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Ecolizer Designwijzer: Life-Cycle Assessment on the Go

SDG_0002_2.jpg Ally Serge de Gheldere is a design engineer and CEO of Futureproof/ed. Futureproof/ed started out as a business reselling eco-design products and has evolved to a design consultantcy focused on reducing CO2 emissions through better, more cost-effective design of products and buildings.

Ecolizer Designwijzer' is a simple tool for designers and product managers. It's a set of cards bound like a Pantone color guide which let you use eco-indicators to analyze and compare environmental impacts of commonly used materials and processes. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for the people, and in a matter of minutes - Finally!

The set of cards contains background information on the eco-indicators; an explanation of the contents of the cards, a glossary and an example-based tutorial. The bulk of the guide consists of 80 cards with several hundred eco-indicators quantifying the environmental impact of the production, use and discarding phases of materials and processes. These include: ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, polymers, wood, paper and packaging, building materials, chemicals, energy, transportation aa well as buildings, land use, lighting, and 'services.'

The indicators themselves are an updated (August 2005) version of the 'eco-indicator 99'. This method looks at the damage caused in terms of resource depletion, land-use, climate change, ionizing radiation, acidification/eutrophication and toxicity.

The absolute value of the eco-indicator points does not have much practical use — one point represents 1/1000th of the annual environmental impact of the average European — because the eco-indicator is mainly intended for quick and dirty, relative comparisons of products and components. Use of the guide is really simple. For instance: analysis of the impact of a coffee-maker used twice daily at half capacity, 30 minutes heating and used for 5 years would consist of following steps:

1) production phase: for the polystyrene (PS) of the housing, estimate weight and then look up and add the points for the material and for injection molding — both listed on the PS card; repeat for aluminum, glass and steel.

2) usage phase: estimate the total amount of electricity usage (5 years x 365 days/year x 2 uses/day x 0.5 hours/use x 1000 Watt power; look up under 'electricity' and add up points; same for paper used in coffee filters.

3) discarding phase: on the same PS card, you will find the eco-indicator points for discarding of 1 kg of PS. Same steps for the impacts of trashing the paper, glass and metals used in the coffee-maker.

So much eco-design goodness in such a low-tech little package! Even though it mostly contains the same research results, the Ecolizer Designwijzer is orders of magnitudes more accessible and compelling and fun to use than its parents the ‘eco-indicator 99’ reports. This a great example of how information (re)design can affect and improve industrial design.

Developed and published by Ovam, the Flemish Waste Agency, the guide is unfortunately written in Dutch and currently only distributed through workshops, but it offers an example of how governments everywhere could make getting eco-design know-how into people's hands in forms they can use.

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Wow. This is cool. I wish there was an English would become part of my stash of stuff that lives in my messenger bag so I have it with me all the time. Would have been super handy to have in my Industrial Ecology class.

Posted by: greg ehrendreich on 4 May 06

Note the link to the original eco-indicator 99(note: the reports plus a trial software tool are freely downloadable in English) is wrong and should read: . I hope the editor can adjust it.

Posted by: Michiel Oele on 4 May 06

Ooh, I wish those were available for sale, I'd actually make allowances in the student budget for that one.

Perhaps not something one can use (practically) constantly, but still ... the more stuff like this that exists and is readily available for the everday consumer, the better chance there is that tools like these can help make a difference.

I want one, I also want a norwegian version sold cheaply in Norway. I'd always have it on me whilst shopping. (And I'd make sure quite a few people I know would have one as well.)

The more concious we are in our choices, the better.

Posted by: Papilionoidea on 6 May 06

Yes. Wonderful indeed. I always carry it in my backpack and use it daily.


This is so stupidly Belgian, though. Belgium is a small country that loses a lot of time and energy and infrastructure in a fight between north and south regions, Flanders (6 M) and Wallony (3 M).

The source material is available in English, and OVAM is a Flemish agency, so OVAM actually took the time to translate it into Dutch ... to restrict the potential market to the handful Flemish and Dutch designers concerned with sustainable design.

What a missed opportunity, this could have put _them_ on the map and really have influenced the way products are being conceived the world round.

Posted by: Serge de Gheldere on 8 May 06



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