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This lesson on ecological design was developed by: Scott A. Warner, Ed.D., IDSA Associate Professor Department of Industry and Technology Millersville University of Pennsylvania PO BOX 1002 Millersville, PA 17551 Phone:(717)-872-3365 FAX:(717)-872-3318 scott.warner@millersville.edu.

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This lesson on ecological design was developed by:

Scott A. Warner, Ed.D., IDSA

Associate Professor

Department of Industry and Technology

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

PO BOX 1002

Millersville, PA 17551





learning ecological design

Quotes and statistics are from the booklet Okala; developed by Steve Belletire, IDAA, Louise St. Pierre, IDSA, and Philip White, IDSA for the Ecodesign Section of the Industrial Designers Society of America © 2007

okala oqala from the hopi language meaning life sustaining energy
Okala: (oqala)from the Hopi language, meaning life sustaining energy
  • The energy used to create, develop, manufacture and use products can sustain life on this planet, rather than deplete it.
  • Implies a forward and optimistic view
  • Designers who persistently seek out ecological design work will have the greatest opportunity to make a meaningful difference.
some sobering statistics
Some Sobering Statistics
  • The natural environment has always been affected by the presence of human beings
  • Since the beginning of the Industrial Age (approximately 1750) the environmental impact of human activity has increased exponentially
  • The consumer driven economy we live in now has only made that impact worse
  • Statistics that reflect that include:
global temperatures
Global Temperatures
  • The global temperature averaged 57.4 degrees F in 1965 and 58.6 degrees in 2006. A raise of 8 degrees F would turn all of the earth’s land surface into desert scrub except for the most Northern and most Southern latitudes.

Image found at www.nwhi.org/index/habdescriptions

melting ice caps
Melting Ice Caps
  • Ice on the North and South poles and Greenland is melting at an alarming rate; if half of Greenland’s ice melts, the oceans worldwide could raise 20 feet.

Image found at www.surveygalaxy.com/show_sur_form.asp?survey...

  • Nearly half of the world’s old growth forests are gone.

Image found at greenoptions.com/category/palm_oil

human population
Human Population
  • Human population will grow from 6.1 billion to 9 billion by 2050.
  • Most of that growth will occur in increasingly industrialized countries such as China and India.

Image found at www.bartellonline.com/chinapic.php?i=7500

fish stocks
Fish Stocks
  • The 1950-1997 oceanic fish harvest grew from 19 million to 95 million tons, resulting in major declines of many species.

Image found at www.janetdavisphotography.com/awards.html

declining bio diversity
Declining Bio-Diversity
  • 11% of all birds, 25% of all mammals and 34% of all fish species are on endangered species lists. 50 % of all tropical plant species are at risk of extinction.
  • The cause is destruction of habitats from human interference, pollution and climate change.

Image found at www.kidsplanet.org/factsheets/esa.html

farming the environment
Farming & the Environment
  • Arable cropland demand is converting forests to land used for non-biologically diverse crop species.

Image found at www.agriculture.purdue.edu/.../index.html

time for a thought experiment
Time for a Thought Experiment
  • What would the world be like without humans?
  • How long would it take to get rid of all signs that we had been here?

Image found at www.tred.cl/fgf_blog/index.php?paged=2

an earthly timeline
An Earthly TimeLine

Image found at englishrussia.com/?p=276

what can a designer do
What Can a Designer Do?
  • Design with Innovation
  • Use Low-Impact Materials
  • Use Optimized ManufacturingTechniques
  • Design for Efficient Distribution
  • Design for Low-Impact Use of the Product
  • Design for an Optimized Product Lifetime
  • Plan the Product for an Optimized End of Life
design with innovation
Design with Innovation
  • Rethink how to provide the benefit
  • Serve needs provided by associated products
  • Anticipate technological change and build in flexibility
  • Provide product as service
  • Share among more users
  • Design to mimic nature
  • Use living organisms in the product

Image found at www.ldeo.columbia.edu/.../pages/velcro.html

use low impact materials
Use Low-Impact Materials
  • Avoid materials that damage human health, ecological health, or deplete resources
  • Use minimal materials
  • Use renewable materials
  • Use waste byproducts
  • Use thoroughly tested materials
  • Use recycled or reused materials

Image found at www.flexiblelove.com/products/

use optimized manufacturing techniques
Use Optimized Manufacturing Techniques
  • Design for ease of production quality control
  • Minimize manufacturing waste
  • Minimize energy in production
  • Minimize number of production methods and operations
  • Minimize number of components/materials

Image found at www.homeworkingsolutions.co.uk/.../index.cfm

design for efficient distribution
Design for Efficient Distribution
  • Reduce product and packaging weight
  • Use reusable or recyclable packaging
  • Use an efficient transport system
  • Use local production and assembly

Image found at www.inhabitat.com/category/graphics-packaging/

design for low impact use of the product
Design for Low-Impact Use of the Product
  • Minimize emissions. / Integrate cleaner or renewable energy sources
  • Reduce energy inefficiencies
  • Reduce water use inefficiencies
  • Reduce material use inefficiencies

Image found at www.srptoilethire.co.uk/units.php

design for optimized product lifetime
Design for Optimized Product Lifetime
  • Build in user’s desire to care for product long term
  • Design for take-back programs
  • Build in durability
  • Design for maintenance and easy repair
  • Design for upgrades
  • Design for second life with different function
  • Create timeless look or fashion

Image found at www.dkimages.com/discover/Home/Sports-Games-R...

plan the product for optimized end of life
Plan the Product for Optimized End-of-Life
  • Integrate methods for product collection
  • Provide for ease of disassembly
  • Provide for recycling or down-cycling
  • Design reuse, or “next life of product”
  • Provide for reuse of components
  • Provide ability to biodegrade
  • Provide for safe disposal

Image found at www.city.davis.ca.us/pw/recycle/rebuy.cfm

final thoughts
Final Thoughts
  • Keeping an ecological perspective should be important to a product designer
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle are the “three R’s” of product design
  • The Okala approach to product design is the way to succeed as a designer
  • Educators of design have an obligation to encourage the Okala approach in the work of their students
  • Belletire, S., Pierre, L. & White, P. (2007). Okala: Learning ecological design. Pheonix, AZ: IDSA
  • Weisman, A. (2007). The world without us. New York: St. Martin’s.