About 80 designers from multiple disciplines and across the country gathered virtually on Earth Day to formulate creative responses to sustainability challenges.

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APRIL 2020

“We wanted to do something a little bit different,” says Chris Gurr, Industrial Design Director. “Our Earth Day Design Jam was a voluntary opportunity, and we had about 80 people participate—more than I expected. We had industrial designers rubbing shoulders with graphic designers and all the other design specialties.”

The day-long event included break-outs for business units, which at Newell Brands are made up of brands focused on, for example, products for Writing, Baby, Outdoor and Recreation, Food, and more. Each break-out explored, within that context, ideas for products, packaging, or business models. “We came back together at 4 p.m.,” Chris explains, “for a share-out. The next step is to see if any ideas can be taken forward and acted upon.”
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We want to encourage the team to think about the product’s after-life, what happens when the consumer is finished with it, whether it can be recycled or reused.
- Chris Gurr, Director Industrial Design

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Organizing this event was a natural evolution for Chris, who in 2018 helped found a sustainability team in Design called re:newell. “I quickly saw the opportunity to be more proactive in terms of doing the right thing. In Design we sit at the front end of the product development process,” he said. “With choices like materials selection, assembly methodology, modularity and reuse, we have lots of levers we can pull to make a more responsibly designed product that would be better for the environment.”

Designers at the Design Center observe nine Design Principles as they approach their work; the most recent addition is Lifecycle Accountability. “This update was a direct nod to the activity in this space,” Chris said. “We want to encourage the team to think about purchase and product use, but also to think about the product’s after-life, what happens when the consumer is finished with it, how it’s disposed of, whether it has a second life, whether it can be recycled or reused in some way.” The re:newell team offers tools and tips to help designers expand their thinking over the entire product lifecycle.

“It speaks to the support that sustainability receives from leadership in Design,” Chris said, “that we can invite the entire Design team to stop what they’re doing and spend Earth Day this way. We’re encouraged to think ahead of the curve, two to three years out as opposed to only what’s happening right now. The desire for sustainability has been building for many years. We’re going to make sure we’re looking forward.”

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