Consumers increasingly want the ability to make informed decisions through a better understanding of the human health and environmental impacts of products, processes and activities. Though many products claim to be “green,” the inputs and outputs that comprise them aren’t always environmentally friendly. Suppliers are now demanding adherence to specific green standards and those companies that comply are realizing that reducing negative impacts on the environment can also lower manufacturing costs by conserving energy, water and raw materials.
For businesses interested in greening their existing product line or designing greener products from the start, let me introduce you to Sustainable Minds. Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sustainable Minds is a greener product design software and information company dedicated to bringing environmentally sustainable product design into the mainstream. Its impressive customer list includes Yakima, Whirlpool, Motorola, Pratt Institute and UCLA.
The October 2009 release of Sustainable Minds 1.0 marked the first web-based, on demand, life cycle assessment tool for greener product design. The unique software package enables users to apply eco-design strategies to product concepts. This interoperability comes as a result of a partnership between Sustainable Minds and Autodesk Inventor, which is a software product line that provides for 3D mechanical design, product simulation and design communication. Now manufacturers can measure the environmental impact of a product before a part is ever cut.
The company’s focus on life cycle assessment (LCA) is a vital component to true sustainability. LCA is the investigation and evaluation into the environmental impacts of a product or service caused by its existence. LCA interprets the results of this evaluation to help the consumer make a more informed decision.
To this end, Sustainable Minds has adopted the Okala Impact Assessment Methodology, first published in 2003. The current Okala (Hopi for “life sustaining energy”) standard evaluates ten environmental impact categories: global warming, acid rain, eco-toxicity, ozone depletion, water eutrophication, photochemical smog, human respiratory, human toxicity, human carcinogens and fossil fuel depletion. The Okala Impact Assessment includes more than 450 impact factors, plus their CO2 equivalent values are derived from data collected from the U.S. EPA and NIST.
Sustainable Minds CEO Terry Swack recognizes the potential in her company’s offerings. She believes that the release of version 1.0 will catalyze the way products are designed and made by helping to bring products to market with improved environmental performance. She goes on to say that “Organizations that figure this out now will certainly have a greater competitive advantage.”