Sustainable mind-set: New suite enables greener product design using life-cycle assessment in a collaborative workspace

Climate change, ecological and human health damage, resource depletion, social equity, regulation, brand reputation, and cost and risk reduction are impacting the way companies make products. A new suite found at SustainableMinds.com is said to be the first Web-based, early-stage design tool that forecasts a product's life cycle environmental and human health impacts in a collaborative workspace with continuously updated information services.
By Manufacturing Business Technology Staff June 11, 2008

Environmental pressures and “sustainable” business challenges—e.g., climate change, ecological and human health damage, resource depletion, social equity, regulation, brand reputation, and cost and risk reduction—are impacting the way companies make products. Companies are setting operational sustainability goals, but are not yet able to consistently apply them to the design and manufacture of their products since there are no standards for “sustainable” products.
Product design teams also are being asked to assess the impacts of the products they develop and understand how design changes affect the products’ life cycle performance while uncovering opportunities for innovation.
A new suite found at SustainableMinds.com is said to be the first Web-based, early-stage design tool that forecasts a product’s life cycle environmental and human health impacts in a collaborative workspace with continuously updated information services.
SustainableMinds.com is targeted at product designers and engineers, sustainability managers, product managers, design consultancies, and manufacturing companies that are championing sustainable products or responsible for complying with sustainability requirements or directives.
The science behind SustainableMinds.com is Okala, a comprehensive ecological design course and the first North American Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. Using Web 2.0 capabilities and leveraging existing product design tools, SustainableMinds.com develops the skills and knowledge of design organizations to grow revenue and markets through sustainable product innovation.
“The problem we are solving is to help product teams learn how to design more ecologically sustainable products, and understand the impacts of their design decisions early enough in the process so they can design a greener product from the start,” says Terry Swack, CEO and co-founder of Sustainable Minds. “Operationalizing sustainable product design starts with bringing life-cycle thinking and a whole product-systems approach to the front of the design process. The result is more sustainable, innovative products; reduced costs due to eliminating reengineering; and greater competitive advantage.”
SustainableMinds.com’s subscription-based service connects environmental performance goals with design decisions and business goals by enabling design knowledge sharing in a social software-based collaborative environment. Customers can access best strategies, products, materials, and regulatory updates from industry experts and peers, along with assessment-based case studies and benchmarks.
The solution supports life-cycle assessment from CAD and product life-cycle management tools. Continuously updated Okala Impact Factors allow design teams to perform “what-if?” comparisons of existing products or new design concepts based on 10 environmental impact categories, or just global warming impacts, measured in CO2 equivalents.