Designers need to understand the challenges of using raw materials and the processes available to limit the amount of waste when manufacturing a product. The world has a bigger population than ever before, and the need for more raw materials causes a range of issues:
Deforestation - A lack of tree roots leads to soil erosion, causing rivers to silt up. It is possible to manage deforestation through responsible management of the forests. If more trees are planted than are cut, it is possible to minimise the impact. Designing to ensure less wastage will cost less and be better for the environment.
Mining and drilling - The environmental impact of mining and drilling is primarily to the area around the sites. Loss of habitat for wildlife is caused by the clearance of land above the sites as well as the noise and light pollution in the area. Water run-off can also create ponds of concentrated chemicals, which can harm the human and wildlife population. Designing products that use a more renewable set of materials will help solve this problem.
Carbon footprint - Mining, moving and processing raw materials, then moving them onto the consumer causes pollution of its own. CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions from factories, power stations and vehicles need to be reduced to stop further damage to the environment. Everything has a carbon footprint, from creating the raw material to delivering the product in a vehicle. The best way of combating CO2 emissions is by using the 6 Rs.
It is important for designers to minimise the impact their product will have on the environment:
Environmental and carbon footprints both illustrate the impact of human activity on the environment.
If products or raw materials have travelled a long way, they have a larger carbon footprint. Carbon emissions from vehicles produce CO2 in the atmosphere. Some companies try to help manage this in several ways:
Another issue is waste and packaging - this has led countries to sign agreements to cut waste and use more responsible sources and recyclable raw materials to try to help tackle landfill and ocean pollution.
Ethical issues are becoming more important to designers. It is becoming more likely that consumers will ask whether the products they’re buying are harming the environment or treating people unfairly. Fair trade is a principle where everyone in the chain of manufacturing is offered fair wages and good working conditions: