In this article, EGGS' designer, Georgina Seviour, gives her view on how industries and designers can design for a sustainable future. The text was originally published in Norwegian in Adresseavisen midtnorsk debatt, on May 15th, 2020.
Link to original article in Adresseavisen.
With the surge of COVID-19, our society was partially paralyzed. The economic consequences for businesses have been enormous, especially for the industries that have been directly affected. Overnight we drastically changed our behaviour. We have almost stopped flying, we practice social distancing, and over a weekend, we have embraced digital interaction platforms and video meetings.
COVID-19 brought positives for the environment
Globally, we see a surprisingly positive consequence of COVID-19, namely reduction of harmful emissions, improvement of air quality in large cities, and much less environmental impact.
These are important steps in the right direction toward achieving the climate goals the world has set. Nevertheless, we can all agree that a pandemic is not the way to go about it. But can these collective actions inspire green innovation in business and society, with people and the planet at the core focus? I sure think it can. I think it must. And I think that ultimately, we have no choice if we want a better future.
How can design thinking contribute to sustainability?
In my everyday life, I use design thinking to solve complex problems. It is an approach that involves collaboration and creativity to work with issues through talking to people, ideating, prototyping, and testing.
Design thinking always puts people at the center and focuses on their needs. And one need we all have in common, no matter where you are, is a healthy, sustainable planet.Georgina Sevoir
I believe that proper and smart use of design can help solve the climate and environmental problems we face while maintaining a profitable business. EU figures show that 80 percent of the environmental impact of a product is determined during the design phase. That means that our choice of materials, the way the parts are manufactured, and whether we design for recycling are factors that can help reduce emissions and waste. So, anyone working in this field has a real opportunity to make a positive change.
A calculator that optimizes recyclability
At EGGS Design, we have worked together with several companies that want to improve their sustainability. Grønt Punkt is one of them. It is a member-based organisation in Norway that ensures that packaging sent out by member companies into the market, is collected and recycled. Together, we developed an app that helps manufacturers make good environmental material choices. For example, the app lets them know whether the chosen materials can be sorted using today's sorting technology, whether they can be recycled and whether they can be reused in new products. If the material scores poorly on these criteria, they can choose other options.
This app will make the packaging industry smarter, more innovative, and sustainable. Such apps can help packaging companies and Norway reach the EU target for 2025/2030, which is 50 percent material recycling of all plastic packaging by 2025 and 55 percent by 2030.
Circular economy and waste
The EU launched its circular economy action plan in the spring of 2020, highlighting both recycling and reuse and repairs, as key measures to reduce waste.
Together with two key players in Norway, Nortura, and Felleskjøpet, we asked the question: can we utilise slaughter waste as a resource? And can we apply a circular-economy mindset? By using design thinking, we identified the challenges, mapped out opportunities, and used an experimental approach to the problem. The result was to convert slaughter waste into soil!
In this collaboration, Felleskjøpet is a major producer of soil. They currently use peat as an additive, which is not ideal as the peatlands are under pressure. Through the process, we concluded that waste could replace peat in the soil bags sold by Felleskjøpet. Slaughter waste is converted to biocarbon through the pyrolysis process and forms the basis for a soil improvement agent. Biocarbon has been on many lips as a climate measure, and in this context, valuable peatlands will be spared by utilizing a waste product.
The role of the designer
Our role as designers in such projects is to create space for creative thinking and interaction within a structured framework. Together with organisations who don't work with innovation on a daily basis, we can help make it happen. Also, it is essential to have an experimental approach to ensure good ideas while thinking big and diverse enough.
Without a future orientation, we risk creating products and services that do not add value in the long run and end up being an environmental burden. Targeted use of the designer's approach to solving complex problems in all types of development projects can thus lead us faster to the goal, such as addressing the climate and the environmental issues we face. By taking action now, we can use the changes and experiences we have had in recent weeks to move in a positive direction.
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