Product Design for Sustainability - Essay Sample

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University of Richmond
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In the current world, sustainability has grown to become an important aspect of the everyday life. It has especially had a significant impact on the manufacture and production processes of various industries whose product designs are now heavily influenced by the sustainability factor. More manufacturers are determined to produce eco-friendly products by following the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse and Restoration guidelines which seem promising for future sustainability. However, there are adverse effects that have emerged as a result of these sustainability endeavors that seem to outweigh the benefits of sustainable production. These effects are a significant risk to the future of sustainable production and have led to a lot of debate on whether the result is worth the risk.

Sustainability is the ability to maintain some degree of diversity that will retain ecological balance. It also acknowledges and encompasses the human need for resources to sustain the modern day way of life, (Reis & Wiedemann, 2010). It takes into account how people can live in harmony with the natural world and their surroundings by caring for it to avoid damage and destruction. Various industries all over the world have made various efforts in an attempt to push the sustainability agenda towards realizing a better future by reducing the current environmental, social and economic deterioration. Reis & Wiedemann (2010) suggest that for industries like bio packaging and recycling, even with the various efforts made to include sustainability in its processes, the negative results have proven to be possibly devastating in the future. They limit the capability of upcoming generations from being able to satisfy their necessities.

A significant effect of sustainability about product design is in how it impacts the environment. Currently, there is a concern over the use of bioplastic which is partly biodegradable. The idea of designing product packaging to become environmentally friendly presents an opportunity for the packaging and recycling industry to develop more sustainable products that will improve the environment. However, to manufacture more sustainable material that can be recycled or repurposed to package the products, there is a need for more resources and more expensive production processes and technologies, (Ashby & Johnson, 2014). For the companies that decide to invest in the bioplastics as the future of product packaging, these extra costs are factored into the price of the final products which makes them more expensive. With an increased cost of these products, there could be a chain reaction that affects other commodities whose production depends on that particular product. As a result, it could negatively affect economies that require that product. According to Verghese et al. (2012), the extra costs burdened on the recycling and packaging industry could cause financial strain on some companies that could end up making losses in an attempt to maintain a low price for their products. The loss of revenue for the bio-degradable packaging and recycling industry could make it less profitable and cause higher competition and possible outperformance by substitute products that do not use bio degradable material. The future market command of the bio packaging industry could become weak and as a result, enable entry of new players in the niche.

In the modern day where environmental degradation is a major concern in the entire world, there is need to consider how products affect the surroundings. A current major concern for the world is the use of non-biodegradable products such as packaging that uses plastic and petroleum based wrappings. Some production and packaging companies such as SodaStream opted to use instead bio-degradable containers that use plant based materials, (Verghese et al., 2012). The use of such packaging improves the environment considerably by preventing soil pollution and emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere when these elements are disposed or burnt. However, despite its many benefits, the use of more plant based material for product packaging purposes presents new environmental concerns. A recent study regarding the impact of the use of bioplastics made from agricultural products such as corn found that the production of these bioplastics uses a large amount of water, pesticides and fertilizers, (Verghese et al., 2012). Some of these materials are toxic and strenuous to the environment and therefore, cause more harm.

Despite the various commendable efforts to protect the environment, it is counterproductive to pollute the environment to save it from pollution by the non-bio degradable material. Verghese et al. (2012) suggest that there is also the possibility of competition for land by crops meant for bioplastic manufacture and those intended for food which is disastrous because food security is already a major issue in the world. SodaStream has made major progress in its efforts to make its products more environmentally friendly. According to Verghese et al. (2012), it started distribution of its flavored syrups in containers that have the ability to decay after half a decade. That was a commendable and sustainable effort that would ensure less non-bio degradable waste matter. However, the bioplastics used in place of non-bio degradable materials also have their negative impacts on the environment.

It is evident that sustainability has its merits regarding the environment, economy and society as a whole. Many industries could improve their product designs to become more sustainable with minor risks involved. However, it is not worth the risk to have more sustainable products that have adverse effects on the future and its generation. It would be counterproductive and non-developmental to risk the future to have a better present.


Ashby, M. & Johnson, K. (2014). Materials and design : the art and science of material selection in product design. Amsterdam: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Reis, D. & Wiedemann, J. (2010). Product design in the sustainable era. Koln: Taschen.

Verghese, K., Lewis, H. & Fitzpatrick, L. (2012). Packaging for sustainability. London New York: Springer.

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