The Ecocraze, a Case Study: Negotiating a Greener Product Design Landscape

By Simon Lockrey.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Changes in consumer demand for ‘green’ or ‘eco’ products is becoming increasingly apparent, as global campaigns such as in regard to climate change gain traction, due to western and, increasingly the developing world’s appetite for goods and services. The machine that created such concerns in the pioneering days of capitalism has turned to marketing and spin to cash in on this “ecocraze”. Manzini has proposed that the ecological crisis we face is based on a crisis of the commons, a lack of contemplative time, and a proliferation of remedial goods (Manzini 2006). Seemingly, purchasing patterns are the same as the unsustainable buying behaviors that started the environmental crisis dominating world news. There lies the interplay between designing for consumers, and designing to the core principles of sustainability, where avoiding, reducing, reusing, recycling and regenerating are somewhat detached from a purely consumer driven market. Whether products are environmentally preferable or not is another story, but generally this could be verified with life cycle assessment (LCA), which unfortunately is often above and beyond the means of the designer. This paper explores case studies of contemporary design that do make large shifts to lower environmental impact, by analyzing them from an LCA perspective. The streamlined models were completed in the Simapro (TM) LCA software package, with data taken from current life cycle inventories, past studies and primary sources, and looks at the shifts that the products may have realized, which could have been verified at the design stage rather than retrospectively. The quantitative results are compared to a standard product default or orientation. The paper explores whether the products allow users to enact behaviors or decisions needed if environmental impacts are to be reined in.

Keywords: Life Cycle Assessment, LCA, Whole Systems Design, Design for Sustainability, Design for Environment

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.41-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.953MB).

Simon Lockrey

Research Follow, Centre for Design, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Simon is a Research Fellow in the Sustainable Products and Packaging team at the Centre for Design at RMIT. His work at the Centre primarily focuses on bringing practical experience to sustainability projects. He aims to engage industry, manufacturers and wider community sectors through research and activities incorporating efficiency, LCA, embedded environmental product principles and effective sustainable design methodology. He has worked as a Product Design Engineer both in Australia and Europe for almost a decade. His work has crossed a large range of industries, including design consultancies, leading commercial interior furniture manufacturers, and multinational appliance companies. The products he has designed have been both ‘small run’ and ‘mass produced’, as his roles have covered all stages of the design process, more recent projects he has worked on include the Dyson DC31 handheld vacuum, and the Dyson dual chamber floor tool. He continues in a design role as director of Froth Design.

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