Sustainability

In 2001 I developed a curriculum tool kit for design academics to teach sustainability principles in the classroom (published as a paper). This kit is in use today as the prototype of a learning contract for use by teachers in the Industrial Design Program at RMIT. I see this as the location for re-implementing the outcomes of my research practice in the area of Ecodesign, a practice that in its early years had already started to proliferate beyond the bounds of the university.

5 th Quadrant, a Delhi based design consultancy, developed a packaging system for a major steel re-rolling mill that saved on the wood they were using. They charged the company a decent fee to execute the project. The Indian European Ecodesign Programme had trained the team from 5th quadrant in one of the capacity building workshops – and now they were offering eco-redesign services to industry. They were one of 60 designers directly trained by the project, and two of the directors in the company went to Netherlands on an exchange to work on projects there. They constituted just one of the stakeholder groups targeted by the project – the other stakeholder groups were staff in large Industry, SMEs, design academics and people working in the NGO sector. The project thus directly trained around 200 people. All this began from my presence on the internet discussion forum – IDFORUM – in 1995-96 engaging with design academicians in Europe.

In 1997 a group of three people walked into my office in IIT Delhi, two of these people were from TU Delft and they had heard about conversations on the net that I had been part of. They were there to investigate possibilities for a collaboration; the first of these was support for a student from IITD to do course in TU Delft called Ecodesign-I ( The aim of this program being to support universities, NGO’s, consultants and companies in developing their environmental product development activities). This was quickly followed by a grant application for funding (Euro 400,000) under the EU India Cross-cultural Programme. The application was successful and the Indian European Ecodesign Program (IEEP) was set up. The project was to run for three years from 1999 and aimed to create an Ecodesign Network in the Delhi region of northern India and by extension to develop capability in the environmentally orientated practice of industrial design among design professionals, academicians and industrial enterprises in India. The partners in the project were the Indian Institute of Technology at Delhi (India), the Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), and INETI (Portugal). I was the Principal Investigator in the project from IIT and had a team of two people to assist me in the running of the project.

Over a three year period the direct impact of the project as claimed in the final report was: 200 people trained in ecodesign practices, 5 demo projects with industry (Whirlpool, Philips, Neemrana, Welcome Group. Karam Marg), 8 exchange students (from India and Europe), joint publications, curriculum developed for a course titled Design for Sustainable Development, 5 workshops, one International conference. All design schools now have staff trained in Ecodesign, Furthermore the Confederation of Indian Industry supports the project. The International Conference on Ecodesign in 2002 December had every single significant figure in the Ecodesign movement present. Why they chose to be at this event is significant – the project was partly seen to offer a gateway into collaborations with Indian industry and NGOs but more importantly the IEEP was the most significant ecodesign initiative at that point in time. Prof. Chris Ryan, formerly at RMIT, was there and we began a conversation that eventually led to my relocation to RMIT. An unforeseen outcome was the Ecodesign network in Portugal, eco-portugal, that I set up when I spent two months on the project at INETI in Lisbon.

At a UNEP forum in Paris in 2000 I opened up the issue of traditional Product Service Systems and now a PhD student in Milano has based her work on the Wallahs project. It also resulted in a collaborative relationship with Carlo Vezzoli, Milan Polytechnic, where students in Milan worked on a project being developed at IIT in the area of services related to ‘clothing care’. In 2003 I was part of the team led by Carlo Vezzoli to put together the UNEP publication on PSS.

Key Words: IEEP Product Design Back Casting

Papers/ PDF

Ecodesign Blog TBC

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Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

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