Sustainable product design.

What are the problems driving sustainable design?

Please explore our values which are at the heart of what we try to do. Every project is unique and we tailor our design process to your specific challenges and goals.

Global resource depletion

 

Our current economic model has meant we’ve been living beyond Earth’s carrying capacity since 1970. At our current rate of over consumption, we will run out of all viably extractable non-renewable resources within a century. As virgin raw materials become ever more depleted and costly to extract, we will reach at point of maximum availability in the overall economy. Costs will rise significantly and greater pressure will be placed on the expansion of existing mining operations, causing further destruction of our natural habitats.

One over three | Product Design Consultants

We're a design co-operative. We don't say simple things like 'delivering successful innovation'. We try to understand people and why they need new products. We want to create things that provide a benefit. We have a responsibility to be sustainable. We live in the real world.

The linear economy combined with unsustainable design and policy decisions have forever changed the world we live in. Here we discuss the main threats this poses to our societies and some of the causes driving these outcomes.

In a world of finite resources, these issues are accentuated by the ever-increasing pressures of consumption, human population and rising economic development. More and more people are demanding access to higher living standards, and the products that enable these lifestyles are created with little planning for how they are to be managed at the end of their useful life.

 

Sustainable product design does not accept this constrained view, and instead actively targets the most serious issues we face. It is through this ingrained opposition to the traditional economy that the power to create truly disruptive business models and new product experiences can be found.

 

To One over three these problems represent the most compelling challenges that society and design faces today. As a collective, we embrace this responsibility and make it our imperative to do the best we can to create considered products that are balanced within the economy.

What is sustainable product design?

Sustainable product design is about creating beneficial product experiences whilst maintaining a long-term balance with the planets natural systems. It aims to meet the needs of today’s society without compromising our ability to provide for the needs of the next generation.

Our established economy follows the path of take-make-dispose; where products are developed without systematic consideration, then left for others to manage wherever they end up in the wider environment. The results of this behaviour are widely known; for the last 100 years the majority of materials have either been discarded, incinerated or buried; entire ecosystems on which we depend have been exploited, destroyed or pushed to collapse; human health has been intoxicated by pollution, and inequality is stretched to diametric proportions.

Unfortunately, this outcome is inevitable, and the point at which we reach criticality for specific resources will vary depending upon their abundance/rate of consumption. As we move toward and reach this apex however, the effects will be the same:

 

1/ Mining operations will expand to exploit ever dwindling resources, destroying ecosystems and increasing energy consumption, waste and emissions.

 

For example, exploration has already begun to start mining the world’s oceans for cobalt and other rare metals, a development that will likely have far-reaching consequences for an ecosystem we know little about.

 

2/ Costs for materials will increase in volatility, as the economy will be bound by an established amount of available resources.

 

To highlight this issue, we will look at a little-known element called Dysprosium (Dy). Widely used in the production of industrial magnets, Dy is a critical element in renewable applications such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.

 

3/ Competition will increase for access to resources which are geographically concentrated in limited areas around the world.

Unfortunately, this outcome is inevitable, and the point at which we reach criticality for specific resources will vary depending upon their abundance/rate of consumption. As we move toward and reach this apex however, the effects will be the same:

 

1/ Mining operations will expand to exploit ever dwindling resources, destroying ecosystems and increasing energy consumption, waste and emissions.

 

For example, exploration has already begun to start mining the world’s oceans for cobalt and other rare metals, a development that will likely have far-reaching consequences for an ecosystem we know little about.

 

2/ Costs for materials will increase in volatility, as the economy will be bound by an established amount of available resources.

 

To highlight this issue, we will look at a little-known element called Dysprosium (Dy). Widely used in the production of industrial magnets, Dy is a critical element in renewable applications such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.

 

3/ Competition will increase for access to resources which are geographically concentrated in limited areas around the world.

So what does this all mean? To put it simply, the materials used to create the technology and products we rely upon are manufactured from a wide variety of non-renewable elements, materials and energy sources. As these unmined resources become ever more scarce, the costs to extract them become economically unviable.

Image: Deep sea mining apparatus

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