Designing Sustainably From Scratch

As customers become more mindful of sustainable production, so too are designers and manufacturers. No longer a niche consumer base, this growing interest in cleaner, greener products has fostered deeper knowledge of what you can do to ensure a more eco-friendly design process.

To ensure that your work is designed and produced as sustainably as possible, here are four steps to get you on a greener track.

It Starts At The Source

When you’re evaluating the pros, cons and limitations of the materials you’re using, be sure to add another category to that list: earth friendly. Were they made by mills that enforce water and energy conservation practices? Are the materials organically farmed? Are the dyes naturally derived? What is the mill’s carbon footprint, taking into consideration production, cultivation and transport?

Some materials to consider when you’re greenifying your designs are organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and recycled fabrics and fibers. Organic cotton eschews insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers for a final product that has a positive impact on both the environment and broader health concerns, while hemp is hardy enough to similarly avoid pesticides and herbicides – and strong enough to use when making denim, tote bags, ropes and more. Bamboo is a renewable resource that also happens to be hypoallergenic, and mindful processing can combat deforestation and soil erosion. Finally, used fabrics and waste materials (for example, plastic bottles) can be repurposed as clothes and textiles, thus minimizing landfill.

Get To Know Your Factory

When you’re determining which factory to use, there are a number of questions to ask that could influence that decision. For example: are outputs and waste managed responsibly? Do they have a carbon offset process in place, or do they use alternative energy sources while manufacturing? And is the facility LEED-certified (from the design through to build and maintenance)?

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Keep It In The Country

Domestic production doesn’t just reduce your transportation costs, but also cuts back on the greenhouse gases and transportation miles incurred by importing goods that were produced offshore.

Know The Nitty-Gritty Of Sustainable Design

Your actions can match your intentions when you know exactly what you’re looking for. A couple of resources to enhance your knowledge around the pursuit of sustainable design and manufacturing include the NRDC’s Clean by Design program and Ecouterre. You can also use the Maker’s Rows eco-friendly factories list to identify the right factory for your product.

This post was inspired by an earlier Maker’s Row article.

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