Designing for Circular use of material and energy resources
Around 80% of the environmental impact of a product is linked to its design. Designing for circularity implies a holistic approach considering all stages involved in the lifecycle of a product
Designing aiming to the most suitable lifecycle strategy
Applying the right technology
The objective is to offer functional solutions to your end-users, and not necessarily providing Hi-tech devices. Very often designers mistake Hi-Tech with HQ, when they are not implicitly related.
Integrating electronics only when they are worth
Electronic equipment and devices contain materials that are expensive, hazardous, scarce, difficult to recover, or produce an environmental impact. This happens along its entire lifecycle, but especially when disposed of as WEEE since its management is usually complex, inefficient, and expensive. Electronics are a valuable alternative when more sustainable solutions do not attain the expected functional results.
Choosing sustainable materials or innocuous ones when possible
About all materials can be considered from a CE point of view. Let's not forget the objective is to reduce waste and emissions while producing value. Plastics, metals, ceramics, organic, biodegradable... each material has characteristics that could be convenient with the right lifecycle strategy. Without this latter, they all can be dangerous for the environment, even biodegradable ones!
Adding only meaningful features to products
More features does not always lead to more value. However, it does have economic and environmental implications.
Single use is mostly a decision
End-users and consumers will perform according to the characteristics and the information they are given of a product. A plastic spoon can be used several times, but becomes single-use item if sold as such. Likewise, other products could have a longer lifespan with adequate design and marketing. The lifecycle strategy is vital!
Eco-efficiency is the ultimate goal
Eco-efficiency means both Economically and Ecologically efficient. It is possible rendering economic benefits to an ecodesign project sponsors through improved end-user's perception of their products and, at the same time, dealing with the entire lifecycle of a product from an ecological perspective. Actually, this latter aspect will enhance the former!
Designing for Linear use of materials and energy
Materials on Earth are mostly limited and expensive. Besides, they can cause a huge environmental impact when badly managed at their end of life. Besides, all stages from raw material extraction, through manufacturing, distribution, transport, storage, and use, imply enormous amounts of energy and other material resources which, likewise, are liable to cause environmental damage.
Abuse of electronic equipment
Nowadays, it seems like every product must have a chip or some kind of electronics integrated to work and, the more, the better. But the truth is that most of the times, the same functionalities can be offered with lesser use of these, or even without them. They have an impact in the environment and this has to be compared with the value they add to the product.
Banning materials for no reason
Materials are not bad per se. They harm the environment depending on how we manage them. A plastic bag does not pollute the oceans if it is returned for recycling. We must have in mind that there are millions of different materials and substances used, each of which has their properties that can potentially add value to a product. A Circular Economy aims to benefiting from them trough an endless reintegration of such materials in the value chain, minimising raw material and waste streams.
It's true that we shall find more ecofriendly alternatives to most of them. But we can integrate them gradually in the value chain as needed. Banning materials only lead to a drastic alteration of the production chain, the functionality of products, and the generation of unmanageable amount of waste that we should incinerate, hide or...actually, what do we do with it?
Considering the environmental performance at the end of the design process
Once a product has been conceived, it's very hard to modify it. A designer can't expect to generate an ecofriendly design at the end of the process . The environmental consequences shall be evaluated during all design stages.
Misconception of Eco and Bio products
These terms have a great marketing impact and, often, they are used just for commercial purposes, regardless the actual environmental impact they generate. Some sell "ecofriendly" products of bio-products based on the fact that, ideally, they have a positive impact, but there is no LCA or other through analysis supporting it.
On the other hand, other products could be sold as such but their sponsors are not aware.
Following trends and not thorough analysis
Things are not environmentally friendly only because trends or fashion say so. For example, electric vehicles depend on the electricity source, and even their batteries produce great impact during production and are difficult to recycle.
Designing for reduced end-of-life impact disregarding the whole lifecycle
Why should things have an end? Why not designing for recycling? or repairing? or upcycling? or remanufacturing? or reusing? There are tens of alternatives. However they must be tackled from a holistic perspective via lifecycle analysis, to be integrated into the ecodesign process.