Clean green design: what does it mean?

Sustainable or ‘green’ design has rapidly become a big deal. We often get asked what the definition of sustainable design is, but the simple fact is there are no universal definitions.


Every designer will have a unique perspective on what sustainability means in relation to their work. Here at Locus we encourage this conversation, as it provides a diverse range of responses, ideas, and solutions to the problem represented by sustainability. And let’s face it, a creative challenge is something any good designer simply can’t resist.

We believe that if design is not responsible, it is irrelevant. There is only good design or bad design: if design is not striving to protect the planet and the people on it, then it is actively destroying them.

You won’t often read or hear us talking specifically about the sustainable aspects of our designs (unless asked of course), and our unique proposition should never be about ‘selling the green’. We like to think that our contribution is a step towards making the integration of sustainable practices into everyday thinking and doing. After all it just seems wrong to make a big deal out of what we all have a responsibility to do.

Green from the start

Sustainability is not an add-on or afterthought, but a fundamental component to all the work we do. As designers, we have the ability to influence those around us through sustainable design of products and services, communications, and spaces. While this is a true creative challenge, it will most certainly pay off in the long run.

When developing a new product, there are many elements to think about. Being ‘green’ in all aspects of the design process will assist with keeping the overall footprint of the product as small as possible.

Product life cycle

  • How long is this product designed to last?
  • Are there easily replaceable elements that will extend the life of the product?
  • What else can we do to extend the life of the product and keep it out of the landfill?

Product materials

  • Are the materials toxic or harmful, especially when they end up in the landfill?
  • How can we minimise the need for extra processes within the production?
  • Can we use recyclable or ethically sourced materials?

Product print and packaging

  • Does that element need to be printed?
  • What can we do to eliminate the need for plastic, polystyrene, and other common, non-recyclable materials?
  • Can this collateral be reused in any way?

Green businesses

To ensure we are living our own mantra we recently had Paula, an environmental warrior for Trust Power, visit the Locus studio to chat about how we can develop better sustainable practices within our work and business.

Many companies around New Zealand are starting to consider their footprint on the world — but one of the biggest hurdles is getting everyone on board. The simple answer is, it needs to start from the top. If directors and managers are enforcing sustainable practices, the others will follow.

Only you as a company can decide what is an ‘acceptable’ level of sustainable practice in your company. Consider the big picture — how does your business fit into the wider industry system? Where are industry trends heading and how can you adapt? Sit down as a group and decide what is important to you as a company.

Set small goals and work towards a bigger plan. Whether you are a big or small company, there is always a way to clean up your act.

  • Waste management: Can you recycle more? How can you reduce your waste? Are there organisations that could make the most of your off-cuts or waste materials?
  • Ensure there are marked bins in your office or studio and recycle everything, from paper to plastics — but be sure to check what grades are recyclable in your region.
  • Don’t throw out batteries and electronics. Collect them and dispose of them responsibly.
  • Continually reduce the use of fossil fuels and mined materials. And while you’re at it, educate yourself on new materials and seek cleaner alternatives.
  • Working with companies and clients that go against your views on sustainability? Challenge them on their practices. Can they use less plastic in their packaging or provide you with more sustainable resources? Everything counts.
  • Drink a lot of takeaway coffee? Purchase a bunch of reusable coffee cups and stash them at your local for anyone in your company to use. Then when you get a build-up of cups at the office, take them back to the café when you head out for your next coffee order.
    •  As a side note, you can always discuss your concerns with your local eatery. Are you uncomfortable with their polystyrene packaging or non-sustainable take out cups? Have a chat with them! They’ve probably never considered using different packaging, so go and plant that seed (see what I did there?).
  • Get a worm farm and compost your scraps. People can take home the compost to revitalise their own gardens, or you can give your office plants a good feed.

While starting small is good, the only real way to track your footprint is to measure your current practices and your changes. Only then will you truly know how successful your efforts are. It will also give your team something to work against.

A green world

As the world moves towards a sustainable future, ever changing regulations and questions on your practices and policies will become prevalent. Being provocative and taking steps to ensure you’re on the front foot rather than the back will give you that competitive edge. Take steps to prevent pollution, train staff, and continually strive for improvement to stay ahead of the curve.

It’s no longer okay to use harmful products or carve your path without thinking about what you’re leaving in your wake.

So we challenge you to consider your effect on the environment (especially if you’re in the business of making ‘stuff’!) and take steps to maintain this beautiful place we live in. One person really can make a difference.

Do you have any tips for encouraging sustainability within your business? Leave a comment and let us know! The more advice the better right?

For more information on sustainability in Product Development, check out our resource Designing for Sustainability. 

Want to read more on creativity, design, product development and innovation? Go to our Six Lenses Blog.



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