Eco-design is a concept that considers not only the form and function of a product, such as a mobile phone, but the whole life cycle – including what happens when you’ve finished using it.
The way a product is designed can reduce the amount and toxicity of waste that is produced by it. The way it is disassembled at the end of it’s life is another important factor. A concept phone called the Linc has been designed in the US to last much longer than conventional mobile phones. It will have to be returned to the producers every year for hardware updates and refurbishment and has been built to be easier to disassemble for reprocessing when it wears out.
Designers need to be aware of, and bear some sort of responsibility for, the full life cycle of their product in order for eco-design to become a reality. Legislation has been bought in such as the WEEE directive which aims to keep electronic waste separate for responsible disposal.
But in reality, how do we as consumers feel about eco-design? Even if a mobile phone was on the market that was designed to last for 2, 3 or even 5 years would we buy it?
Studies have found that despite the fact that we profess to care for the environment, we are generally unwilling to pay more money for ‘green’ products. Another factor to consider is that most of us are ‘dedicated followers of fashion’, whether we like it or not, and like to have the latest and newest mobile phone upgrade every 18 months.