Dematerialization

Design for Efficiency 209

Less really is More 211

Vampire Power 222

207

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nything developers can do to reduce the amount of materials and energy in a solution will reduce—sometimes dramatically—the impact it has on resources and the environment. Systematic reduction of toxic materials, careful engineering to reduce product size and weight, and reduction of waste and energy in the manufacturing process (where 80-90 percent of a product’s impact often occurs) can make a tremendous improve­ment in a solution’s sustainability. These gains compound as well. For example, a lighter prod­uct improves fuel efficiency and reduces waste exhaust everywhere it travels (if it’s shipped, trucked, or driven). Some solutions actually dematerialize other products (see the “iPhone” sidebar). What’s helpful about this approach is that, most of the time, reducing the materi­als and energy required to make and maintain products and services often reduces their costs. Therefore, this design technique directly ben­efits businesses and the environment, which makes for an easy sell to even the most narrow­minded businesspeople.

Design for Efficiency

Perhaps the most important strategy for im­proving sustainability is to increase the ef­ficiency of material and energy use through all parts of a product’s life cycle. With that in mind, eco-efficiency proposes that we address and invent new processes, arrangements, and implementations in order to reduce the energy and material needs of manufacturing, use, re­cycling, and disposal of products and services. The Natural Capitalism framework claims that with current, proven technology, we can in­crease the efficiency of products, services, and other solutions by 30-50 percent. That figure alone would account for a tremendous im­provement in our quality of life, as well as our impact on the environment.

While this amount of efficiency would be costly to install, it would also save significant costs in fuel and other resources while provid­ing a major source of opportunity for jobs and businesses. Eco-efficiency is also an important and necessary step on the path toward more sustainable solutions, such as eco-effectiveness (see below).

Here are some examples currently available for solving efficiency issues:

• Putting hybrid engines and drivetrains in transportation of all types

• Replacing both incandescent and fluores­cent bulbs with LED lighting

• Using lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber, for weight-critical uses like airplanes

• Encouraging rental, leasing, and borrowing programs to use fewer products more effi­ciently

• Transforming products into services

• Optimizing the use of material, energy, and water resources [39]

• Recycling all material back into manufac­turing