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Checklist: designing sustainable products

Know and implement processes for environmentally conscious product design

On this page

  • Identifying key outcomes
  • Producing sustainable prototypes
  • Choosing low impact materials
  • Tips on reducing inefficiencies in manufacturing, packaging and transportation

According to the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), between 70 to 80 percent 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 you make with your client will 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 to reduce the amount of prototyping required if design changes are made.
  • Prototyping until you're happy with the design is a better approach than having to mass produce it more than once because the design has 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.

Tips to reduce inefficiencies in manufacturing, packaging and transportation

  • Select manufacturers who have environmental management certification systems in place.
  • Ask suppliers to provide you with environmental information and look for those that have a low environmental impact.
  • Try to ‘close the loop’ by reusing waste materials and minimising virgin material inputs.
  • Choose recycled materials for packaging products that can in turn be recycled.
  • Flat pack your products to reduce cargo space and the cost of transporting them, and talk to sustainable packaging designers about new packaging options.
  • Think about ways to reduce the amount of packaging and still protect the product.