Discussion for an Environmental Design Policy

I. Purpose

The aim of this paper is to stimulate discussion among Icsid Members, and the wider design community, on the topic of environmental design. The core purpose is to develop an environmental design policy aimed at reducing the environmental impact of manufactured products through better design practices. The key outcome is to achieve a better balance of quality of life, sustainable societies and to ultimately realize a 'zero load' on our global environment through innovative processes from design, manufacturing, consumption and circulation of resources.

II. Objectives


The objectives of this discussion paper relate to social activities relevant to all design practices. They are resource procurement, material milling, manufacturing, distribution, consumption, resource circulation and all aspects of life where design can and should play an important role.

III. Principles


All designers, design educators, design promoters, manufacturers and administrators can contribute their creative capability and specialist understanding of technologies to facilitate the development of a sustainable society. They can do this by recognizing global environmental issues represented by global warming as a priority. In our social activities, we should observe not only diverse environmental law and standards, but also realize the importance of living a beautiful and affluent life through creative activities of products, services, systems and media.

IV. Prior Recognition


1) Recognition of environmental load as global phenomena
We should recognize the phenomena of environmental load derived from today's human life as follows, whilst aiming at reducing or curbing of these environmental loads.
  • Environmental pollution / air, soil, water, sound, vibration, etc.
  • Depletion / mineral resources, natural resources, water, etc.
  • Destruction of ecological systems / animals and vegetation in general.
Provided that the above are comprehensive issues relevant to the environment, the issue with the biggest impact on a global scale today is arguably that of global warming. Triggered by this concern, it has been perceived that our climate is changing; the scale of natural disasters are becoming larger, flood and drought are occurring more frequently, outbreak of contagious disease is pervasive and agricultural systems are collapsing in many places around the world. The mechanisms for these systems are complex. As a result, tremendous human suffering and economic hardship has been predicted. Along with recognizing these issues, we have to contribute to the development of a low-carbon society and bring this into reality through informed design practice aimed at curbing the emergence of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is considered to have the biggest impact on global warming.

2) Issues to lower environmental load
We should aim to make every effort to materialize a sustainable society by recognizing the issues of measures on an environmental load centered around global warming problems.

a)  Enhancing views on comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): In the aspects of manufacturing and consuming products, the issues have to be integrated into all phases throughout the product life cycle encompassing procurement of resources, manufacturing, distribution, use, and recycling. Consideration also needs to be given to the full spectrum of human life from a comprehensive and holistic view.

b)  Promotion of the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle): Promoting reduction of waste generation, reuse of implements, and the recycling and regeneration of resources.

c) Promotion of strategies for saving and optimizing resources: Minimizing consumption of resources should be promoted for effective use of resources, primarily supporting sustainable human activities.

d)  Promotion of natural and renewable energy use and energy saving: Along with the promotion of saving conventional energy through distributed systems, natural energy use with lower loads on our global environment should also be
promoted.

3) Aspects of measures on reducing environmental load
We need to recognize that measures have been taken on the following aspects to cope with the increasing phenomena of environmental load, as well as to try to make these measures use for design practice.

  • Aspects of science and technologies / energy, materials, milling and manufacturing, distribution and capacity planning.
  • Aspects of policies and regulations / standards of conduct, administrative systems and regulations.
  • Aspects of public awareness / raising awareness, publications and social education.

V. Principles in Design


In all design practices, designers should aim to reduce or curb the global environmental load with respect to the following three aspects.

1) Aspects of science and technology
Designers should not only to follow scientific and technological criteria as a primary condition for reducing environmental load but also aim at creating new criteria to implement them in mainstream society.

a) Creating or proposing a new function or innovative initiatives: Designing implements and facilities with a new function contributing to the lowering of diverse environmental loads. Creating operational systems or a new use. (such as Eneloop Universe, Green Net, Velotaxi, etc.)

b)  Creating or proposing new energy or utilization modes: Proposing the creation of a new energy with lower environmental load, and promotion of natural and renewable energy (human, animal, wind, solar, water, tide, bio mass, etc.) and proactive use of lower environmental load energy (hybrid, hydrogen engine, fuel cell engine, etc.). Setting course for proactive use of Autonomous Decentralized Energy.

c) Creating or proposing new materials or proactive use of them: Proposition of developing new materials with lower environmental load, and promotion of designs that proactively use recyclable plant (grass, wood, bamboo, etc.), regenerated materials (papers, lumber, plastics, metal, etc.) and discarded materials.

d) Creating or proposing new manufacturing methods or innovative initiatives: Proposing milling and manufacturing methods with that contribute to a reduction in waste generation and energy loss, consequently reducing and streamlining manufacturing processes through the effective use of materials.

e) Creating or proposing a new distribution system or innovative initiatives: Proposing a distribution system with restrained waste and less energy loss. Design of packaging with less environmental load, centralizing and streamlining the distribution processes.

2) Aspects of policies and regulations
Designers should not only to follow scientific and technologically sound criteria, but should also aim to create new criteria of their own.

a) Creating or proposing a new standard of conduct: Proposing and promoting design for lifestyle to increase the potential impact of such a policy thereby reducing global environmental load in the process (by encouraging the use of less energy, separation and recycling of waste, etc.)

b) Creating or proposing a new administrative system: Proposing and promoting  design strategies for innovative soco-technical systems that lower global environmental load and improve management processes. (such as car sharing, rental cycle systems, eco-money, etc.)

c) Creating or proposing new regulations: Proposing and promoting design for new regulations aimed at lowering global environmental load. (carbon offset, load pricing, environmental tax, etc.)

3) Aspects of public awareness
By recognizing the importance of the role of promoting public awareness toward implementing the reduction of environmental loads, and to stimulate the design community to proactively join the awareness promotion of such an initiative with the aim to foster innovate lifestyles.

a)  Raising and building of users' awareness: Creation of design solutions through which end-users enjoy enhanced usability whilst making a positive contribution to global environmental issues from a citizen's viewpoint. This is an aspect that complements design capability with setting the capacity of an eco-product. Form giving through appropriate aesthetic inputs would create forms, materials, ecologically friendly colors, and design solutions that facilitate users' appreciation of global environmental issues.

b) Promotion of a publication through media: Design solutions that broadly promote awareness of the issues by promotional and communication design mainly through various media.

c)  Promotion of education: From a design perspective, development of progressive strategies focusing on practice and the promotion of ecological education to a diverse audience - from schoolchildren to all members of society.

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Note: At the drawing up of this environmental design discussion paper, Professor Ryoichi Yamamoto of International Research Center for Sustainable Materials, Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, was invited to provide expert input on the context.


About the author

Born in Tokyo in 1956, Kazuo Tanaka is currently the President of GK Design Group, which was founded in 1952 and is the largest freelance design office in Japan. In 1981, Mr. Tanaka graduated from the School of Design of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music where he majored in industrial design (MA). In 2005, he was appointed as the Director of Sign and Street Furniture for the EXPO Aichi, Japan project. He is a visiting lecturer at many universities in Japan and has been a juror for the Good Design Award since 2003, as well as for the Red Dot Award since 2008. Since elected as a board member of Icsid in 2007, he has been widening his activities internationally.