Ask yourself this question, do you own a product which is sustainable?

This is the question i was faced with, and asked to provide an example of a product i felt was sustainable. So i went with the General Electric FlexAero LM6000-PH natural gas turbine.

The benefits of this engine are:
– Fast power up/power down time
– Can run without water, saving 98 million litres a year, per engine.
– Flexible enough to run on unstable power sources such as wind and solar energy

among many others. So i guess what this identifies is my belief that the way to protect our future and become more ‘sustainable’ is to make changes to existing processes to reduce consumption overall.

However Ian Grout, Product Design Tutor at Glasgow School of Art made the obvious and valid point, how can any product claim to be sustainable? If you see my previous blog ” The future is now ” i have shown that the overall cost of creating these products, far outweighs the gains during use. Just think of the number of components on show in the engine i have shown above.

Now each single component was manufactured in a factory. Each component will have been created by other machines, whether they be robotic or static, there is still an enormous amount of residual energy in the manufacture. Beyond that, the machines were created by men for example, but the materials were extracted from ore’s which takes an enormous amount of energy … and you can see where i am going with this. Even when u consider the smallest of products, the manufacture has still amassed to huge amounts of energy used to produce them.

So each and every product we see, each piece of design and technology comes with the guilt of knowing that although it may claim to be environmentally friendly, energy efficient or just “green”, it isn’t. It simple can’t be.

Therefore this puts me in a difficult position because i have been championing the Product Design Engineer and our ability to protect future generations through purposeful and essential design, but how can i deal with the knowledge that what i am doing can potentially cause more harm than good? Well the only option i have is to ensure every part and every design i create has the smallest possible negative impact on the planet.

Hopefully this period of sustainability blogs hasn’t put you off and it makes sense to you reading it! I would love to hear any opinions anyone has on the matter wether it be in agreement of disagreement of my view.

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