Thursday, November 4, 2010

Material Ecology

Sustainability in the context of product design should address the question of how environmental concerns are embedded in design and innovation. Three points are important:

  1. Design and product innovation for environmental sustainability should be framed as a materials problem.
  2. How much material that is utilized is less important that what material is used.
  3. Don't try to eliminate environmental impacts all at once. Try to get a little better each time you design any product.

Bary Commoner in 1971 come up with the "Four Laws of Ecology." You can think about these four laws and put them into the context of eco-industrial principals or industrial ecology. The four laws are as follows:

  1. Everything is connected to everything else. Industry is an interrelated system of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal.
  2. Everything must go somewhere. Industrial production must be subject to "life-cycle analysis" so as to identify materials pathways.
  3. Nature knows best. The natural world is a source of models of efficiency and of renewable energy and resources.
  4. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Finite resources must be returned, recycled, reclaimed, and/or reused in order to close materials cycles and minimize energy consumption.

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