Benchmarking and other research by the re:newell team has led to frameworks and other tools that help designers identify opportunities to build sustainability into product and packaging designs.
“Our work is informed by a set of Design Principles at Newell,” says Chris Gurr, Industrial Design Director, “and we recently added Lifecycle Accountability in recognition of our societal responsibilities.” The addition was to encourage everyone on the Design team to think about “product purchase and use, but also about the product’s after-life, what happens when the consumer is finished with it: how it’s disposed of, whether there’s a second life, whether it can be recycled or reused in some way.”
The re:newell team visited the Herman Miller Design Yard to learn about their sustainability journey.
To develop tools for designers, the re:newell team looked at companies like 3M, Nike, IKEA, Herman Miller and others that have developed sustainability practices. They synthesized what they learned and produced a guide for designers, documenting six sustainability strategies:
Simplicity: Thoughtful, elegant designs can reduce material, weight and manufacturing processes.
Longevity: High-quality products will look and function beautifully long into the future.
Efficiency: Sustainable design is careful to minimize waste throughout the life cycle.
Modularity: Modular designs are efficient to manufacture, more likely to be upgraded or repaired for a longer useful life, and are more easily recycled.
Impact: Pre- and post-consumer recycled materials result in low-impact design.
Circularity: Balancing use with post-use scenarios leads to closed loops, raw material to raw material.
re:newell member Zach Hafner explaining the Okala guide (methods for designing products with low impact to the environment)
The guide outlines ways to apply each strategy to design conception, manufacture, use by the consumer and then the product’s end of life. It includes examples from various industries that demonstrate what’s possible, from Adidas shoes that, when worn out, can be ground to pellets, melted, and remolded into new shoes to Lego toy components derived from sugar cane.
The work is ongoing, Chris affirms, as alternative materials, processes, and technologies develop. “We’ll continue to share knowledge within Design. As we see tools or approaches that make sense to us, we’ll look for opportunities to put them to work.”