25 June 2010

MAKING GREEN FROM GREEN Shaping the 21st Century

Earlier this month, the Green Team attended a sustainable design talk event organized by the Sustainable Business Committee of the Columbia Business School Alumni Club of New York (CBSACNY). The panel discussion focused on how design innovation and its seemingly diametric relationship to business practices can come together to strengthen one another into the 21st century. Speakers included Eric Milot from branding agency, Wolff Olins, Ken Drucker from HOK, and Andrew Dent from Material ConneXion.

The discussion touched on many interconnected aspects of sustainable design for today's designers: using nature as a source for finding solutions to today's design challenges; understanding the idea that waste does not exist in natural ecosystems where closed-loop cycles mean the waste of one species is the source of food for another species; the importance of establishing core values that can be demonstrated through business practices; the necessity of quantifying the carbon footprint of a designed product from project conception to end. Andrew Dent spoke about having spent 15 months developing an ecofriendly shoebox design for PUMA made out of recycled material, only to discover later through detailed quantification that the manufacturing process by using the recycled material required higher energy consumption — Ultimately, the design went back to square one

Advances in design during the 20th century were driven by the feats of engineering with products created primarily to serve one purpose. Today, as the world becomes more populated, the consumption of energy, processes, and products will rise to unprecedented levels. It is estimated that about 80% of newly launched products fail in the marketplace today. The challenges in design will require careful management of natural resources so that we can products can be created to perform multiple uses while achieving eco-efficiency and eco-effectiveness.

All in all, the event proved to be an eye-opening and thought-provoking session, leaving us feeling intrigued and inspired.

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