In 2009, the United States generated 486 billion pounds of solid waste. What happened to last years “hot” cell phone? Or that plastic water bottle from lunch today? Or the office chair you sat in before the renovation? More likely than not, it was thrown away. But “away” is not some far, far mythical place–it’s a landfill.
Design has long been a tool for developing new products that drive consumption and boost the bottom line–products that will eventually become trash. But recently, companies have begun to recognize design as a tool for solving issues associated with the end of a product’s lifecycle.
Design can make a product’s end-life more sustainable in several ways. The first is to develop products that last longer. Durable products are replaced less frequently and can be refurbished–giving them a second life and postponing their trip to the landfill.
Another approach is to design for disassembly. Products that are easy to take apart are easier to sort into smaller pieces, which encourages a larger percentage of the product to be recycled.
We have developed a set of Design for the Environment protocols that try to accomplish both of these goals. The degree of our success varies, but the lifecycle of our products, from beginning to end, is always on our minds.
Check out Taking It Back, a great article about companies working toward better sustainable goals.