By David

January 13, 2021 at 2:34 pm

Consider this. It takes 7,500 liters of water to make a pair of jeans. That amount of water can keep a person hydrated for seven years! While we obviously can’t stop wearing pants, it’s not often we consider the hidden costs of the things we consume. This doesn’t mean you should put a hold on any product manufacturing ideas, but you can take creative approaches and manufacturing solutions that will let you reduce your burden on the environment, and create an amazing product.

Eco-design is one of these solutions. It is a philosophy that works out all the kinks in a manufacturing process to the extent where each step of the way is as green as possible.

Where to Begin With Eco-Design?

The best way to begin is to figure out and understand the manufacturing processes that will go into making your product, and to try and ensure you reduce any dependencies on materials and processes that hurt the environment. Sounds simplistic and rather obvious? Let’s dive deeper.

For this you must start with the concept of eco-design in mind. Eco-design is a strategy that aims to make a product last as long as possible while keeping it waste-free. The process starts with designing your product with sustainable materials, and the end goal is to keep the goods in a circular economy when your consumer is finished with them.

This means that when the product reaches the end of its natural use, it is repurposed to be used for something else. For example, there are plenty of videos on Youtube where t-shirts are turned into handbags, or stationery clips are used to keep wires from getting tangeld. The Patagonia clothing brand are also a good example of this – they ask their consumers to return any clothes they are finished with for store credit. These clothes are then refurbished and re-sold second hand.

What Does a Typical Product Life Cycle Look Like?

A typical product life cycle looks like this:

Extracting raw materials → manufacturing and production → distribution → purchasing → use and maintenance → disposal

In that context, eco-design makes a lot of sense because it’s not just the end product that interacts with the environment but the entire process involved in making it.

For years, manufacturers have focused on building reliable and cost-effective products. Instead, when you try to clean up the entire life cycle of a product from raw materials to disposal, it is called product stewardship; a systematic effort to reduce risk to the environment and human health during a product’s life cycle.

Product stewardship ensures that:

  • Product design is evaluated for ecological impact
  • Eco-conscious material selection and manufacturing is supported
  • Maintenance and recycling takes place with ease
  • Disassembly (at the end of product life cycle) is supported
  • Waste collection systems are in place and effective
  • Hazardous waste is safely disposed of
  • Manufacturing and maintenance processes undergo environmental impact assessment
  • Costs of support and recycling are kept low

How to Apply Eco-Design Theory?

Consume less, share better image

You might think all of this is easier said than done but if you’re serious about the benefits of eco-friendly product manufacturing you’ll find it’s not too hard to build these steps into your workflow. The best thing about an eco-focused approach is that almost 80 percent of the impact a product will have on the environment is determined in the design phase. So, careful attention when designing your product to finding unique ways to make circular goods that are also visually-pleasing and functional is a must.

Once your design is finalized the next step is the raw materials.

  1. Try to use locally-sourced materials to decrease the cost of transportation emissions wherever possible. Look into reclaimed sources of materials instead of virgin materials. Consider manufacturing with recycled ocean plastic for instance. If you’re looking at textiles, think of eco-friendly fibers and look at the pros and cons of using those in terms of longevity and how they might compare to similarly produced less ecologically friendly materials.
  2. If you are using plastic, pick compostable plastic or introduce fillers like starch, switchgrass, flax and wood to make the product look good, while also increasing the bio-content of the product.
  3. Pick materials and designs that are durable and which avoid design fads so that they remain relevant and functional as long as possible and don’t quickly end up in landfill. This helps to greatly increase the product life cycle.
  4. Make sure these materials can also be easily recycled when their life cycle does come to an end.
  5. If you are using dyes and inks, try to keep the volatile organic compounds or VOCs to a minimum because these are potent greenhouse gases and can be bad for people’s health as well as the environment.

How To Manufacture In An Environmentally Friendly Way

After materials, it is time to look at the manufacturing process.

  1. When it comes to reducing the ecological footprint, your design must be such that most of the raw manufacturing material is used in production and there is minimum waste.
  2. Make the production process as energy efficient as possible by looking into renewable energy options. Also, try to keep water and chemical usage to a minimum.
  3. Try to increase the life cycle by mindful use of packaging, transportation and product distribution.
  4. Try to keep scraps and damaged units to a minimum so that you don’t have to throw much if anything into landfill.
  5. Encourage your customers to do more good by simply choosing your product and promoting its overall benefit to the environment.

How to Market Environmentally Friendly Products

Marketing the product is the last part of the process that can be controlled by a manufacturer.

  1. Start by labeling the product as eco-friendly so that customers know it is ethically manufactured.
  2. Get your product verified/certified for ethical practices and environmental management by independent suppliers and contractors.
  3. Let your customers bring the product back to you at the end of its product cycle. Choose to recycle, repurpose or donate it.

In Conclusion

There are lots of advantages to going green. Apart from the fact that your product will be better for the people who use it and the environment, in some cases you might actually reduce your manufacturing costs too. Many consumers are now turning towards eco-friendly products and “voting with their wallet”, so making your products more ecologically and environmentally friendly can also help expand your customer base and be good for your bottom line.

If you need some help designing or manufacturing an eco-friendly product, give us a call on 1-888-202-2052 or fill out our quote request form for more info. We’d love to help you manufacture your product in a way that’s also good for the environment!

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