Sustainable Design Basics: Design for Sustainability is much more than resource efficiency. It considers and achieves principles of sustainability including:
  • interdependence within whole systems
  • social equity and the common good
  • individual well-being
  • human aesthetic values
  • diverse and thriving local communities

Sustainable Design Basics

Designing sustainable products, services and business processes is the best way to develop a sustainable economy. Using design thinking to transform outputs, and therefore inputs, is the best investment a business can make in their future.

Design for sustainability must be focused on the function or ‘service’ of a product rather than on the product itself. The basic principle is get more ‘service’ from less product. The product itself should be harmless to the environment through its whole lifecycle.

The fundamental concepts of designing for sustainability are:

Systems approach

Why, where and how does a design fit into the earth’s ecosystem. How can the impacts of a product or service over it’s whole life-cycle be reduced. What happens at the end of a product’s ‘useful life’ or better still, can you make the product useful forever? Read more »


This is about getting more service from less product/materials. How can you get the same function with less materials, components and overall energy use. This includes the whole production process – not just the final product. Read more »

Sustainable alternatives

What sustainable material can you substitute for an unsustainable one? What renewable material can you use? How could you get the same (or better) performance without using hazardous or toxic chemicals? Read more »


How would it be made in nature? Weight for weight a spider’s thread is stronger than any made-made material and it is also made from renewable materials. In addition, it is biodegradable, non-toxic, and is produced using minimal renewable energy. Read more »

Cradle to cradle

Cradle to cradle design, as the name suggests, works with the notions of systems and cycles. Specifically, cradle to cradle design mimics nature by modelling industrial processes on nature’s processes. Read more »

Sustainable Design Basics