Choose Components Carefully

Along with increasing the durability of prod­ucts by choosing higher-quality materials, fas­teners, and manufacturing processes that last longer, developers can also identify and elimi­nate defects and weaknesses that would other­wise prevent a product from working for a long time. Extensive testing can identify some of these, but others can only be witnessed while in use by customers (who often store, use, and maintain products much differently than their manufacturers intended). Close relationships with customers can help track product defects and failures that might appear on other models. (Note that the airline industry does this me­ticulously.) Also, extended testing of products can generate important data on product dura-

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• Specify sustainably-grown materials when using paper, cloth, wood, or other organic materials.

• Choose materials based on recyclability, production waste, toxicity, weight, and re­usability over renewability.

• Source materials, where possible, with the highest recycled and post-consumer recy­cled content. [97]


• Calculate costs and impacts over the prod­uct or service’s entire life cycle in order to realize the greatest impacts and benefits.

• Make claims that are transparent and veri­fiable. If you aren’t going to “show your work” by making available calculations or details, don’t bother making the claim.

• Use independent certification or ratings services where you can afford to do so.

• Become knowledgeable of government and third-party standards ...



• Start with manufacturing. The more impact you can make in the production of products and services, the lower its impact on the environment may be. [94]

• Reduce the overall material content and increase the percentage of recycled material in products.

• Reduce product and service energy con­sumption (of all types).

• Reduce the energy consumption in the manufacturing, recycling, transporting, and disposal phases as well.

• Reduce product and service water con­sumption.

• Eliminate toxic materials from product and service production and use.

• If toxic materials are unavoidable, make these easy to remove and separate them for recycling.

• Design more durable solutions that stay ef­fective longer. [95]

• Eliminate unused or unnecessary product features.

• Design produc...


Detailed Checklist


• Learn about sustainability, take training courses, read books, attend conferences, and get certified if it will help (such as LEED certification if you’re an architect).

• Get into the conversation about the sustain­ability in your area (or nationally). You need the community as much as it needs your participation and perspective. [92]

• Start talking about what you’re doing, but keep it understated for now. Consider a personal or corporate blog or RSS feed that your friends, families, co-workers, and cli­ents can use to keep abreast of sustainability developments.

• Get sustainability principles into the mis­sion, vision, and values of your organiza­tion. This may take some time, so get the conversation started now.

• Start measuring social and environmen­tal...


Super Summary and Checklists

Basic Checklist 489

Detailed Checklist 490


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here’s a lot to keep in mind when de­veloping new products and services sustainably. In the beginning, it’s dif­ficult to consider every strategy or principle or balance every aspect of impact. So, as you gain more and more experience designing sustain­ably, here are two sets of checklists to use. The first is very reduced but helpful since it encom­passes the most important concepts to con­sider. The second is more detailed and can be used further along in the development process.

Basic Checklist

• Create More (value, meaning, and perfor­mance) with Less (materials, energy, and virgin materials).

• Focus o...



s stated in the introduction, design is both part of the problem and part of the solution to sustainability agendas. The history of design is inconsistent in terms of impacts, both positive and negative, along social, environmental, and financial criteria. Designers and developers have created amaz­ing and wonderful things for the world and for people. Unfortunately, we’ve also created some solutions that have hurt people and the envi­ronment in a myriad of ways. However, this doesn’t have to be the future of design.

We don’t get to create meaning or change society very often, and we need to set realistic expecta­tions about how long change takes and what part we can play in it. We’re neither the only cultural actors nor the most influential...






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What to Say (and Not)

Because not all customers are socially and en­vironmentally engaged—at least as their pri­mary motivators (see the market segmentations above)—messaging around these values isn’t always the most effective approach. It depends deeply on the exact customers you’re speaking

with, but in general, messaging around claims, benefits, and insights regarding efficiency, health, and safety are more successful proposi­tions. It’s not that customers value these bene­fits more than social and environmental benefits (although the majority do), but that these issues appeal to a wider group of customers that spans both those who are sustainability-engaged and those who aren’t.

If a marketing strategy (with associated and supporting messages) emphasizes efficiency or health benefits in orde...


What Is Marketing?

Much to the delight of marketers that turn their attention to the top segments of all of the market segmentation studies listed earlier, the groups who respond most to sustainability also typically represent the most affluent and educated consumers—the ones marketers of all kinds treasure the most. These groups also represent the consumers who are most recep­tive to products, services, and events with im­proved social and environmental performance, so designers and developers should seek to understand these customers well—from social and behavioral perspectives, not merely demo­graphic perspectives.

This requires us to explore market research techniques more deeply and to supplement them with our own user – or design-research techniques...


Cultural Creatives


24% Cultural Creatives[84] 47% Moderns

29% Traditionals

One of the most important aspects of this study, which is shared by several others, is that socially – and environmentally-driven buy­ing doesn’t follow traditional demographic segments. People who buy according to their values come from all age, gender, income, and social groups. They aren’t just students or liberals or new agers or baby boomers. They may have diametrically opposed religious and political affiliations, in fact. What unite them are interests in comfort, health, personal

growth, innovation, and balance, whether it applies to their homes, food, transportation, communities, or relationships.

These interests represent important lessons that anyone speaking to these groups should understand...