SAN DIEGO, CA (IDETC09) Aug 31, 2009 - I'm listening to a series of talks on Sustainabiltiy in Product Design expecting how proper selection of materials and conscious choice in processes will make the world green again when Lora Oehlberg from UC -Berkeley makes a point that practically bowls me over with its simple truth. "Make a better product." People will keep a great product around a long time. I think of some of my trusty woodworking tool that no amount of technology has been able to improve on.
Of course, that doesn't work for tech gadgets. Lora tells us that 140 million cell phones fall out of use every year. She is now making the point that modular design in a product allows manufacturers to refurbish easier. Refurbishing is sort of like recycling, right? Currently, only 10% of cell phones are recycled. Probably less than 1% (my estimate) had fallen from favor not because they were not good phones -- but because they were not getting emails, or finding nearby Kinkos on a trip. Oh my god!. That was me. I remind myself that I still use a CRT monitor, having avoided trading in a perfectly functional monitor for the latest gee whiz technology. Keeping that 100 lb monster on my desk and out of a landfill -- or a3rd world toxic recycling sweatshop -- has got to make up for the teeny little cell phone trade up, right?
Other highlights from Lora's talk:
- Profit or Planet? Corporations think this is a choice they have to make. But in reality, green product design can often go hand in hand with profit.
- Most people feel powerless. They may bring their own bags to the supermarket, eschewing paper and plastic, but are frustrated they can't do more. Loro implies that corporations would do well to create more opportunities for consumers to feel as if they are doing the right thing.