My one and only lecture this term that is running in juxtaposition with my final year project is Principles of Eco Design. The module consists of a combination of external lecturers, a live project and short projects to give us a well rounded understanding of sustainable design, but I’m not here to tell you what my course is all about, on the contrary, I’m here to tell you about things that really caught my eye. Things that I find particularly interesting and that, hopefully, you will too. This module’s first external lecturer was Jimmy Dorrell from Bloom and here is a little of what I learnt!
A figure that I’d never really thought about but seems almost too obvious is that “80% of environmental impacts, and therefore costs, are determined at the early stages of design” (Design Council 2009). It only seems sensible to at least consider sustainability in the first stages of design, however, what I didn’t know was this. When it comes to ‘design out waste’, areas such as a recycling, aren’t particularly desirable.
Well, that put a bit of a spin on my ideas of packaging and other products. Mental note to self: More UPcycling less REcycling. Jimmy then introduced this idea. Is it worth using a material that may have a larger impact on the environment when disposed of but has lower energy put into manufacturing than another material? He presented the idea of coffee cups: Foam, Paper or Ceramic? Although foam may be the least environmentally friendly material out of the three, it has the lowest footprint (0.20 MJ compared to paper’s 0.55 MJ and ceramic’s 14 MJ). A ceramic cup has to be used 1006 times before it has ‘earned back’ its energy usage compared to foam cups! With this in mind, if cups weren’t used very often, it would probably be best to make cups out of foam, thus reducing the carbon footprint. Then disposal comes into play and the full product life cycle has to be taken into consideration.
Luckily, consumers are becoming more green and their behaviours are changing towards such things. People are starting to care which, quite frankly, is quite a relief! The ethical market in the UK was worth £42 billion in 2011 compared to 1999’s £13.5 billion! In fact, 1 of 2 UK adults have purchased a product primarily for its ethical reasons compared to 1 of 4 in 1999. GO UK CONSUMERS! His lecture than petered off into data analysis and calculating carbon footprints including some great examples involving how reducing a company’s carbon footprint means huge cost reductions, saving quite a few pennies!