Designing for the Environment : The Basics

"Design for Environment" Practices

Resource consumption and mitigation strategies for product production which minimizes environmental and health impacts.


Design for environmental processing and manufacturing:

This ensures that raw material extraction (mining, drilling, etc.), processing (processing reusable materials, metal melting, etc.) and manufacturing are done using materials and processes which are not dangerous to the environment or the employees working on said processes. This includes the minimization of waste and hazardous by-products, air pollution, energy expenditure and other factors.

Design for environmental packaging: This ensures that the materials used in packaging are environmentally friendly, which can be achieved through the reuse of shipping products, elimination of unnecessary paper and packaging products, efficient use of materials and space, use of recycled and/or recyclable materials.


Design for disposal or reuse: The end-of-life of a product is very important, because some products emit dangerous chemicals into the air, ground and water after they are disposed of in a landfill. Planning for the reuse or refurbishing of a product will change the types of materials that would be used, how they could later be disassembled and reused, and the environmental impacts such materials have.


Design for energy efficiency: The design of products to reduce overall energy consumption throughout the product's life.


Life cycle assessment (LCA) is employed to forecast the impacts of different (production) alternatives of the product in question, thus being able to choose the most environmentally friendly. A life cycle analysis can serve as a tool when determining the environmental impact of a product or process. 

Global Environment Indicators (1990-2005), Published by United Nations Environmental Program
Global Environment Indicators (1990-2005), Published by United Nations Environmental Program

Why do firms want to design for the Environment?


 Modern day businesses should aim to produce goods at a reasonable cost while maintaining quality, staying competitive in the global marketplace, and meeting and generating more consumer preferences for more environmentally friendly products. 

How does a business design for the Environment?


A business can design for the environment by:

  1. Evaluating the human health and environmental impacts of its processes and products.
  2. Identifying what information is needed to make human health and environment decisions
  3. Conducting an assessment of alternatives
  4. Considering cross-media impacts and the benefits of substituting chemicals
  5. Reducing the use and release of toxic chemicals through the innovation of cleaner technologies that use safer chemicals.
  6. Implementing pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and other resource conservation measures.
  7. Making products that can be reused and recycled
  8. Monitoring the environmental impacts and costs associated with each product or process
  9. Recognizing that although change can be rapid, in many cases a cycle of evaluation and continuous improvement is needed

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