Latest Developments in Green Design

Six Trends Driving Green Product Design Worldwide 


Scientists from Copernicus and the World Meteorological Organization agree that 2023 was the hottest year on record. Last summer, South Africans experienced an onslaught of heat waves from November well into March. While the ongoing El Niño event plays a role, most of the world’s recent heat gains can be attributed to climate change.


Thousands of businesses worldwide have committed to green design and cleaner production to combat rising temperatures and extreme weather. That means creating less pollution and waste while conserving water and resources. Today, we explore six trends shaping green design for more eco-friendly economies.


  1. Generative AI in Product Design


By now, most of us have played with generative AI. Chat GPT, Midjourney, Google Bard, and DALL-E are the most well-known examples, but there are thousands of other programmes out there. In product design, gen AI has become a valuable research and communication tool. Today, designers can use gen AI to explore concepts and share them with clients much faster than before.


Generating a few high-quality images creates less waste than building physical models, so AI-aided design is often more eco-friendly. Designers can also use generative AI to analyse complex data and draw conclusions in the name of sustainability. For example, getting ChatGPT to summarise environmental reports to help a designer find the most eco-friendly materials for a new product.


  1. Nature-Positive Businesses


You may be familiar with “net zero”, which means absorbing just as much CO2 from the atmosphere as we put into it. Now, many businesses are saying net zero is not enough. Nature-positive means giving back to nature, allowing ecosystems to regenerate and reach the biodiversity levels we once had.


For a business to be nature-positive, it must repair the direct damage it causes to the environment. A shoe manufacturer, for example, should invest in reforesting the tropical jungles that rubber farming destroys. Being nature-positive requires a good understanding of the entire value chain and life cycle of your products and takes collaboration between suppliers and distributors.


  1. Digital Twins


A digital twin is a detailed replica created in a virtual environment. It uses data to update in real-time, allowing businesses to accurately test products, systems, and scenarios without physically building them. They have already proven useful for construction, engineering, and transportation.


Building a digital twin of your product or manufacturing line can have many environmental benefits. It allows you to simulate real-world events with few or no physical resources. For example, pilots and race car drivers often use digital twins of their vehicles for training instead of running real engines that pollute the air. Using a digital twin over physical prototypes and mock-ups is far less wasteful overall.


  1. Automation in Manufacturing


Automation means using technology to run processes instead of relying on human labour. It comes in many forms, the most popular being robotic process automation (RPA) and digital process automation (DPA). Many automated systems also use artificial intelligence.


In manufacturing, automation can help businesses track their energy usage, wastage, and raw material inputs. Reporting is a big part of running a sustainable business. As the saying goes, you can’t change what you can’t measure, and automation makes measuring metrics like greenhouse gas emissions easier. It can also help detect issues on a production line, helping factories reduce waste.


  1. The Internet of Things (IoT)


The IoT is a network of smart devices that can “speak” to each other. Wi-Fi-controlled lighting is an example of an IoT device. These lights contain small electronic components that allow you to connect them to your phone and control them remotely.


Office buildings can use the Internet of Things to monitor their energy usage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Factories and builders can use it to track air, soil, and water quality around their manufacturing or construction sites to minimise environmental pollution. Some IoT devices can even alert users of faults before they damage machinery, reducing material wastage caused by system crashes.


  1. Green IT


Most modern businesses are supported by computers. While digitising everything might save trees, there is a negative side to the coin, and ICT doesn’t come without its environmental challenges. Today, businesses are increasingly adopting “Green IT” which refers to more eco-friendly computing.


Green IT covers hardware (computers, cables, batteries) and software (websites, programmes, apps). Everything on the internet runs off of data centres, which are physical buildings that store servers and other computer infrastructure. These centres use electricity, therefore they are responsible for their share of greenhouse gas emissions.


Switching to an energy-efficient data centre can help reduce a business’s carbon footprint. Other green IT interventions include running simplified websites free from heavy images and videos, recycling e-waste, and consolidating your tech tools to use less wherever possible.


How To Run a Greener Business in South Africa


Green design can help business owners reduce their environmental impact and attract more eco-conscious customers. It can also offer long-term cost savings, yet many entrepreneurs are slow to adopt it. Financial barriers and a lack of awareness and infrastructure availability are common challenges South African businesses face when going green.


However, there is a way around this. Joining forces with other like-minded founders and CEOs can help you achieve your sustainability goals at a fraction of the cost and effort. You can do this through a producer responsibility organisation (PRO) such as eWASA.


At eWASA, we help our members reach their EPR targets, implement recycling programmes, find CSR partners, and more. Have questions? Please get in touch for more information.

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