Preston Smith's Corner

What is “green” product development?

January 2006 Quick Tip

We are slowly realizing that many of the Earth’s resources are finite, and, in the end, things must balance. This has big implications for product development, which often depends on proliferation.

According to Jacquelyn Ottman, a pioneer in the field, “‘Green’ product development, also known as design-for-environment or eco-design, is about minimizing impacts upon the environment at every stage of a product’s life, from concept, design, raw materials and production, through to distribution, marketing, use, and disposal/recycling.”

You can determine the “greenness” of a product by using a tool called life cycle assessment (LCA), which helps measure the impact of a product on the environment.

The following four design strategies will generally reduce environmental impacts:


  • Design for Recycling: Save money or new raw materials and meet customer demands for waste disposal and recycled content; even exploit a new design aesthetic by using recycled materials in designs.
  • Reduce Toxicity: Impacts to air, land, and water can affect humans and animals. Reducing them can also save money, reduce liability, improve marketability, and accelerate development by eliminating legal hurdles. For instance, Nike has eliminated PVC from its footwear.
  • Energy and Fuel Efficiency: Reduce electricity generation, the single largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and protect against rising energy prices by using energy-efficient technologies. Toyota’s hybrid Prius wins in fuel efficiency while setting new standards for responsible cars.
  • Provide a Service Alternative to Physical Products: The iPod, with its downloadable tunes, replaces physical CDs; consumers do not need physical products, just the service a product provides.

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(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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