Sustainable Product Design

Whether or not you’re worried about climate change, it’s obvious that we are reaching a turning point when it comes to environmental issues. Human beings have changed this planet in such a way that it is much different than it was before the industrial revolution. We’ve added an unprecedented amount of carbon to our atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and our methods of animal agriculture. Not only do we have the issues of pollution via carbon dioxide and methane gas, but we have seriously damaged the biodiversity in many different areas of the planet.

Making A Personal Difference

There are many reasons to be nervous about our environmental future. However, it’s often better to focus on what you can do personally to help rather than constantly fretting over the worse case scenario. There’s really only so much that one person can do to influence governmental policy. With that being said, you do have the power to choose which products that you buy. ‘Voting with you wallet’ can be the best way to influence businesses to create more sustainable (environmentally friendly) products. Although it is important to do your research to determine if these ‘green’ products are as easy on the Earth as advertised. I’ve compiled a short list of products that have impressed me in their efforts to have a minimal impact on climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Sustainability
Credit: Careysplc.co.uk

Recycling Friendly Water Packaging

You’re most likely aware of the staggering amount of plastic waste that is produced by the United States alone every day. A significant chunk of that waste is from plastic water bottles. While it’s true that you can recycling water bottles, it is much more difficult to recycle plastic than it is paper products. In fact, paper recycling is a much more effective process than plastic recycling. This means that it takes less energy and more of the material is able to return to the product lifecycle.

Many consumers are initially resistant to the idea of a paper water bottle. They may think that paper just isn’t the right material for the storage of water. Maybe because they think that it isn’t as clean as plastic or maybe they just want to see how “pure-looking” their water is before they buy it. But, let’s be realistic here. When is the last time you bought water and it had something in it? I’m guessing the answer to that is: probably never.

Paper is, in fact, a great material for the storage of individual serving sizes of water. There are quite a few different companies out there who are going after this concept in both the interest of sustainability and profit.

Paper Water Bottle
Credit: PaperWaterBottle.com

The Electric Car Popularity Contest

The concept of electric cars have been around just about as long as the automobile itself. Internal combustion engines have dominated the market for the last century for a myriad of reasons. However, it’s clear that we’re in desperate need of alternatives. If you’re interested in the idea of owning an electric vehicle yourself, then you’ve undoubtably heard of Tesla. Their fan base is quite impressive, yet not unwarranted in the slightest bit. Elon Musk’s vision for their vehicles can take a good amount of the credit for revitalizing public interest in electric vehicles. They have achieved this through high-end styling, the latest technology, outstanding safety features, and incredible performance. Before Tesla became a part of the public consciousness, the most common mental image that a person had of an electric vehicle was the extremely ‘un-sexy’ Toyota Prius. Going along with that image, people generally viewed electric vehicles to be slow and just plain boring.

Tesla’s Model S did a fantastic job of smashing the preconceived ideas of what an electric vehicle can be. In fact, many people are surprised to hear that the Model S is faster than any gasoline powered vehicle (the top of the line Model S vs. production gas powered vehicles, this is). The true benefit to this explosion of interest in the Tesla brand is that they are literally creating a new market that has never existed on this scale before. While it still creates pollution to produce these vehicles in many different aspects, they are a large improvement over gasoline powered vehicles. Areas that hold large concentrations of vehicles are typically choked with all of the emissions from traditional vehicles. Electric vehicles don’t have any emissions coming directly from the car, so they’re much healthier to be near for city dwellers.

The best part about the design of the Tesla is that it is so enticing people without any environmental concerns at all are still attracted to the vehicle. It’s something that can stand out on it’s own as a good choice.

Tesla Model S
Credit: Tesla.com

Contemporary Home Design

I have a friend that works in the architectural design field. He designs high end homes for people all over the state of California and sometimes even exporting his designs out to other companies that work all around the country. I met him early one morning at Gold’s Gym in Pasadena, where I currently live. I was bench pressing alone (bad idea, I know) and tried to press more weight than I could handle. He happened to be paying attention out of the corner of his eye enough to be able to come to my aid in my time of great need and embarrassment. After he saved me from being squished by the bar, we got to talking. He told me all about his design career and how the market was really taking off in Pasadena. He showed me a few pictures of the houses that he designed and I was absolutely blown away. I was interested in modern design style before, but this really got my mind going.

Less Is More / The Minimalism Trend

One of the most appealing aspects of modern home design to me is the philosophy of “less is more”.  (All of this ties in very nicely with the ‘minimalism’ theme as well.) This mantra manifests itself as clean lines, open spaces, and a design that brings the attention back from the structure of the building itself. A feat such as that can be accomplished by a careful selection of materials and an even more careful application of those materials. Concrete countertops are a great example of this clean approach. Concrete can offer a variety of different benefits. It’s less expensive than almost any alternative hard surface, extremely durable, and can be finished in a way that is very clean looking. In fact, there are many cases where it’s actually possible for a novice to do the job herself, potentially saving thousands of dollars in the process.

Concrete Countertop
Credit: Deco-CreteSupply.com | Job by DS Construction

Kitchen Storage with Nothing to Hide

Continuing on with the theme of minimalism, I certainly appreciate design efforts that are directed at keeping the amount of physical goods in the house as low as possible. This is definitely not to suggest that storage space isn’t a must, while it most certainly is. It’s easier to explain this concept with an example. You will find that many modern home designs feature shelving where there would normally be cabinets. I’m already anticipating the eye rolling of many readers as I’m typing this. You’ll have to hear me out on this. Cabinet space is a must, but there is some benefit to having shelving where you plates, bowls, and the like are to be kept. This type of storage solution will help homeowners focus on taking good care of the essentials and getting rid of the extraneous items that really don’t need to be held onto. There’s nothing wrong with having one nice set of bowls and one nice set of plates. I’m sure that a good number of you have an eclectic collection of bowls, plates, and cups with no theme encompassing them whatsoever (just as I once did). Another side benefit of this storage method is that this makes things much more accessible for your guests. However, you will find that getting your unused items dusty is a new issue to deal with. We have to take the good with the bad – never forget that!

Modern Kitchen Shelving
Credit: MontanaPrarieTales.com

Open House, Open Mind

One of my most prominent memories from my early childhood is the smell of my mother cooking Churros Con Chocolate. My brother and I were playing in the living room while the smell came wafting around the corner. Our kitchen growing up was a very small room. The kids were usually forbidden from being in the kitchen while our mother was cooking. This was to keep us out of harms way and to keep us from driving mom insane! Now that my mother has passed away, it really bothers me that I didn’t spend more in the kitchen with her. Even if only to watch her make those delicious churros.

What I’m getting at here with my Churros Con Chocolate memory is that it’s good to have your family and friends all together. It’s a shame that my mother spent so much time and effort making her family delicious meals and yet she spent a lot of time being excluded because of it. The relatively modern trend of the “open concept” home is something that I enjoy on a daily basis with my own family. It’s hard to overstate the benefits of having a floor plan with little to no barriers between the main living area and the kitchen. Not only does this help keep the family close together while the kids are lounging in the living room while my wife and I area preparing dinner and getting a little bit of personal time.

Not only do open concept homes help keep families closer together, but they’re also excellent for entertaining guests. It’s a lot easier to keep the party going when you can have a conversation with you guests and prepare snacks and refreshments at the same time. I’m sure you’ve heard before that people tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when there are guests. It’s a comfortable common area that is much enhanced when it’s connected with the living room. I’m happy that I’m fortunate enough to live in a home that facilitates this type of lifestyle.

Open Concept Home
Credit: ApartmentTherapy.com