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Sustainable Design

  • By: Diane M. Martin & John W. Schouten
  • In: Green Business: An A-to-Z Guide
  • Edited by: Nevin Cohen & Paul Robbins
  • Subject:Sustainability, Environmental Policy & Law (general)

Design processes create material culture; that is, the tangible goods, systems, and symbols by which we live communicate and define our places in the world. Sustainable design is the philosophy and activity of designing physical objects that move society toward greater social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Socially, sustainable design has a net positive impact on human capital, that is, on the health and well-being of people and communities. Environmentally sustainable design has a net positive impact on natural capital, meaning that it helps maintain or restore ecosystems.

Efforts to develop sustainable designs grew out of concerns for limited natural resources, increased nonrecyclable materials in landfills, and increased chemical toxicity in the environment. The earliest efforts include “ecodesign” or “green design,” which focused on energy and materials. ...

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