Eco-design includes measures such as the lightening of packaging, the elimination of inks and heavy metals and the use of recycled materials, resulting in savings for companies and a net environmental benefit.
Eco-design is not only a source of economic benefit for companies, but also leads the recycling chain and minimises consumption, emissions and waste. Ecodesign is the cornerstone of the circular economy; making packaging sustainable and more recyclable and introducing reclaimed materials is what closes the loop.
It is therefore essential to work on prevention before waste is generated. This is the only way to implement a sustainable development model based on the circular economy. In this way we will be more efficient and better protect our natural resources.
With ecodesign, a new model of design, production and consumption is possible.
Eco-design is one of the main tools for generating quality, environmentally friendly and socially responsible products and services. Ecodesign must take into account the fundamental elements that make a product marketable, from appearance or aesthetics to function, but unlike the outdated linear economy, it must also evaluate all stages of its production and distribution chain, in addition to the economic and commercial aspects.
But to speak of ecodesign as a complete product development model, we must involve other concepts that take into account its environmental and social repercussions.
A standardised concept
Ecodesign concepts were established internationally in 2002 with the publication of the ISO/TR 14062 standard. This standard specifies that ecodesign aims to “integrate environmental aspects into product design and development”.
In 2009, the European Union also defined the concept in a dedicated directive: “the integration of environmental aspects into product design with the aim of improving the environmental performance of a product throughout its life cycle“.
But what makes a design environmentally friendly?
When designing a product or service, we start by defining its characteristics and processes: its composition, the raw materials to be used, the way it will be manufactured, the way it will be transported and the way it will be marketed. But we also think about its utility and functionality, its lifespan and how to manage its useful life, especially in the final phase of the cycle. The breakdown of a product’s life cycle can be studied in its different phases. As developed by Silvia Barbero and Brunella Cozzo in their book Ecodesign, here are some criteria for ecodesign:
- Material reduction
Designing according to a material reduction logic means making a product with optimised quantities of materials and energy. Reducing materials has a double advantage: it protects resources and reduces emissions into the environment, so it is important to take this into account.
- Design for disassembly
When designing, one must also think about the fact that one day, the more distant the better, the product will be recycled, and for this it will have to be disassembled beforehand. It is therefore essential to avoid shapes and systems that may delay disassembly procedures, and to make the materials of the different components recognisable so that they can be easily identified and reused or recycled.
- Monomateriality or ‘bio’ materials
Designing with a single material simplifies both the production process and end-of-life recycling. However, given today’s aesthetic requirements, it is a great challenge for the designer. Eco-design also tends to favour the use of ‘bio’ materials, which can be natural or derived from natural products.
An object is all the more ecological the longer it has a useful life, because an object that is still in use does not have to be replaced. This is why the use of durable forms and materials is a fundamental principle of eco-design.
- Multifunctionality, reuse and recycling.
These three concepts are similar but not the same. A multifunctional product is a product that without any modification can be useful for several functions, which multiplies its possibilities of use and reduces the likelihood of ending up in the trash.
A reusable product is a product that can be made useful again through formal or structural modifications.
A recyclable product depends on the materials from which it is made, because it is these that prolong its useful life.
- Dimensional reduction
An eco-design is designed on the basis of the following assumptions: compactness, reduction and limitation of consumption during transport. Intelligent size projection saves material and consumption during travel, because the more products included in each trip, the lower the environmental impact of CO2 emissions.
- Service Design
When we can say that an object can be replaced by a service, we speak of ‘service design’. The objective is that the use of the good arises from the need to perform an action and not from the desire to possess the object itself. This formula sensitises the user, who will use the service consciously and sustainably, only when necessary.
- Use of technology
The use of new technologies can improve the efficiency of products. Therefore, design solutions that aim for ecological sustainability must be creative and technologically advanced.
- Reducing emissions
Not only are the above-mentioned measures effective in reducing emissions, but there is also what is called ‘systemic design’, based on the idea that it is necessary to create new forms of production in which industrial cycles are open and interconnected, so as to generate flows of matter and energy. In this way, everything could have a use and the system would be more stable in the long term.
- Green advertising
A good way to spread the message of sustainability is to introduce it directly into products, integrating it as part of the design.
Ecodesign is a methodology that considers environmental criteria in the development process of products, processes and/or services, starting from the design phase. These criteria are considered at the same level as others related to quality, legislation, cost or durability. Their application implies that environmental aspects become intrinsic variables in the process. As a result, eco-designed products are more innovative and have better environmental performance, in addition to meeting all other technical, economic, regulatory and operational requirements.
Natural materials and minimalism are fundamentals of ecodesign
At the end of the day, the important thing is that all of us, designers and consumers, realise that ethics, sustainability and aesthetics can go hand in hand.
It is worth trying.