Category Archives: Sustainable design

Lego: toy maker is exploring building blocks for sustainability

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Lego’s director of environmental sustainability tells of the toy’s focus on eco-design and addresses circular economy challenges for the product with no end-of-life.

Sustainability and performance in textiles: can you have it all?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Materials like wool have surprising resilience and utility and don’t endanger health or the environment like newer compounds.

Scientist developing materials, electronics that dissolve when triggered

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

A medical device, once its job is done, could harmlessly melt away inside a person’s body. Or, a military device could collect and send its data and then dissolve away, leaving no trace of an intelligence mission. Or, an environmental sensor could collect climate information, then wash away in the rain.

The full research article is available here.


Modularity gone wild: making everyday products sustainable

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Convertible designs can make products more durable, reducing consumption and waste. Here are 12 of the most intriguing, interlocking consumer products on the market or coming soon.

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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Sustainable design


Researchers uncover secrets of a mollusk’s bioceramic armor

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

The shells of a sea creature, the mollusk Placuna placenta, are not only exceptionally tough, but also clear enough to read through. Now, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have analyzed these shells to determine exactly why they are so resistant to penetration and damage—even though they are 99% calcite, a weak, brittle mineral.

The shells’ unique properties emerge from a specialized nanostructure that allows optical clarity, as well as efficient energy dissipation and the ability to localize deformation, the researchers found. The results are published in Nature Materials, in a paper co-authored by MIT graduate student Ling Li and Prof. Christine Ortiz.

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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Biomimicry, Nanotechnology


Renault, JLR, Nissan and Toyota drive car industry towards sustainability

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Automotive sector takes positive steps towards a circular economy through remanufacturing and materials innovation.
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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Auto industry, Sustainable design


Why upcycling is both a science and an art

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Using recycled materials once made for a pretty good sustainability story. Today, though, recycling is blase, and the bar is set higher: Companies need to upcycle materials, shifting their story from “less bad” to “more good.” But as companies jump on the bandwagon and strive to hit the market with new upcycled products, we need to figure out exactly what that phrase means, because frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows.

If we vaguely define upcycling to mean that a material has been made more sustainable through a recycling process, it leads us to think that some scientific measure of sustainability could and should be used. It’s a wonderful notion to believe that our pursuits toward sustainability are grounded in science. When you have entire industries familiarizing themselves with terms such as “metric tons of CO2 equivalents” and “product to package ratio,” it even suggests that sustainability falls squarely in the realm of quantitative measurements. It gives us hope that industry can manage what it can measure.

But if sustainability is about meeting the needs of a growing society while incurring a limited amount of negative environmental impacts, then sustainability is probably only about half-scientific — because meeting the needs of society is also an art.


Gaia principles offer a sustainable way to manage supply and legacy

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A study of laptops by the Öko Institute showed that 56% of the total greenhouse gas emissions of a laptop are produced in the production phase. This means that if you buy a new laptop which is 10% more energy efficient, it would still take up to 89 years of use to cancel out the GHGs generated in the production, distribution and disposal of the product.

With the average lifespan of a laptop being 3-5 years it’s clear that buying new, greener products can make only a limited contribution to emissions reductions, and why at the consumer level, we are all restricted in our power to change the system. The goods that we might like to support – goods that reflect a truly sustainable lifecycle – barely even exist.

This poses an exciting challenge for designers and social enterprises seeking to lead efforts towards a circular economy. Those businesses that currently claim to be “sustainable” may find that their credentials fall short when they ask themselves a new set of questions: is our product designed to last? Do we take responsibility for what happens after its use? Do we know our supply chain all the way to the bottom?

The Gaia Foundation’s 2013 report, Short Circuit, exposes the ecological destruction and human rights violations at every stage in the lifecycle of gadgets such as smartphones and laptops.


Soon to Grace the New York Skyline: Towers Made of Fungus

Read the full story in Atlantic Cities.

This summer, fungal mycelium will be brought—purposely—to an unusual environment: New York City. To, in particular, the courtyard of MoMA’s outer-borough art and event space, P.S. 1, which each summer brings a new design to its outdoor pavilion. From that space, if all goes according to plan, will rise a tower constructed, almost entirely, of mycelium bricks. The structure—three twisted stacks that vaguely resemble merged y-chromosomes—will be a kind of proof-of-concept for fungal mycelium as a building material.

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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Green building, Sustainable design


Bisphenol A Alternatives in Thermal Paper

Download the document. For more information about DfE’s BPA in Thermal Paper Partnership, visit

This report provides information on bisphenol A (BPA), its use in thermal paper, and possible substitutes for this use. The report was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with input from stakeholders from business, government, academia, and environmental organizations. Based on conversations with technical experts, including stakeholders, we identified nineteen alternatives that are potential functional substitutes for inclusion and assessment. In addition to information on potential hazards of BPA and possible substitutes, information on the trade-offs associated with each alternative is presented for consideration in substitution decision-making.


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