Designing for sustainability

Roy, Robin (2009). Designing for sustainability. In: Wilson, Gordon; Furniss, Pamela and Kimbowa, Richard eds. Environment, Development, and Sustainability: Perspectives and cases from around the world. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 203–212.



This chapter reviews different approaches to designing for sustainability (DfS), from single issue ‘green design’ (e.g. designing a pencil made from recycled plastic cups), through ‘eco-design’ which attempts to balance the environmental impacts of a product such as a low energy lamp across its 'cradle to grave' life cycle, to ‘sustainable design’ which considers social and economic as well as environmental issues in the design and manufacture of a product such as a radio intended for use in Africa, to ‘sustainable innovation’ (e.g. designing a zero emissions, zero waste community for thousands of people).

The chapter argues that all DfS levels are necessary, but to reach the 80–90 per cent reductions in energy and resource use and in emissions and waste necessary for ecological sustainability, this chapter has argued it is necessary to design at the sustainable innovations level and that designing individual greener products will not be enough.

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