More and more experiments are done in the field of cradle to cradle and circular design of products. Although it is quite complex - touching almost every aspect of businesses and the economy - it's good to start making small steps forward.Switching to abundant natural energy resources like wind and sun, using only non-toxic materials in products, designing products for long term use and creating closed circles of material use is a huge task. Product design has partly influence on these aspects. A new way of thinking is required on marketing and corporate levels as well, new business models need to be explored.
We take on the challenge and gained knowledge and experience in recent years. We seek for beauty, health, justice and profitability, inspired by cradle to cradle and circular design. The following three points form the core of our thinking about sustainability.
Do more goodIs it actually a good idea to develop that product? Is it useful and beneficial for people? Practically this question means that you sometimes might need to turn down a project, although it seems profitable. On the other side it helps to focus and put your resources on potentially good products: products that are meaningful to people, that create diversity and do not harm nature, but can co-exist sustainably next to nature.
Long term useProducts that last long are potentially more sustainable. Who will through away an old violin? People tend to repair it, maybe sell it or use it. This point might be in conflict with your marketing and sales targets. It might require a re-design of your business model, maybe switching to a service based business, maybe switching towards high value products with good margins, but it is a great step forward.
RethinkTake more time to think about what will happen to the product when it is not used anymore. Can it be send back to the manufacturer? Can waste be eliminated and can all or most of the parts and materials be re-used? How can we rely on natural energy? Can we eliminate toxic materials and substances that might enter the products in base materials, coatings, glues? Can we design the product such that it comes back, so that we can reuse valuable components?
Developing a sustainable single-material product from a bio-plastic is quite easy. The products we develop are always more complex, with more materials, complex structures. We do not proclaim we will find a 100% sustainable solution. Yet we challenge you to make a start together with us to do more good, take more time to think and consider new ways of approach.
Sustainability efforts with clear deliverablesIn practice it is easier to create unsustainable toxic products. Some technical plastics and rubbers like neoprene contain toxic substances, yet they are well known and perform well. Creating new business models, research into non-toxic glue or coating solutions, concept development into return-stream clues and logistics takes more creativity, effort and time.
On the long run it will pay back. It might help to attract better people that want to work for your organisation because you made a start to do more good. It might create a return stream of material that cuts costs on material purchase. It can improve your cash flow when switching to a service based business model.
Integrating the "sustainability" theme invisibly into a design project is one approach. The danger is that other aspects might appear more pressing: getting functionality right, running more tests with prototypes, so that sustainability is forgotten about. We propose to make the sustainability efforts that we do visible, with a separate budget and with clear deliverables. It's up to you to take on the challenge and leave this stage in the project.
Alskar Design BV is a Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Catalyst
Case: inline skate wheels, in a circular designThe patented wheel is build in two parts: a high quality aerospace alloy aluminum rim that will last for decades, with a durable nylon and TPU tire construction that allows the user to change tires, he does not need to dump the total wheel.
The tires can be collected and recycled, turning them into new tires. The nylon can be separated from the TPU, both of the materials are non-toxic.
"The interchangeable rim/rubber concept is a perfect example for ecological engineering. "
Case: Volvo L350 Hybrid wheelloader studyFuel utilisation represents up to 30% of the working expense of a wheel loader. In this project a fuel efficient diesel motor was combined with a plug-in hybrid drive train for the new Volvo L350I wheel loader.
Amid test drives and observations of drivers during their work we found that operators in some cases don't comprehend the continuous consumption of energy of the hydraulic systems when they continue lifting and bringing down the heavy load while driving, imagining this does not take any energy.
The new hybrid concept is equipped with innovative full electric heavy duty linear driver to replace the hydraulic cylinders. While bringing down the load, electric energy is re-generated by the linear drives and stored in the powerful battery pack. Braking will generate energy, while a powerful electro motor helps to accelerate. Short jobs should be possible totally electrically, after which the batteries can be charged again with a quick charger.