The green trend is impacting every facet of life including product design where being environment-friendly has become a basic requirement.
Thanks to the increasing concern for the environment among people, there is a corresponding increase in demand for green products. Environment-friendly products not only save money, but also get the profits flowing in.
Green product design criteria
- Must be non-toxic to prevent harm to the environment, people and pets
- Can be recycled to reduce the amount of trash in landfills
- Responsible energy use through use of renewable energy sources or reduced energy use for energy conservation
- Must support environmental responsibility such as eco-friendly practices, creating more green or local jobs, and even use fair and truthful marketing when selling products
Selection of materials through proper understanding of their characteristics is essential for any product design project. Eco-friendly materials are now more available than ever and include eco-friendly plastics, paints and lead-free electronic components.
Eco-friendly plastics are recyclable or biodegradable while offering strength and durability similar to conventional plastics that take hundreds of years to degrade. The Arizona-based Enso Bottles has developed a truly biodegradable plastic by using an additive that helps the bottle degrade in as little as 250 days, without releasing any harmful gasses.
Electronic manufacturers prefer to use green materials for their own products such as carbon neutral biopaint in LCD TVs, smart phones with bioplastic enclosures and electronic products featuring lead-free electronic PCB boards.
In addition to eco-friendly materials, the manufacturing process involved in the creation of the product must be sensitive to the environment. Employing green practices in the manufacturing environment may range from using alternative sources of energy such as solar or wind power, or implementing a waste management system designed to reduce waste in production, to eliminating the use of harmful chemicals in production.
Electronic product designers have to deal with significant quantities of electronic waste or e-waste. Electronic design houses are encouraged to design products that are eco-friendly and safe for the environment, either through non-toxic programs or creating products, which can easily be recycled.
End-of-life disposal is just as important as regular waste disposal and involves dealing with products that are no longer useful and must be replaced.
Instead of sending them to the landfill, manufacturers recycle their products, or donate their waste to other companies or organisations for reuse. Electronic designers and manufacturers should, right at the beginning of the design process, create ‘Take-back’ campaigns wherein consumers are encouraged to bring their used electronics back to the manufacturer for proper disposal or recycling.
When Apple Computers found out in 2009 that they were emitting 9.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases every year, they re-evaluated their entire process within the next year from designing, manufacturing and transportation to product use, recycling and even how they used their facilities, and made numerous changes that drastically reduced their carbon emissions.
With the green trend here to stay, electronic product designers and manufacturers must comply, and keep their products and processes eco-friendly to not just protect their bottom-line, but the environment as well.
LX Group is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia, specialising in embedded systems and wireless technology design.