We introduce sustainability to our ID students quite lightly in their first year and build on it in Second Year when they start to learn more about manufacturing and materials. (In industrial design it’s difficult to make detailed decisions about product sustainability until you know something about materials and manufacturing.)
We do this by asking students to:
- consider the lifecycle of the product
- choose materials based on the performance requirements of the product, including emotional factors
- investigate broad manufacturing options for these materials (e.g. you can’t injection mould wood!)
Of these three things the first is the most important. Thinking about how long a product should last, how it is repaired, repurposed and then recycled has a big impact on the design of the product as a whole.
This leads to general approaches such as:
- short lifecycle: maximise recycling, design for disassembly
- longer lifecycle: maximise repairability, modularity, upgrade as well as disassembly
We don’t ask students to go into detail about these things in First Year; that comes later when they have greater technical knowledge.
I suggest that teachers might take a similar approach to sustainability discussions in the classroom, which is to say, not get too technical.
- How long should a thing last?
- Can it be easily maintained, repaired when it breaks or wears out?
- Can it be upgraded or modified to new purposes?
- What happens after it reaches its end-of-life?
Exploring novel answers to these questions can lead design in some interesting directions.