7 Books on Sustainable Product Design to Inspire Your Inner Eco-Designer [Reviewed]

Sustainable product design is becoming an increasingly important consideration for companies and individuals who want to reduce their environmental impact. Many books cover various aspects of sustainable product design, ranging from general principles to specific applications. In this article, we will review seven books on sustainable product design, providing an overview of their content and why they are worth reading.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

This book is considered a classic in the field of sustainable product design. The authors introduce the concept of “cradle to cradle” design, which aims to create completely recyclable or biodegradable products. They argue that the traditional “cradle to grave” design, which produces waste and pollution, is unsustainable. The book offers practical advice on implementing cradle-to-cradle design principles, including using non-toxic materials and designing products for disassembly. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in sustainable product design.

Sustainable Product Design and Development: A Holistic Approach to Innovation

by Kevin Otto and Kristin Wood

This book provides a comprehensive overview of sustainable product design principles and practices. It covers topics such as eco-design, life cycle assessment, sustainable materials, and green manufacturing. The authors provide numerous case studies and examples to illustrate their points, making the book accessible and engaging. One of the strengths of this book is its emphasis on a holistic approach to sustainable product design, which considers social, economic, and environmental factors.

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Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change

by Victor Papanek

First published in 1971, this classic book remains relevant today. The author argues that designers are responsible for creating socially and environmentally responsible products, rather than just aesthetically pleasing. He critiques the consumerist culture that drives much of design, arguing that it creates waste and promotes unsustainable practices. While some of the examples and language in the book may feel dated, its central message remains powerful and inspiring.

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance

by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

This follow-up to “Cradle to Cradle” offers further insights into sustainable design practices. The authors propose a new paradigm of design that aims to create products and systems that promote abundance and regenerative practices. The book is filled with examples of companies and organizations that are already implementing these principles. While some ideas in the book may feel idealistic or difficult to implement, it is nonetheless an inspiring and thought-provoking read.

The Green Design and Print Production Handbook

by Adrian Bullock

This book focuses specifically on sustainable design practices in the print industry. It covers topics such as eco-friendly materials, printing techniques, and waste reduction. While the focus on print production may limit its appeal to a narrower audience, the book provides practical advice for designers and print professionals looking to reduce the environmental impact of their work.

Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable

by Nathan Shedroff

This book argues that sustainability should be at the core of all design practices. The author provides a sustainable design framework, including principles such as systems thinking, life cycle assessment, and user-centred design. The book also includes case studies and examples of companies and designers already implementing sustainable design practices. While the book can be dense at times, it is a valuable resource for anyone looking to integrate sustainability into their design work.

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Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services

by Tim Frick

This book focuses specifically on sustainable design practices for digital products and services. It covers topics such as energy efficiency, sustainable data centres, and user behaviour. The author provides practical guidance on how to reduce the environmental impact of digital products and services. This book is particularly relevant in today’s digital age, where the use of technology is increasingly prevalent and significantly impacts the environment.

Overall, these books provide a comprehensive and diverse range of perspectives on sustainable product design. They offer practical advice, case studies, and frameworks that can be applied to a wide range of design contexts. By reading these books, designers and companies can better understand sustainable design principles and how to integrate them into their work.

In conclusion, sustainable product design is essential for anyone who wants to reduce their environmental impact. By reading these books, individuals and companies can gain the knowledge and tools they need to create products and services that are socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.

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