That was the message from Mark Shayler, managing director of eco-design consultancy Eco3, as he spoke to delegates at Sustainabilitylive! in Birmingham.

Design can determine 80% of the whole life costs and carbon footprint of a product, and that is why it is so important to minimise wastage at the design stage, he argued.

“It’s much more important that you look at product design rather than process efficiency,” he said.

“I don’t want to ignore process efficiency or energy efficiency but the most intensive energy use is in the consumer use phase.”

He added: “What we really need is better design and product development.”

Environmentally-conscious design can also pay dividends when a product reaches the market, he said.

A recent Government study showed that the majority of people would be prepared to pay more for energy efficient products.

More than 80% of the people polled also said they thought an eco-friendly product is generally a better quality product.

Scarcity of resources such as oil and metals will also drive more efficient design, and manufacturers will have to find ways of cutting wastage.

“We are going to see a lot of innovation based on resource scarcity,” Mr Shayler said.

Increasing focus from consumers and legislators is also being focused on the environmental impact of transport used for shipping products.

Shipping – long seen as the greener choice for transporting goods – is set to be included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

This is likely to drive shipping prices even higher and promote efficient design as a way to cut the weight and cost of transporting products.

Kate Martin

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