Ideas for Incorporating Sustainability in Your Design Practice


Today, more and more sustainable design strategies are being adopted in industries across the board. High-end and luxury brands are not excluded from this trend. As a new design season rolls out, we wanted to list some ways sustainability can be incorporated into your design practice:

Work with Life Cycle Assessments

Life cycle assessments track each material used in your design, from its original source to its disposal. It shows where your materials are coming from and that these sources are reliable and ethical. It also lets you realize how this item will be disposed of, what means it is assembled, and where the materials originate. For design professionals, LCAs tells your clients you understand the link between material and waste in design, and will take the extra steps to show why your practice is the more environmentally or ethically friendly one.

Embrace Sustainable Materials

Products made of sustainable materials are becoming increasingly in-demand. Responsibly-harvested and reclaimed woods, tiles made of post-industrial waste, and recycled metal frames are all examples of sustainable materials. With this market expansion, new sustainable products and materials are appearing increasingly every year. Doing your research to ensure this material is truly a sustainable one will not only boost your respect as a designer, but offer support and exposure to companies truly embracing sustainable initiatives.

Design with Longevity in Mind

Timelessness - some designers chase it, while others avoid it entirely. But, longevity does not mean you have to design something with the goal of it being popular for generations to come. Making sure your product can hold up overtime, be easily fixed, and stay reliable throughout the years will help not only the planet, but will make your brand synonymous with dependability and responsibility, something everyone can respect. 

Integrate Heirlooms, Antique, and Vintage Items

Speaking of timelessness, since sustainability has become a more emphasized part of design, there has been a resurgence of vintage, heirloom, and antique items in the home and office. Weaving in charming and beautiful items of past eras can create eclectic, unique spaces. Not to mention they do not use new material or require new energy for production. Dering Hall alone lists over 1,200 vintage items, so there is certainly a lot of antique luxury items around to choose from.

Consider Mono-Materials and Disassembly

Mono-material items, or products made from one material, are leagues easier to recycle than composite materials. Using mono-materials can give your design sleekness, or create a language that pleases a user while also being sustainable, as it does not require as much energy for production and can be recycled more easily. If mono-materials are not an option for your design, designing for disassembly, where parts of a product made of different materials can be easily taken apart for disposal, also helps users recycle or reuse material.

Final Thoughts

Using these strategies in your own practice, and highlighting them as an advantage to your design, can get consumers excited about your work and think of you as a reliable source for products and insight. Sustainability is something the design world is moving further into, and it is exciting to see it used not only as a design strategy, but as a collective effort across fields and industry.

Erin Gilbert