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How to save the world with sustainable design

04. Make it renewable

Is there potential for your design to run on alternative, natural energy sources such as the sun, wind, water or human energy?

Roundabout Playpumps

sustainable design

Who said hard work couldn't be fun? Kids roundabout drives a water pump

Here's another amazing project from South Africa. As children play on the roundabout, their energy causes water to be pumped from the underground into a tank. The tank is connected to a tap for easy access of the water.

sustainable design

Utilising kids' boundless energy to drive a pump - genius!

05. Repurpose materials

Is there potential to re-use products or materials in a new way, so as to eliminate waste and give it a new lease on life?

Justin Gignac's New York Garbage Cubes

sustainable design

Clever packaging means even trash can be sold as a product

"As designers, we have the ability to create value out of absolutely anything. It's all in how you package it and present it to people," says Justin Gignac, Creator of New York City Garbage Cubes.

What started off as pure determination to prove his co-worker's thoughts on packaging design wrong, Justin Gignac's attempt to sell garbage to the public launched into a full-scale business, with over 1300 New York City Garbage Cubes already having been sold worldwide.

Vissershok Container Classroom

sustainable design

Dual-purpose classroom and library was created out of a disused container

Commissioned by Safmarine Shipping, Tsai Design Studio created the Vissershok Container Classroom in Cape Town, South Africa. In the morning it serves as a classroom for Grade R students, and in the afternoon as a library for Vissershok Primary School.

Thomas Matthews' Corporate Identity

sustainable design

'Good' design defined by Thomas Matthews

Thomas Matthews, a London-based communication design studio focused on sustainability, created its full corporate identity range using surplus printers' waste.

06. Make it recyclable

After the product has no possible further use is it constructed or made in such a way so that it is completely recyclable?

Cereal Revolution Packaging by Modern Species

sustainable design

This cereal's packaging is sustainably produced in various ways

These Cereal Revolution boxes created by Gage Mitchell of Modern Species have been designed to be the absolute perfect size so as to minimize waste and shipping space, are constructed so that there is very little use of glue, printed on 100 per cent recycled paperboard with soy-based inks and are fully recyclable. Even the bag holding the cereal is made from compostable cellophane.

07. Make it biodegradable

Could the product or packaging be designed so as to be biodegradable?

Vot: a biodegradable vase/plant pot by Knoend

sustainable design

Biodegradable plant pot is as recyclable as the plant itself (kinda)

Knoend's Vot has been cleverly designed so that it can ultimately either be discarded with compostables or planted as a potted plant.

08. Make it upgradeable

We need to create products that are easily and more cheaply repairable and upgradeable rather than forcing consumers to buy new again when the product has reached its shelf life.

The Think® Chair by Steelcase Inc

sustainable design

It looks like an everyday offic chair, but the Think® Chair is an amazing 99% recyclable

What makes the Think® Chair by Steelcase Inc so incredible is that it is 99 per cent recyclable, is made from up to 44 per cent recycled content, only needs five minutes for disassembly, and damaged parts can easily be swapped out for others, making it very easy to upgrade.

Further reading

Words: Robyn Mitchell

Robyn Mitchell is an illustrator, graphic designer, and sometimes-copywriter living and working in Cape Town, South Africa, which is the 2014 World Design Capital. Take a look at her portfolio on Behance.

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