Eco Design: Definition, Examples, Principles

What is eco design? Does eco design follow any specific regulation? What examples of eco designed products and services are there? Let’s find out.

eco design examples definition

Eco Design – A Simple Definition

Eco design is both a principle and an approach. It consists of integrating environmental protection criteria over a service or a product’s lifecycle. The main goal of eco design is to anticipate and minimize negative environmental impacts (of manufacturing, using and disposing of products). Simultaneously, eco design also keeps a product’s quality level according to its ideal usage.

The principles of eco design where formally published in 2002 and they can be found in ISO/TR14062.

The Eco Design Approach

Eco design is part of a global approach called “multi-step” and “multi-criteria”. This approach supports a product’s entire lifecycle in a circular economy perspective by saving and recycling at maximum natural resources. It has to do with considering specific criteria in different stages:

Successive stages:

  • Raw material extraction and supply
  • Manufacturing
  • Product distribution
  • Consumer use
  • End of life (recovery and recycling)

Main criteria taken into account:

  • Consumption of raw materials
  • Energy consumption
  • Releases in the natural environment and other pollutions
  • Climatic impacts
  • Impacts on biodiversity

Some goals and principles are specifically about:

  • Using fewer materials and resources for manufacturing products
  • Using materials and resources obtained with a minimum environmental impact
  • Producing the least waste and pollution possible
  • Reducing the ecological impacts of distribution
  • Making reusing and recycling easier by intelligent design that makes disassembly easy

An eco design approach involves the organization that extracts materials as well as manufacturing. All the people and structures involved along the rest of a product’s lifecycle, such as retailers or consumers, are also included. And all the processes along a product’s value-chain are covered too.

Tools For Eco-Design

eco design example principles

Before implementing an eco-design approach we first need to find out first which are the most environmentally relevant stages of a product’s lifecycle. Questions like “are the materials used biodegradable?” or “is the energy used for extraction renewable?” should be asked. Answering them will allow the identification of measures that need to be taken to effectively reduce the environmental impacts of the product under analysis.

From a more individual perspective, eco-design can also be used in designing homes. In this scenario, eco-design is mostly about using renewable building materials like bamboo or cork, buying second-hand furniture or using recycled fiber carpets. At the same time, eco-design at home also has to do with using energy efficiently. In this way, using double pained glass windows for better insulation and investing in solar panels to generate energy are also usual.

Companies Using Eco-design As A CSR Approach

example eco design

Eco-design is also an integral part of a company’s CSR strategy (Corporate Social Responsibility, see the definition of CSR ). In order to reduce their impact on the environment, many companies are implementing eco-design approaches to offer greener products. Eco-design is also associated with biomimicry practices – a great design philosophy that is inspired by imitating nature.

Examples Of Eco-Design

  • Example Of Eco Design #1:
    • Malongo Ek’Oh Espresso Machine (2013 EcoProduct Award for Sustainable Development ): programmed anti-obsolescence design, modular, easy to repair, solid materials, European manufacturing, economical in electricity consumption, recyclable (75%) … Associated with coffee from fair trade, these machines offer services that are equivalent, or even superior, to those of competition
  • Example Of Eco Design #2:
    • CAMIF Conso’ localization service: the consumer can choose online the equipment item of his/her house (furniture, bedding …) according to the proximity of the place of production to his/her home. This allows the decrease of CO2 emissions at the delivery stage and is a good example of an aspect of the eco-design approach implemented by the manufacturer
  • Example Of Eco Design #3:
    • Adidas-Parley shoes and clothes were born out of a partnership between the sports company and the eco-awareness organization. They came up with a design-conscious solution to fight the plastic pollution problem and its impacts on the marine environment
  • Example Of Eco Design #4:
  • Example Of Eco Design #5:
    • Some of Lego’s elements (the famous bricks) are now made of plant-based plastics. They’re 98% polyethylene, made from sugar cane
  • Example Of Eco Design #6:
    •  Nestlé recently announced it will sell Haagen-Dazs ice-cream in reusable, double-walled steel packaging
  • Example Of Eco Design #7:
    • LED bulbs don’t have mercury and use significantly less energy compared to CFL bulbs. Yet, they also have some downsides
  • Example Of Eco Design #8:
  • Example Of Eco Design #9:
    • Toothbrushes made out of bamboo are biodegradable and made from a tree that grows at an incredibly fast speed
  • Example Of Eco Design #10:
    • Sustainable cellphone cases made from recycled plastic or wood

Eco-design: Regulation

When it comes to the connection between eco-design and energy efficiency, the European Directive 2009/125/CE established a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products. Among other considerations, it speaks about the minimum performance levels to place products on the market (in particular, household appliances). Nonetheless, there’ll a new regulation entering into force in April 2021 with policies more favorable to improve eco-design in the EU.

In addition, a product presented as eco designed must be accompanied by the opportunity consumers to get accurate information on the elements that allow it to be considered eco-designed, such as:

  • A definition of eco-design in accordance with ISO / TR 14062 or Directive 2009/125 / EC
  • The details of what is eco-designed (product, component, packaging …) if this is not the case for all of the articles sold (packaging included)
  • The main environmental characteristics of the product or packaging
  • Qualitative and quantitative information on environmental impact reductions achieved due to the eco-design process

Image credits to eco design on Shutterstock, eco design examples on Shutterstock, bamboo toothbrush on Shutterstock