Independent Design Magazine

How to create sustainable design products

How to create sustainable design products

design for the environment_Photo from:

The major climate changes ring a bell on the environmental issue that can not be overlooked anymore. In the meantime, it’s an undeniable fact that the environment is crying for help. Therefore, it is a wake-up call that we should all pay attention to and act upon as soon as possible and start shifting to more sustainable approaches. Fortunately, awareness has been raised on the environmental issue. People all over the world markedly started to become more conscious of our role towards saving the planet. Designers as well should feel equally obliged and take part in the environmental movement. This is through working on creating sustainable design products.

The DFE approach

The Design for the Environment approach, also called DFE, is an approach to reducing the negative environmental and health impacts of product design. The approach is mainly based on the lifecycle of the product, from the early stage of manufacturing raw materials to the final stage of disposal.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the main concept that should be considered when designing for the environment. This includes evaluating the life cycle of the product through phases of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, energy consumption during use, till recycling phase.

Here are some concepts of making sustainable design products:


The three Rs ideology of “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is quite well known among designers. To design for the environment is not always about recycling. As a matter of fact, the process starts way before the manufacturing process. Thus, it’s important to use renewable and easily recycled materials.

Glass is among the materials that are Eco-friendly and is a good alternative for plastic. That’s because it is easy to recycle. Other Eco-friendly materials include PCL polyesters, cork, teak and liquid wood that is starting to gain much attention.

sustainable design products_Vases made of recycled glass from IKEA's no waste collection
Vases made of recycled glass from IKEA's no waste collection
The chair is made of small pieces of recycled fabric knotted by hands. Designed by Leonardo Lattavo and Pedro Moog. Photo Courtesy: 1stdibs


Mostly, the process of products’ manufacturing generates a lot of wastes that pollute the environment. Being more efficient can illuminate the impact on the environment. This is through reducing the used materials as much as possible and making as much use of the produced material. Furthermore, try to use renewable energy and make sure to reduce inputs such as water and chemicals.

We also believe that in this era of environmental awareness, designers should work more on products that can be multi-functional. How about thinking of creating products that consumers can make use of for many purposes? This can greatly serve your brand!

sustainable design products_Tonga designed by Raymond Driessen. Made of recyclable frame, from recovered plastics and recyclable foam
Tonga designed by Raymond Driessen. Made of recyclable frame, from recovered plastics and recyclable foam. Photo Courtesy: vandesant

Disposal and wastes

Managing your resources and using them efficiently can greatly reduce wastes and produce more. Moreover, try to implement a waste management plan from the early beginning. As a designer, you can be creative with reusing your wasted materials into producing something new. Maybe scraps and offcuts can develop into another new product that can come in handy to your customers. A lot of brands have even based their designs on wastes.

design for the environment_NottyPooch's recycled billboard banner wallets. A design for the environment
NottyPooch's wallets made from recycled billboard banners


Certainly, you should not only work to make your product environmentally friendly while overlooking its packaging strategy. Try to avoid unnecessary packaging like extra boxes and ties. Reusable bags, cartoon and paper packaging should be your friends.

You can also go an extra mile when designing your packaging. One of the super creative ideas was the “Dreamball” by Korean innovators Unplug Design. Their aim was to turn a cylindrical aid package into a cardboard ball. Besides acting as a recyclable packaging, this can also provide some fun to children in developing countries.

A deign for the environment: Reusable bag for Puma packaging made of fewer raw materials
Reusable bag for Puma packaging made of fewer raw materials
sustainable design products_A design for the environment Cardboard balls "Dream balls" by Unplug Design
Cardboard balls "Dream balls" by Unplug Design

Designers should always see the bigger picture. As a designer, you should always create to serve the world not only in the meantime, but also for much more years to come. Go ahead and be the start!

An architect who’s passionate about movies, design, and advertising. Living for the art of storytelling in different ways, and always seeking to write inspiring stories about good things in the world.