EcoDesign strategy wheel

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What is the EcoDesign strategy wheel?

Figure 1: The EcoDesign strategy wheel.(Brezet and Van Hemel, 1997)

The EcoDesign strategy wheel (also called Lifecycle Design Strategies) visualizes the strategies that can be fol­lowed for EcoDesign. Developing new products will have unmistakably an impact on the environment. To minimize the impact on the environment, an ecodesign strategy can be followed. The EcoDesign strategy wheel is a tool to select and communicate the ecodesign strategies.

The EcoDesign strategy wheel presents eight EcoDesign strategies:

  • New concept development
  • Selection of low-impact materials
  • Re­duction of materials usage
  • Optimization of production techniques
  • Optimization of distribution system
  • Reduction of impact during use
  • Optimization of initial lifetime
  • Optimization of end-of-life system.

Most of the ecodesign strategies relate to the product lifecycle. The first strategy is different, since it relates to a much more innovative strategy than the others. Some strategies relate to the product component level, some to product structure level and others to the product system level.

During the analysis of the environmental product profile, many improvement options will have come up spontaneously. The op­tions for improvement will be the result of applying the MET matrix and the EcoDesign checklist. These improvement options can be grouped according to the classification of eight ecodesign strategies. The improvement options visualised in the EcoDesign strategy wheel will form the ecodesign strategies in the product design project. To generate even more improvement options, the project can also go to the other way around by using the EcoDesign strategy wheel as option-generation tool.

The results of establishing the most promising ecodesign strategy for the project can be visualised using the EcoDesign strategy wheel. The establishment of ecodesign priorities can be drawn up and visualized by adding two activity lines to the EcoDesign strategy wheel: short term activities versus long-term activities. This makes it easy to communicate the ecodesign strategy both internally and externally.

Finally, the EcoDesign strategy which is established for the short term is included in the list of requirements for the product to be redesigned. The environmental requirements should be described quantitatively as far as possible. At a later stage this will facili­tate the mutual comparison of various product concepts or detailed solutions.

When can you use the EcoDesign strategy wheel?

Figure 2: The MET Matrix (Brezet and van Hemel, 1997)

The EcoDesign checklist is best applied in the first stage of a product design process, the problem analysis stage. The EcoDesign strategy wheel is best applied to present and select new strategies for product design, possibly with a general product idea in mind. The EcoDesign strategy wheel is often used in combination with the MET matrix as a tool to avoid missing any environmental impacts of the product. Also, the EcoDesign strategy wheel is used in combination with the EcoDesign checklist.

In practice, the analysis of environmental problems and thinking creatively about options for improvement is best done in groups. Such a group consists of the project team and possibly other stakeholders.

How to use the EcoDesign strategy wheel?

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Starting points

The starting point of the EcoDesign strategy wheel is the information from the EcoDesign checklist and the MET matrix. An­other starting point for the strategy wheel is a first view on the direction for product design (first product ideas included).

Expected outcome

The expected outcome of using the EcoDesign strategy wheel is a clear understanding of possible strategies for new product design. Based on this understanding, a selection can be made of which strategy will be applied in the next phase: product design

Possible procedure

  1. Define the product idea, product concept or existing product that will be analysed.
  2. Systematically score the product on each dimension of the strategy wheel. You can use the answers from the EcoDesign checklist and/or the data from the MET matrix.
  3. Consider the optimization options for each of the dimensions, paying special attention to those where the current design scores badly and those that have the most relevant environmental impact for that product (based on the MET matrix).

Tips and concerns

  • Use the EcoDesign strategy wheel together with the MET matrix and the EcoDesign checklist.
  • Do not only consider technical solutions but also psychological ones. How does the design influence the user regarding energy efficiency, length of the lifecycle, and end-of-life.
  • Be aware that some EcoDesign strategies may strengthen each other, but some can also conflict with each other. The same goes between EcoDesign strategies and normal design and business considerations.
  • Recheck your final redesign to see whether it offers the same functionality as the ‘old’ product, both physically and immaterially.

References and Further Reading

  • H. Brezet and C. van Hemel (1997) EcoDesign: A promising approach to sustainable production and consumption, UNEP, France.
  • H. Remmerswaal (2002) Milieugerichte Productontwikkeling, Academic Service, Schoonhoven.

See also


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