Product design and the environment
Design is key to the function, meaning, and appeal of products used every day by people throughout the world. It has long been recognized as a critical stage for determining costs and profitability. For those who bring shape to our physical world by designing products, it is also an unparalleled window of opportunity to distinguish products while championing the environment through innovation.
- Better By Design - An Innovation Guide - Using Natural Design Solutions Offers a simple, systematic way to weave environmental considerations into product design while using inspiration from the natural world to distinguish products and optimize design. (2006)
Specific aspects of design for the environment are described in greater detail.
Innovative Fasteners (160Kb)
Fasteners are not only critical to optimizing product functions, but also to the ultimate disposal and recycling of that product. A number of manufacturers are developing ingenious fasteners that give a product unique DfE features that make it an asset and a resource instead of a costly waste at the end of its useful life.
Power for Products (170Kb)
The energy a product uses throughout its life span is often that product's most significant environmental impact. Careful consideration should be given to how much and what type of power a product will use. Examples include fuel cells, and "human-powered" devices that create electricity using hand-wound springs or by compressing a crystal.
Extending Product Life (130Kb)
Products designed with replaceable parts that are easily detached can be repaired with ease to extend product life. Parts can also be combined into modules or standardized units that are easy to remove and replace, making product repairs and upgrades easier and economically feasible.
Chemical and Materials Selection (130Kb)
The selection of raw materials—which chemicals or materials are used—can determine how consumers perceive a product and its impact on human health and the environment. Over 70,000 chemicals that have been registered for use in the United States; designers need to know which are of the most concern and how to identify alternatives.
Success story: Medtronic, Inc. (120Kb)
The benefits of making key decisions early in product design can be substantial. After integrating DfE into the design of a medical product, Medtronic, Inc. plans to reduce chemical use and wastewater loading, resulting in potential annual savings of $3.8 million. In this case study, learn how the company integrated environmental considerations into product designs to achieve multiple, significant benefits.
Success story: General Mills (120Kb)
By redesigning one of its food products and optimizing the related manufacturing processes on one production line, General Mills saves more than $760,000 and reduces 640,000 pounds of ingredient waste annually. This case study shows how the company is using what they learned to reduce waste and save money across all of its production lines.
Success story: Lead-free Solder (275Kb)
Benchmark Electronics (Winona, Minn.) invested time in planning and implementing a comprehensive, multiphase approach to converting to lead-free solder assembly. The company has established all necessary process changes and continues to make improvements. Although the conversion required commitment and resource investment, once in place the benefits are many—from improved market position for products to decreased worker exposure and elimination of lead emissions to the environment along with decreased Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements.
Older guide sheets are available on the archive page.
Designing for the Environment: A Design Guide for Information and Technology Equipment (1999 reprint)
This guide integrates environmental considerations with traditional design criteria. It also offers suggestions for minimizing waste, enhancing recycling, promoting efficiency and balancing economics. In particular, the guide has information on fasteners that facilitate disassembly and material identification and separation.
DfE Laboratory: University of Washington
The UW Mechanical Engineering department has a DfE laboratory that includes an assessment tool and curriculum description.
For more information
For assistance with design for the environment, e-mail Mark Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org.