July 22: Green Product Design: Tools for Making Informed Choices Right from the Start

Part of the Cleantech Dinner Discussion Series

Date: Wednesday, July 22

Time: 6:30-8:30pm

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 https://netimpactboston.org/category/events/cleantech-dinners/

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