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Doing the Right Thing

(April 2014) posted on Mon Apr 21, 2014

How to balance your company’s needs with government regulations and customer demand for products that are environmentally friendly and cost effective.


By Rick Mandel

Waste reduction: Increasingly, designers are conscious of over-packaging, inefficient use of materials, and other decisions that can create waste. If necessary, they redesign concepts to keep this to a minimum. They also consider energy efficiency, not just during manufacturing but also in the display itself if it is illuminated or has other energy requirements.

Product simplification: This strategy encourages designers to simplify designs and reduce the number of components, which, in turn, eases the manufacturing effort and saves on labor and material costs. Designers are also trying to keep the number of different materials used to a minimum to eliminate sorting that often impedes recycling.

Design for re-use and/or longevity: The best way to keep things out of landfills is to have them in the field longer. By purposefully engineering a display or component to be re-used, designers can reduce the number of replacement parts that have to be manufactured. To take this strategy even further, they can design units to be updated as new technologies, materials, or features are made available. Modular component design allows the external aesthetics and fasciae to be replaced to create a fresh, renovated look. This results in less waste and cost, as the internal modular components can be re-used time and again.

Similarly, designing more durable displays lessens the need to replace or repair them. Since there is a tradeoff between the weight and durability of a display, the designer may need to decide which will have the least environmental impact. A very simple example is the choice between a $25 banner stand that is cheap to ship but can only be used a couple of times versus a heavier one that costs $150 but comes with a lifetime warranty. (For what it’s worth, we sell a lot more of the $25 ones.)

Specification of alternate materials: Environmentally preferred materials may fall into a variety of categories—use of recycled content or natural fibers, biodegradable, organic, locally manufactured, lower hazardous-material content, sustainably sourced, higher strength/weight ratio, and more. As the InfoTrends study I cited earlier shows, weighing a substrate’s sustainability versus its performance and cost is always a balancing act. All other things being equal, the distance the substrate travels could de the determining factor, and providing a better environmental solution for the client could be as simple as that.


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