4 Ways to Make Your Design Process More Sustainable

Last month, eco-friendly cleaning products manufacturer, Method, announced its plans to construct a state-of-the-art LEED Platinum Certified factory in Chicago. Touting clean energy and clean production, the factory represents the latest exciting development in the manufacturing world’s embrace of sustainable production.

With the movement towards sustainable production gaining momentum in the design world as well, many designers are making the choice to go green.

Here are 4 ways to incorporate sustainable practices into your design process:

1. Select Materials From Sustainable Sources

When choosing materials to use for your design, look for materials that are earth friendly. Do they come from mills with water and energy conservation processes in place? Are they colored with natural dyes? Are the materials organically farmed? What is the carbon footprint of their production, cultivation and transport?

If sourcing sustainably sounds like a practice you’d like to incorporate into your brand, consider the following materials and their benefits:

• Organic cotton: This cotton is grown without the damaging environmental and public health risks associated with pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers.

• Hemp: This versatile, resilient crop doesn’t require the use of pesticides or herbicides to grow. Ideal for making ropes, denim, tote bags and more.

• Bamboo: Hypoallergenic and great for soft linens, bamboo is also a renewable resource. When processed effectively, it can help combat deforestation and soil erosion.

• Recycled fibers & fabrics: Used textiles and waste materials such as plastic bottles can be repurposed into clothing and textiles. This process reduces waste in landfills and preserves resources needed to manufacture new products from scratch.

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2. Know Your Factory

Do some research before selecting a factory to produce your design. Does the factory incorporate alternative sources of energy such as solar or wind into the manufacturing process? Are outputs and waste managed responsibly? Does it take steps to offset the CO2 produced during manufacturing? Was the factory LEED-certified as being designed, built and maintained according to exacting environmental standards?

3. Consider Producing Domestically

Choosing to produce domestically can cut down transportation costs to both your wallet and the environment. Importing finished products from overseas significantly contributes to a product’s environmental impact through the emission of harmful Greenhouse Gases. The closer products are produced to home, the better the chance of lessening this impact. When wise transportation routes are sought out (for example, those preferencing rail transport over vehicle transport, or shipping over airfreight) a product’s environmental impact can be considerably lessened.

4. Educate Yourself About Sustainable Design

Finally, educating yourself about the sustainability movement in fashion can be an invaluable tool when making the choice to go green. Below are a few resources you can check out to learn more about sustainability in design:

• The NRDC’s “Clean by Design” program offers valuable resources for improving manufacturing efficiency and lessening its impact on the environment.
• Ecouterre is devoted to the pursuit of sustainable fashion and design. Learn more about the movement, and get inspired by the designs of ecologically conscious designers.
• Check out dozens of eco-friendly manufacturers listed on Maker’s Row’s site.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, I hope it  offers you insights into how to begin incorporating more environmentally friendly practices into your brand!

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