DA - one year on from adoption

Hey all,

I thought I should do what I said I would and share my experiences after having adopted the Designers Accord and generally spent time trying to ‘green up’ Factorydesign.

First of all, the easy bits!

Since we are a fairly small company, though not necessarily by design standards, it was not so difficult to make decisions such as switching our electricity to a renewable source, establishing a recycling mechanism and sourcing recycled paper, for example. The difficult bit was deciding which supplier and product to use! For those of you who might want to do the same, here are the choices we made, and why:

  1. Electricity.
    We switched from EDF to Ecotricity, opting for the New Energy Plus tarrif since this guarantees all the electricity is renewable sources. Be warned that people like EDF will offer a special ‘green’ certificate pack, but actually they seem to just promise that they will invest a certain amount of money in ‘renewable sources’ - however, it wasn’t clear what these sources might be. Plus they are hell bent on building more nuclear power stations over here and, while contentious, that seems crazy to me - after all in Europe we get an average of 1Kw per square meter from the sun, we’re just lazy about harnessing it! I also looked at Good Energy, but their prices were a bit higher. The service from Ecotricity has thus far been very good.

  2. Recycling.
    It’s crazy how difficult this seemed at first - come on Councils, sort it out! However a good friend recommended The First Mile and they have been great, what’s more they’re cheaper than the Council. I’m afraid this is probably only relevant to people in the UK - go to their site to find out more.

  3. Green Procurement.
    One of the biggest things for me was paper - we’re designers so we use plenty! I signed us up to the Mayor of Londons’ Green Procurement Code, and they were pretty helpful when it came to sourcing good quality post consumer waste paper. We now use Evolve Business paper, which is as good as the equivalent weight Viking paper that we were using before. Furthermore we were able to get Viking to match the best price we found online.

Now the more complicated stuff:

We didn’t have the budget to go and switch all our monitors to low energy LCD screens, for example, but the good thing is that as we buy new ones it seems more and more manufactures are making sure they conform to the latest Energy Star targets etc.

We also tend to use a lot of layout paper for sketching, and we’ve not managed to find a recycled source for this - any help here would be appreciated.

Similarly, we get through a lot of pens, but we’re not sure what to do with those either!

As for pushing back on our clients about how ‘green’ they are, this is complicated. Not least of which because as yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot of consensus with regard to what we should actually be doing. It feels a bit like a Monthy Python style race, where we all stand at the starting line with the finish clearly in sight, but when the whistle blows we all run in different directions!

I’ve been doing a lot of investigation with regard to things like embodied energy, Cradle to Cradle design, materials and processes - but a lot of this still comes down to cost, and more specifically what the manufacturers can actually do. It’s all very well specifying a compostable, organic, wonderfully non-toxic product, but if our clients’ manufacturers cant make it they wont. Bath University have a free Emodied energy paper that you can order here. The Cradle to Cradle book is worth a read, or you can have a look for the authors chatting about it on You Tube - if nothing else it’s food for thought, and pretty tasty at that! However, it’s quite hard to employ the process without paying them money, which makes it a bit exclusive, and it feels a bit like we don’t have time for that…

Finally, I’ve been trying to spread the word about my office so that the thinking that lies behind all this runs through our every day processes; from picking up the phone to order more paper to sketching the next best thing. It definitely feels like we’re getting somewhere.

Well, I hope this has been of some use - I’d love to hear what other people are doing.