What is ‘Green’ Design?

Polar bear with a sign that reads "Save the Human" to highlight Climate Change

There are so many misconceptions regarding the ‘green’ issue. Some people whole heartily support it, while others seem to actively rebel against it. I heard someone just the other day dismissing the topic as “just trying to save a polar bear”… and it really got under my skin.

I heard someone making a case for “going green” from a self-preservation point of view and find it appropriate here. What is it we are actually being asked to do? Turn off unused lights, turn down your heating and insulate your home etc. Does each of these not save you money! On a broader scale, purchase greener products, recycle and walk rather than drive to work. I fail to see what is so offensive about that, in fact if we did so we would all be fitter and healthier!

You need to remember that “saving the earth” is not all about tree hugging and saving a solitary polar bear, it’s saving entire eco systems, entire crops and resources that we ultimately depend upon. The earth will be fine whatever we do… this is about saving ourselves and future generations. And all it takes is a little consideration of the world we inhabit through sustainable design and lifestyle choices.

That brings me to the question of what defines a ‘green’ product? What is green product design? If a car uses less fuel because of a hybrid engine, does that make it environmentally friendly? Not if the engine requires materials mined from the deepest, darkest depths of the rainforest. If a product uses recycled materials does that make it ‘green’? Only if those recycled materials are obtained, transported and utilised in a manner more efficient than its traditional alternative. Do solar panels make your home ‘greener’? Not if the earth cost to manufacture the panels is greater than the energy they ultimately produce.

Design Balance

In my opinion, the key to creating a truly ‘green’ product is calculating the cost to the earth throughout its entire life-cycle and weighting that against its value.

Ultimately if a product is loved, it will be used frequently, kept for years and keep on functioning. A great example of this is my Swiss Army Knife, it has worked faultlessly since I got it when I was 12 and it has great sentimental value to me. So much so that when I discovered I had left it on a picnic bench when hiking, I hiked many hours back to find it again to my great relief. It has had a hard life, but I have taken care of it so have no doubt it will be with me for many years to come. How it was made, is maybe not that important, because it will endure where other products find themselves in landfills or rusting underneath some picnic bench.


Bottom line… green design must first be good design!
(valued / useful / functional / practical / durable / ergonomic / user friendly)

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