7 Steps in the Lifecycle of a Green Product

Despite claims to the contrary, products with zero environmental impact do not yet exist. But these new approaches to green design point to a day when that might just be possible.

As we set out to create a green-products issue, we were confronted with a pair of dil­emmas. Amid all the hype and hot air some real progress was being made, but as Ray Ander­son told us in 2004, “No one should be claiming sustainable products. There is no such thing yet in terms of zero footprint. What you can do is demonstrate reduced footprint.” This remains true today—and yet the dizzying array of new efforts boggles the mind. There is no shortage of products claiming the green mantle. So how do we mark this vast but imperfect moment? Borrow­ing from the Okala Design Guide (www.idsa.org/whatsnew/sections/ecosection/okala.html), we’ve organized our stories around the life cycle of green products. Since there is still no perfect product, think of these as seven pieces of a Platonic whole, a set of best practices, and a possible road map for a new model of twenty-first-century manufacturing.

7 Steps in the Lifecycle of a Green Product

1. Innovation: The Shape of Things to Come

2. The Right Materials: The Vinyl Question

3. Clean & Green Production: Balancing Act

4. Efficient Distribution: Delivering the Goods

5. Low-Impact Use: A New Standard

6. Made to Last: The Chair

7. Avoiding the Landfill: Afterlife

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