Ecodesign, eco-awareness, eco-responsibility, green, sustainable, slow… fashionable terms but what lies behind those concepts? How are (product, service or fashion) designers approaching environmental issues? How does ecodesign translate into what they do?
The climate challenges we face are forcing us to rethink how we live, eat, travel, consume but also, and more importantly, how we produce. The designer, the first link in the product, service or garment creation chain, has an essential role to play in improving the environmental impact of the objects around us.
"Companies should take responsibility of what products they release on the market. We, as designers, have the power to design a product that is kind to the environment and to the people producing it and using it." Veronika Vimpelova
"Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced"
At a time when our way of consuming is central to real and lasting change, designers have to rethink their approach. It’s in this context that ecodesign is becoming a concept and widespread, albeit unclear and opaque practice.
"I think that ecodesign is still a poorly defined term that covers too wide a range of practices, both laudable and debatable. I don’t see a satisfactory definition and only use ecodesign because there’s nothing better..." Thomas Billas (HIER)
Ecodesign* can be defined as an attempt (or ambition**) to incorporate environmental considerations into product design and development with a view to reducing their environmental impacts throughout their lifecycle***.
Note, therefore, that ecodesign is an attempt, ambition and endeavour more than an end in itself. As the stylist and designer Annelies Bruneel says, ecodesign "is a direction to follow, not a result." Therefore, ecodesign involves a 'best effort undertaking' rather than an objective to achieve at all costs. Without a shared, clear and predefined purpose, eco-design is open to a multitude of interpretations and justifies more or less virtuous practices. Each designer incorporates it into what they do differently:
"We should all question our choices, asking how will they affect our environment?" Thomas Billas (HIER).
"I choose to make my designs only in fabrics such as organic cotton, organic linen, hemp, cruelty-free silk or similar (…)" Veronika Vimpelova
"During my workshops ask my clients that their day-to-day context is, what their needs are, etc. Only in that way I can co-create with my clients clothes that will still be in their wardrobe in ten years." Annelies Bruneel
Far from being the most robust and restrictive concept, ecodesign is practiced to varying degrees. However, everything suggests that it’s going to become a widely shared ambition incorporated into any project. Shouldn’t considering our environmental impact be the least we can expect from all areas of our society?
To be continued…
*The fundamental principles of ecodesign were illustrated at the MAD exhibition Buy now. Pay Later. Everything should be eco-design
**Part of the ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency) definition
***UCM Eco-design Department