduced, and the use of the resources expanded.
The main difficulty for implementing the sufficiency strategy is that it is based on individual consumer decisions, and not all people are willing to reduce their amount of possessions voluntarily.
Even though each strategy has its challenges by implementing it to reality, they are excellent guides to change and rethink the way we create products and businesses. And by combining them, even further sustainable solutions can be found. Furthermore, they can be used as an excellent tool for the design process and lead to new insights and sustainable solutions.
So now let`s take action by starting your eco-design activity>
Part 2> Try the Eco-innovation strategy brainstorming>
About the Sustainable Development Goals – United Nations Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.un.o/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
The kids & maternity clothing rental subscription. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://circos.co/
Circos, T. (2019, June 4). CIRCOS: Smart & Sustainable Kids Clothing Service. Retrieved from https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/circos-smart-sustainable-kids-clothing-service#/
Treacy, M. (2018, October 11). Samsung Leads Energy Efficiency Rankings for Refrigerators. Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/samsung-leads-energy-efficiency-rankings-refrigerators.html
Hofer, S. (2014, September 9). Share Economy: Werkzeug ausleihen über den eigenen Briefkasten – DER SPIEGEL – Wirtschaft. Retrieved from https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/service/share-economy-werkzeug-ausleihen-ueber-den-eigenen-briefkasten-a-988403.html
Energy efficiency: Treacy, M. https://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/samsung-leads-energy-efficiency-rankings-refrigerators.html
American Public Power Association@unsplash
Solar panels kilian @unsplash
Sustainable development goals: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
Progress tracker of implementing the goals: https://sdg-tracker.org/about