The prod­uct or ser­vice

Element - - Business -

It’s a statis­tic that pro­foundly shocks: ev­ery square kilo­me­tre of the world’s oceans has an es­ti­mated 13,000 pieces of plas­tic float­ing in it. There’s no other way to frame it – there’s some­thing in­her­ently wrong with our de­sign process. Pur­pose­built for mostly sin­gleuse ap­pli­ca­tions, plas­tic should have no place in the de­signer’s suite of op­tions for sin­gle use or con­ve­nience items.

Let’s take the hum­ble drink­ing straw, for ex­am­ple. Made from petro­chem­i­cals, and not biode­grade­able, New Zealand char­ity Sus­tain­able Coast­lines will tell you that they pick up thou­sands of them on our beaches, from Ran­gi­toto to Great Bar­rier Is­land. This is a prod­uct that should be made from ei­ther card­board, or a more per­ma­nent ver­sion from stain­less steel.

Here’s where an in­dus­trial de­signer comes in. There’s many ways to skin a cat, goes the old say­ing, and the same goes for prod­ucts.

Ti­mothy Al­lan, founder of the prod­uct devel­op­ment and in­no­va­tion con­sult­ing com­pany Lo­cus Re­search, helps to de­velop new prod­ucts and ser­vices which have sus­tain­abil­ity and life cy­cle think­ing in­te­grated into their devel­op­ment.

“In the re­search and devel­op­ment stages of cre­at­ing a new prod­uct there are always op­por­tu­ni­ties to re-imag­ine how a prod­uct may work. Se­lect­ing ap­pro­pri­ate tech­nol­ogy and ma­te­ri­als is a crit­i­cal part of chang­ing the im­pact of a prod­uct,” says Al­lan.

“We can also sub­sti­tute ma­te­ri­als for more en­vi­ron­men­tally be­nign al­ter­na­tives – which doesn’t have to mean per­for­mance is sac­ri­ficed.

“Con­sid­er­ing the per­for­mance of a prod­uct over its life (con­sum­ables and en­ergy) is also im­por­tant, and at the end of life mak­ing sure that there is a vi­able route for re­cy­cling and re­use is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a vi­tal way of bet­ter us­ing our re­sources. As re­sources are be­com­ing more scarce, and the true costs of mak­ing prod­ucts which harm the en­vi­ron­ment are be­ing fac­tored into the equa­tion – not least through con­scious con­sumer pur­chas­ing behaviour – it makes sense to de­sign the whole life cy­cle of a prod­uct,” says Al­lan.

Kokako Or­gan­ics, a cof­fee roast­ery and café in Auck­land, is a good ex­am­ple of embed­ding so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity into a sup­ply chain.

It’s raw prod­ucts are all or­ganic and Fair­trade cer­ti­fied, and its take­away con­tain­ers are all sourced from Auck­land com­pany Friend­ly­pak, which makes cups and con­tain­ers from potato starch and tim­ber and are com­postable.

They can go into the 16 Hun­gry Bin worm farms (Auck­land-based) which deal with food and cof­fee waste each day, and pro­duce high qual­ity or­ganic com­post and fer­tiliser. Any­thing that can­not go into the worm farms is col­lected by Auck­land com­pany We Com­post.

Tim Al­lan, from Lo­cus Re­search, Bay of Plenty.

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