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Checklist: Designing sustainable products

Know and implement processes for environmentally conscious product design.

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  • Make intelligent sustainable choices early in the design process to reduce your overall environmental impact

According to the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), 70-80 per cent of a product’s environmental impact is locked in during the design and development stage. By investigating the potential impacts of your product and then finding ways of reducing these issues through eco-design, you can create functional, aesthetically pleasing and successful designs without locking in unnecessary environmental impacts.

Identify key outcomes in the design and concept development process

Decisions made here impact upon the entire design process and the environmental impacts of the job. Ask the client to identify in the brief the most important to the least important items so you can accommodate these with eco-preferences. In responding to a brief provide the client with an eco-design option to consider.

Consider the impact of your product throughout its life cycle - can design solutions be developed to make it last longer, use less materials or be totally recyclable?

Produce prototypes sustainably

Develop prototypes that can be modified if design changes are made to reduce the amount of prototyping required. Prototyping until you are happy with the design is a better approach than having to mass produce it more than once because the design is changed slightly.

Selection of materials

Select low impact materials that will promote longevity in your product. Avoid coupling materials that cannot be recycled. Preference materials that can be recycled in the country the product is intended for. Use design techniques such as honeycombing to reduce the amount of material used.

Reduce inefficiencies in manufacturing, packaging and transportation

Select manufacturers who have environmental management certification systems in place. Try to ‘close the loop’ by reusing waste materials and minimising virgin material inputs. Ask suppliers to provide you with environmental information and look for those that have a low environmental impact.

Flat packing your products reduces cargo space and the cost of transporting them. Choose recycled materials for packaging products that can in turn be recycled. You can also talk to sustainable packaging designers about new packaging options. Think about ways to reduce the amount of packaging and still protect the product.