Eco-design is the set of production methods that allow to reduce the environmental impacts of a product or a service over its entire life cycle.
It is the only tool of the circular economy that allows to limit waste and reduce resources before the manufacturing stage.
Eco-design can be applied to a product, a service or an event.
In this article, you will understand:
-Why all companies will one day use eco-design
-The many areas where it can be applied
-How to make an eco-responsible product
At the end of your reading, you will know everything you need to know about the principles and applications of eco-design in everyday life.
Why do eco-design products?
The primary goal of an eco-design approach is to reduce the environmental impact of a product or service.
It also allows to stimulate research and to give a sense to innovation.
Indeed, it is a question of applying the principle of doing better with less while preserving the performance of the product.
One of the main challenges is also to meet new consumer expectations. As well as new regulations aimed at protecting the environment.
The testimony of Eric Mugnier of the consulting firm EY (source):
I think that today, eco-innovation is not just "a good thing to do" but has become a necessity.
We have seen an impact on the younger generation at Saint Gobain. Clearly in terms of motivation, talent attraction or even talent retention.
Focusing on eco-innovation has clearly made a difference for many researchers at Saint Gobain and for many people who have joined the company in recent years.
So we have no choice but to continue. But how to continue successfully? You have to make eco-innovation visible to your customers.
So that's clearly the next step for us: how do we make it more visible and easier to understand for our customers, whoever they are?
What is the purpose of eco-design products?
The implementation of an eco-design approach focuses on the deployment of the following points:
Developing products by taking into account ecological and economic issues
Create optimized variants of the product or service to select the least impacting
Analyze life cycles to integrate them as much as possible in the circular economy
Improve and optimize production costs
Bring a global vision and a company structure adapted to sustainable development
To certify its projects for their marketing with environmental labeling
Today, there is no single definition of eco-design. We will see the 3 official definitions coming from the most important organizations in this field.
The AFNOR definition
The simplest but still very general definition is that of the AFNOR (Association française de normalisation) and dates from 2004:
"Eco-design consists in integrating the environment from the design of a product or service, and during all the stages of its life cycle. "
The definition of the NF X 30-264 standard
A slightly more precise and recent description can be extracted from the 2013 NF X 30-264 Environmental Management standard:
"Systematic integration of environmental aspects from the design and development of products (goods and services, systems) with the objective of reducing negative environmental impacts throughout their life cycle for equivalent or better service. This approach from the beginning of a design process aims to find the best balance between environmental, social, technical and economic requirements in the design and development of products. "
There is also the official definition of the ADEME (Agence de l'environnement et de la Maîtrise de l'énergie) which is the following:
"It is a preventive and innovative approach that reduces the negative impacts of the product, service or building on the environment throughout its life cycle (LCA), while maintaining its qualities of use. "
The Eco-design and Life Cycle Management Cluster offers a video to interpret their definition.
If you are looking for a simple and general definition, it is available in bold at the very top of this article.
Also, eco-design is completely integrated in the circular economy. That's why we will briefly talk about it to better understand the context.
Why do the circular economy
The circular economy allows us to move towards a mode of production and consumption that is compatible with the renewal capacity of resources on earth.
It is about moving towards a sustainable development of human activities in a world of finite resources.
What concepts are covered by the circular economy?
The circular economy is the will to make the waste of some resources for others.
In order to maximize the use of resources in a closed circuit technically called "Cradle to Cradle".
It is mainly based on 3 axes of development:
The use of compostable materials or materials with a high recycling power
Favouring the logic of short circuits and local production
Redefining the mode of taxation on what to slow down
What are the major environmental issues?
The implementation of a sustainable development approach makes it possible to limit the following problems:
Water pollution, mainly due to plastic
Air pollution, due to the combustion of fossil fuels
Soil pollution, with soil acidification and intensive agriculture
The depletion of raw materials, with the end of oil by 2050
The exponential growth of the world population, which has gone from 2.5 billion to 7.8 billion in 70 years
What are the environmental impacts?
There are mainly 7 environmental damages that are generated by human activities:
Eutrophication of waters : the asphyxiation of fresh waters due to the proliferation of algae caused by the accumulation of nutritive elements
Photochemical pollution : gases emitted during the combustion of coal and oil that cause acidification of soil and water
Toxicity of certain substances : many toxic chemical substances can be emitted during the life cycle of a product or an activity
The depletion of raw materials : mineral and energy materials are present in finite quantities and the stock is rapidly depleting
Climate change : the greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon amplified by human activities that can lead to temperature increases
The depletion of the ozone layer : it allows to filter the harmful rays of the sun. Some aerosol or refrigerant gases cause a decrease in this protective layer
Acidification of water, air and soil : mainly due to the combustion of coal and oil, which threatens the balance and biodiversity of the areas concerned
Companies that do eco-design products
You will discover below 3 French companies that create eco-design products.
The BIC pen
BIC is a French company known for its disposable pens, lighters and shavers. Most of the brand's products are disposable and generate waste.
This is why BIC is strongly committed to sustainable development and eco-design of its products.
