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Eco-design should consider how users maintain non-electrical products

October 16, 2014

Eco-design should consider how users maintain non-electrical products

The lifetime environmental impacts of non-electrical consumer products, such as clothes, could be cut by over 40% if consumers maintained them in a more environmentally friendly manner, new research suggests. The study found the impacts of eco-designed products fell significantly when user guidelines were included in the eco-design.

‘Eco-design’ is an approach that considers the environmental impacts of a product during its entire life-cycle, from the choice of materials and manufacturing method, through to its eventual means of disposal or reuse. It aims to produce the most sustainable products and manufacturing processes with the lowest environmental impact. This study believes that communicating maintenance procedures to consumers should form part of the eco-design process.

EU directive 2009/125/EC defines the eco-design of energy-related products (ErPs), such as
televisions and light bulbs. It is often assumed that non-ErPs, such as cutlery or clothes, do not use much energy during their usage. However, ErPs are often used to maintain (e.g. wash) non-ErPs. As such, maintaining non-ErPs has important environmental impacts which depend on user behaviours. This study assessed how eco-design could improve the environmental impact of two common non-ErPs: a kitchen knife and a women’s jacket.

Read more at Science for Environment Policy, European Commission.

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