6 questions to ask about your product and evaluate it’s sustainability
Nowadays, since the humanity realised how the industry is damaging the environment all businesses should look for ways to reduce the CO2 footprint and make the production more eco-friendly. The goal to design a sustainable product should come from a client. However, this request is not always included in the brief. This does not mean that the designer should close his eyes and focus only to the brief itself.
Green design: how to develop sustainable products
Here we give you 6 questions and strategies to make your products more sustainable.
1) the look of the new product is based on current aesthetic trends?
Trends come and go, after few seasons a very fashionable product will suddenly look old and not so attractive – that will encourage the consumer to throw it away and replace it with the new one. Aesthetic appeal should NOT be the reason to dispose a product. Try to apply neutral, well balanced and sober design and before confirming the design try to imagine if it will still be attractive after 15 years.
A) May be fashionable during particular period, but the looks becomes outdated quickly. For some people this design may seem childish or cheap. People tend to update the interior design every 10/15 years, so in the new kitchen interior design this may seem completely not matching.
B) This design is neutral and could be pleasurable to a person who lived in 1900, in 1980 and 2050, which means that this product could be shared through generations. It can fit ANY kitchen interior as well.
2) Can your product be recycled?
The possibilities of recycling for a product depends on it’s materials and the connection between them. Many materials could be recycled but to do so, they must be easily separated one from another. This is a crucial issue for disposable products, like a toothbrush.
A) This toothbrush has 2 non organic materials PLASTIC and RUBBER attached to each other in permanent way. Each of them could be recycled if they were separated but having them co-injected makes recycling impossible. It will take 400 for this type of product to decompose releasing toxic parts to the air and soil. This is not a sustainable product.
B) Bamboo toothbrush can be easily recyclable following the instructions indicated on the packaging. Take a moment to notice how their packaging recyclability matches toothbrushes: plastic toothbrush is packaged in plastic and paper that are together are not recyclable, while paper box alone is easily recyclable. Small difference for a user – huge impact for the environment.
3) Is your product easy to maintain?
If the maintenance of the product is easy – the product will not loose its primary quality and will look as new for longer. The option to clean the product opens an important strategy of sustainability – sharing and reusing by another consumer. It greatly extends the lifespan of the product saving so many resources that would be used to produce a new product.
There are cases when a perfectly functional product get stained and if dirt removal is too difficult – the consumer throws the product away. If a product has textile parts – they should have an option to be removed and washed properly.
Some time ago a new rubberised plastic material got popular – soft touch. Although it looks and feels amazing at the beginning, after few years it starts to change it’s structure, looses consistence and gets sticky. The skin of the completely functional product gets ruined and thus the product is being disposed. And this is only because the material was not designed to be durable – that is a big mistake. It is even better if the producer company offers repairing services or sells spare parts.
4) Did you give priority to ergonomics and UX rather that aesthetics during design process?
When a consumer chooses a product, aesthetics is one factor that can be evaluated immediately – like it / don’t like it. Thats why producers give so much importance to it. Basically, there are times when a designer tries so hard to make the product look nice and sell more that ergonomics or UX gets sacrificed. No matter how beautiful the product is, after a while the user will get tired of putting more effort in using it, that eventually will be tempted to change it.
Instead if the consumer chooses a more simple and neutral design but with great performance and ergonomy – he will use it forever.
This mouse was released with the first iMac. It was beautiful and dubbed the “hockey puck” mouse by the press. Soon, reports of uncomfortable use and hand cramps flooded in. The design was recognized as a bust and they replaced it with the more traditional-style Apple Pro Mouse.
5) Is your product durable?
A designer must always define User task analysis and explore each step that the user will make while using the product. In order to make it durable, the designer should identify the moments where there is more possibility to damage the product and try to reduce it. The right choice of materials is crucial element in this issue.
A cheap version of this dispenser would have a plastic parts covered with crome coating (that is generally not recyclable) and ruined easily. A simple bump can crack the material and make some pieces to come off, making it look ruined. If you can’t afford using real metals in your design – you should not fake it. A product with “naked” materials can look good too.
6) Did you reduce the amount of different materials?
While designing the designer has to accomplish many different requests. At first glance you may thin that all features requires different materials but there are smart ways to connect them in order to reduce material number (facilitate recycling) and have less steps in manufacturing process.
A designer has to add grip feature to a hair-dryer handle.
NON sustainable way – He can choose to add rubber
Sustainable way – He can create grip pattern using the same plastic material.
A designer has to design a measurement scale on a baby bottle.
NON sustainable way – He can choose serygraphy technique (print)
Sustainable way – Have numbers embossed directly on the plastic
Sustainable design matters and teamwork is crucial
These are few simple questions that can give immediate results regarding product sustainability evaluation. However, this does not guarantee at all that the product is sustainable. In order to create a truly sustainable product, the effort must come from all professionals engaged in the project: project manager, designer, engineer, manufacturer and all others. The goal to create a sustainable product must be taken seriously and one of the most important things to do in order to achieve it is to perform and LCA test. Only by working in team a truly significant result can be achieved.