The BIC Cristal ballpoint pen is the brand's iconic product. It is the subject of extensive optimization in order to reduce its impact on the environment and extend its lifespan.
From the outside, there is no change in appearance.
But in reality, the BIC Cristal pen can write up to 2km, is 12% lighter than its predecessor and consumes only 2.9g of material per km compared to an average of 6.4g for its competitors.
It is also the first pen to have received the NF environment certification. It is also important to know that most of the recycled pens can be used to make garden benches.
This is possible thanks to the specialized recycling channel that has been set up.
Decathlon eco-design products
Decathlon is a French company distributing sporting goods in more than 58 countries. It is committed to a respectful approach for the environment and the preservation of the planet.
Decathlon advocates a sustainable supply of its raw materials. With the use of organic cotton, recycled and certified "Better cotton initiative". But also with the use of virgin and recycled polyester dyed in the mass.
Finally, Decathlon offers environmental labeling on all of its products to help its customers make more responsible choices.
Kiabi is a French ready-to-wear retailer. They were one of the first companies who start to produce eco-design products in this field. Today, it offers its concept of "Fashion at low cost" through a sustainable range called "Eco-design".
For its eco-designed collections, Kiabi proposes :
washing at 30°C without drying or ironing to save water
a cotton supply that saves water and pesticides
a simplified cut of the clothes to reduce the impact of manufacturing
Eco-design: an example of packaging
We will quickly study the real case of the BIO salad tray designed by CGL PACK.
The objective of the redesign of this tray is to keep the initial use value while reducing the environmental impact of this packaging.
To be most efficient, we first identify the 3 most impacting stages of the life cycle:
The extraction of the raw material
The manufacture of the packaging
The end of life of the product
Then, we determine the 3 environmental criteria that we want to reduce:
Consumption of non-renewable resources
The greenhouse effect
The phenomena of eutrophication
From this, we deduce solutions to reduce environmental impacts:
Play on the materials and shapes of the packaging
Use a mono-material 100% PET and 100% recyclable
Valorize material scraps from thermoforming
The results of this approach are as follows (on 100,000 parts produced per year):
A saving of 3,000 liters of oil
A reduction in transport of 32,500 km or 5.1 tons of CO2 equivalent
A reduction of 370 m2 of over-fertilized fields
The end result is a more efficient package with less impact on the planet and a better margin.
96% of companies believe that eco-design of products has a positive or neutral effect on company profits according to a study on the profitability of eco-design (source)
What is ecological design?
Ecological design is also called eco-design. It is about choosing an appearance, textures and shapes that satisfy both the principles of design and eco-design.
What are eco-responsible and eco-design products?
An eco-responsible product is an eco-design product that has an equal or improved functional value compared to its standard version. It is a product that respects the principles of the circular economy.
What is an ethical product?
An ethical product is a product designed and manufactured in accordance with the principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
It is a product that takes into account and optimizes the societal impacts of its manufacture.
How to be more ecological?
The following points can serve as food for thought for companies that would like to be more environmentally friendly in the operation of their business:
Innovate to produce better with less
Optimize manufacturing processes
Use renewable resources with low impact
Think about the reuse of the product throughout its life cycle
Propose new consumption habits
Limiting the programmed and psychological obsolescence of products
Eco-design for the web
In recent years, the principles of eco-design have spread to IT. These practices are grouped under the name of sustainable computing or "Green IT".
The goal is to reduce the energy consumption of electronic hardware, as well as to reduce the computing power required by software.
“Green” It concerns software, websites and server management. It is about applying the principles of eco-design to the stages of design, realization and execution of software.
Another important aspect of Green IT concerns the management of electronic equipment waste that has become useless.
Responsible digital service design
The responsible design of digital services invites to create software limited to the minimum functional viable, while maintaining good performance.
It is therefore an approach centered on the code which concerns the graphic, ergonomic and technical functions.
The myth of the end of paper
During the emergence of the computer, we believed for a long time that paper would disappear thanks to the dematerialization of documents.
However, this has simplified their handling and therefore their re-materialization via personal printers.
In fact, there was a 24% increase in the use of paper between 1988 and 1998 in developed countries.
It is the same phenomenon for "the end of travel" thanks to the development of video communication tools.
Instead of reducing the number of people travelling around the world, these tools have actually stimulated them.
This is why the concept of "impact transfer" is an important notion in eco-design, in order to remain relevant and efficient in its approach.
Training in eco-design
Do you want to be an eco-designer? How to become an eco-designer star? Create sustainable products with low impact on the planet?
In this case, you can find out about the following courses:
AFNOR's eco-design and circular economy training
The online training courses of the eco-design cluster
The IMEDD master's degree and the MTE engineering course at the Université de Technologie de Troyes
Eco-design products, an approach for the future
Now you know everything you need to know about eco-design. products
It will now be easier for you to understand the issues behind the implementation of such a process.
It is important to remember that eco-design is one of the main pillars of the deployment of the circular economy.
This one is supposed to allow us to go towards a more intelligent and sustainable consumption and production.
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