Design for Biodiversity: a new approach for ecologically sustainable product design?
Reay, SD; Withell, A; Diegel, O
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McDonough and Braungart proposed the “Cradle to Cradle” design framework to provide solutions to the world’s current ecological crisis. This approach, based on examples from nature, ensures that human activities can have a positive ecological footprint, capable of replenishing and regenerating natural systems, as well guaranteeing that we are able to develop a world that is culturally and ecologically diverse. In their framework they describe the notion of biological nutrients, where industrial waste (non toxic & biodegradable) may be used as a beneficial nutrient for ecological systems, eliminating the need for efficiency, as “waste is good”. Consequently, Cradle to Cradle industrial systems will benefit the environment. A group of New Zealand scientists were asked to evaluate ‘Cradle to Cradle’ in an attempt to determine the potential of this approach for the sustainable design of products. Analysis of interview data indicated that sustainability is a complex and multifaceted concept, especially with regard to practical applications. In particular, understanding the input of biological nutrients into the environment was identified as being critically important. Furthermore, science can play an important in understanding the impacts of products, as well as how biological nutrient’s may be best used in environmental systems. The insights gathered from these interviews were used to explore the potential for an alternative sustainable design approach, which builds upon McDonough and Braungart’s concept of a biological nutrient, and aims to support the design of products that have a strong ecological foundation. Consequently, Design for Biodiversity is outlined as a potential approach for designing environmentally sustainable products. During the development of this approach, the relationship between science and design was explored to support the notion that ecosystems are the basis of human consumption and should be incorporated as an integral part of society to ensure the development of strong sustainability. The intent of this approach is to help to design ecologically beneficial products. It is relatively untested, and should be evaluated and revised during future design projects.