Monthly Archives: July 2009
Part of the Cleantech Dinner Discussion Series
Date: Wednesday, July 22
Featuring: Terry Swack, Co-founder and CEO, Sustainable Minds LLC
Cost: Free for Net Impact members, $5 for non-members
Location: Andala Coffee House & Cafe: 286 Franklin St., Central Square, Cambridge (http://www.andalacafe.com)
Product design teams are being asked to assess the impacts of their products and understand how design changes affect the products’ life cycle performance, while uncovering opportunities for innovation. Currently, there is no standardized way to address these requirements. The opportunity is to operationalize environmentally sustainable (‘green’) product design.
Because 75% of manufacturing costs are committed by the end of the concept stage, the decisions about materials, energy, recycleability and longevity have locked in a product’s environmental life cycle performance. It’s too expensive to change the design later. Product concepts are numerous and loosely defined. Time, available data and budgets limit the ability to create detailed models to conduct ‘what-if’ analysis. Now environmental impacts must also be considered. Life cycle assessment (LCA) can be used to assess the ‘green-ness’ of products and identify opportunities for improvement and innovation. However, the cost, time and expertise required for full-scale LCAs exceed the reach of most product teams - and cannot be used for loosely defined or rapidly evolving product concepts. Operationalizing green product design starts with bringing life cycle thinking and a whole product systems approach to the front of the design process. The result is more sustainable, innovative products, lower costs by eliminating re-engineering, and greater competitive advantage!
Terry Swack will lead this month’s discussion, focusing on the path her company has taken to incorporate this knowledge and approach into the design process and look at some of the benefits, and challenges, of creating an on-demand business in this sector.
Ms. Swack is the co-founder and CEO of Sustainable Minds, an organization focused on helping product designers incorporate sustainable design principles into their work from the very beginning of the design process. To do this, the company created web-based software based on the Okala approach to life cycle assessment that acts as a decision support tool for designers. For more information, see their website at http://www.sustainableminds.com/
Space for the dinner is limited, so please RSVP to Rudy at rudy.ruggles(at)comcast.net to reserve a seat. Please also note the nominal fee of $5 added to dinner costs for nonmembers. You can view previous cleantech dinner discussion topics at http://netimpactboston.org/category/events/cleantech-dinners/
An informal summer gathering of Net Impact members
Date: Wednesday, July 15
Location: Tavern in the Square, Central Square
Our summer happy hours provide the opportunity to meet some of the many fascinating Net Impact members, and catch up with the folks you have met at previous events. We hope to see you there!
My First Unconference
“Innovation: Inventiveness of people coming together across companies, sectors, communities, entities to share ideas and come up with something new.” – GIBU Participant
All too often, we are drawn to the negative. This is especially true as relates to the issues of sustainability. Many CSR professionals, including me, struggle between conveying the grim facts of climate change as a means to evoke a sense of urgency in an audience and the alternative of offering a more optimistic outlook. If it’s a lost cause, why try to do anything, and if it’s not so bad, then does everyone really have to do something to make it better?
This dilemma gives way to another tension, which is the one between complexity and simplification. How do we respect the matrix of relationships that comprise the natural balance of a sustainable system and yet make participation in change accessible to all? How do we prevent the greatest challenge of our commons from becoming an issue of the elite? How do we shift the perception of sustainability away from “costly” and “exclusive”? Can we consider ROI rather than up-front costs and make decisions that deliver the most value over time to the most people? Can we get everyone to understand and on board or to we retreat to army of a few?
These are just some of the discussions and debates that were exchanged as part of the recent Green Innovation for Business Unconference (GIBU) held in Boston. This event, organized by EDF and Ashoka, with support of many organizations, including Net Impact Boston, was an innovation in itself. The entire day was an extended conversation of our Boston CSR community and a welcome example of the power of partnerships and positive progress. The questions were tough and yet many simple solutions emerged – and by simple, I mean effective and accessible. Some might say innovative.
Certainly, the magnitude of major global problems we face coupled with twenty straight days of rain can make the negative that much more tempting, but don’t give in to it. As you read through this month’s newsletter, instead think about the myriad of opportunity that exists. Rather than focus on how depressing the situation might seem, consider that at least we are having the conversation. And if you want to learn more about how you and others can move the conversation to action, check out the GIBU wiki and come to a Net Impact Boston event! I’ll be the optimistic one, waiting to meet you and to discuss what we’re going to do together to make a difference.