As the United States and other nations begin to get serious about an array of potentially significant environmental threats, from global climate change to local groundwater contamination, traditional formulas of environmental management are being reassessed. The remediation or "end-of-pipe" strategies of the past 20 years are unlikely to provide ...
As the United States and other nations begin to get serious about an array of potentially significant environmental threats, from global climate change to local groundwater contamination, traditional formulas of environmental management are being reassessed. The remediation or "end-of-pipe" strategies of the past 20 years are unlikely to provide satisfactory, cost-effective protection of ecosystems and human health in the future. Systematic change is needed. Increasingly, product design is being viewed as a possible catalyst in transforming societal patterns of production and consumption. Product design is an important environmental focal point, because design decisions directly and indirectly determine levels of resource use and the composition of waste streams. By placing a greater emphasis on design, environmental problems can be addressed in a proactive manner. In this report, OTA provides a conceptual overview of how designers might integrate environmental concerns with traditional design objectives, and how policymakers can best take advantage of such opportunities. Although the concept of "green" design is gathering momentum, a number of technical, behavioral, economic, and informational barriers need to be addressed. By relying solely on existing policies and industrial practices, the full potential of green design will not be realized. Because product design encompasses the most crucial decisionmaking activities of companies, the consideration of environmental objectives by designers could have important competitive implications. Market opportunities for environmentally sensitive goods and services are expanding. Examples of "green" products and "clean" technologies are beginning to appear across a wide spectrum of industries. This study, requested by the House Committees on Science, Space, and Technology, and on Energy and Commerce, builds on previous OTA work dealing with U.S. hazardous waste and municipal solid waste policy. These previous studies acknowledged the importance of product design as a tool for reducing wastes and managing materials, but did not explore the idea in detail. OTA appreciates the assistance provided by its contractors and the advisory panel, as well as the many reviewers whose comments helped to ensure the accuracy of the report. John H. Gibbons Director
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