What's the ultimate green product?
I started my professional sustainability career in eco-design – making the world greener from the drawing board. This remains the greatest opportunity for a business to go green as the designer has a huge amount of control over the whole lifecycle of the product from materials extraction right through to disposal.
During my two and a bit year investigation into eco-design techniques, I became fascinated by the Russian Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, or TRIZ to give it its Russian acronym. The concept behind TRIZ is that innovation does not come from sudden flashes of genius, but through the application of a number of fundamental principles. These can either be stumbled upon, or, by following TRIZ, worked through methodically until one generic solution fits the particular case. But what got me really excited about TRIZ was the concept of the ideal final result:
The ideal final result delivers the required function while consuming no resources.
Which would, by definition be the ultimate green product, as the product has been reduced to pure wieghtless function. Obviously this is impossible – even telling a joke requires some resources – but to me it is one of those intellectual concepts that provokes ambition and step changes. It is certainly behind the whole idea of servicisation – delivering the required function (eg travel via public transport and/or a car club) rather than a product (owning a car) and the whole digitisation movement (eg replacing travel with teleconferencing, or replacing CDs with MP3 downloads).
Unfortunately I never did secure the funding to develop a ‘Green TRIZ’ research project, but it would have been fascinating to either filter or generate a set of fundamental green design principles to be applied to get as close as possible to that ideal final result.