Ecodesign and materials renewability

Renewability indicators.

By Marco Capellini, architect.

The increase in world population, the constant change in lifestyle, consumerism, disposable products are bringing to a high resource exploitation.
Environmental policies and international agreements of different countries are aimed to try to safeguard these resources through tools and strategies that are not always perceived and interpreted by the consumer.
Design, intended as a planning tool for industrial products and architectures, should play its part by preserving materials and resources.
In recent years we have witnessed a proliferation of ecodesign tools and strategies such as Design for Dissassembly and Recycle, Design for Energy Efficiency, Life Cycle Design, Life Cycle Assessment, Carbon and Water Footprint, very effective tools in solving environmental problems, but don’t able to realistically “measure” how many resources we are consuming.
Based on this principle and the need to actively involve the consumer in purchasing decisions, as MATREC we have started for two years a project to realize the “renewability indicators”. The aim of these indicators is to relate an industrial product with the regrowth time of the material used (the natural resources needed). In this way the company and the designer and especially the consumer, are able to associate the lifetime of a product at the time of regeneration of the material used for its realization.

To check the interest and the validity of this tool, we have conducted test to apply these renewability indicators on home decor products, clothing, food packaging and products, gaining a strong interest from businesses and consumers.
Tests showed that there are materials used for the realization of products, that we consume and/or use daily or monthly, that take hundreds or thousands of years to regenerate. In other cases, however, we wear garments for which the regeneration of materials can vary from a few months to several years.

After two years, we have indexed more than 500 commonly used materials in the industrial production world, including natural and recycled, listed by category and origin.
These indices will soon be associated to all the materials in the EcoMaterials Library of MATREC to be available to companies and designers.
We have made another big step to make more “eco” the product innovation.