Greater environmental awareness by institutions and society has led to the emergence of ecodesign in recent years. In the media, the recovery of waste has become more widely publicized, advertising the purchase and sale of second-hand materials, for example. However, this is a very superficial measure to reduce the amount of resources we consume and the amount of waste we generate. For this, it is essential to intervene in the management systems in order to bring ecological design to the whole of the built environment (to what already exists and is currently being produced).
What is eco design and what is it for?
Eco design is a phase of the product development process that aims to reduce the impacts that products generate on the environment . It can be said that it is key in management systems to achieve economic sustainability, since through the creation and reconfiguration of products that respect the environment, it allows stopping the degradation of ecosystems, the depletion of natural resources and the chain of effects adverse on human health. According to Barbero and Cozzo (2009), the principles of ecodesign are:
- Product manufacturing efficiency; that is, using the least amount of material and energy possible.
- Design by disassembly, to allow the recycling of products in the future, each of its components being easy to identify and separate to be treated correctly according to its nature and composition.
- Produce products using a single “bio” material or materials, in order to simplify recycling processes.
- The use of long-lasting forms and materials.
- Multifunctionality and possibility to reuse and recycle the products.
- Reduce the size of the product in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in their transportation. Thus, on each trip it is possible to transport a greater quantity of products, optimizing space and the consumption of fossil fuels.
- Consider products as services and not as mere objects, to limit their use to need and not to the desire for possession, which currently sets the market guidelines.
- Support in new technologies to improve product efficiency.
- Reduce emissions.
- Spread and integrate the product’s sustainability message in its design.
According to the above, the objectives of ecodesign are to reduce the environmental impact of the products we consume during their useful life cycle and to guarantee the well-being and quality of life of users. Some of the main characteristics of ecodesign or ecological design are:
- It favors the application of the circular economy .
- It allows to reduce the costs in the elaboration and the transport of the products.
- It improves the production process and therefore increases the quality of the products obtained.
- Contributes to the innovative character of the company.
- It has four levels that allow action to improve, redesign, create and define new products and new production systems.
- Avoid wasting resources.
- It gives value to waste (recovery) by considering the recycling and reuse of products once their useful life has expired.
- There are different ecodesign strategies such as: the LiDS Wheel and the PILOT Strategy.
Among the examples of ecodesign or ecological design shown below, some are part of our daily lives and others show a development that is still incipient:
- Ecodesign in refrigerators, freezers and other appliances such as heaters, washing machines and dishwashers, the latter two regulated by the European Commission (CE).
- Design and construction of eco-buildings.
- Italian coffee makers, as they do not use paper filters.
- Furniture made with materials that have the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) seal, with recycled materials.
- Furniture that is sold unassembled, reducing the dimensions of the products, optimizing their transport.
- Furniture designed by disassembly, such as urban benches.
- Manufacture of garments using textile waste, plastics.