Presented by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and Autodesk, the Product Design Challenge asks emerging designers to develop new solutions for improving our environment through sustainable design. Each iteration of the challenge brings us closer to realizing the imperative to create a circular market standard. After receiving applications from 18 countries, the design challenge recognized winners in four categories: Best Student Project, Best Professional Project, Best Use of Aluminum, and Best Use of Autodesk Fusion 360. Find out more about their work below:
Best Student Project: Gabriella Jacobsen, Onward Bag
Jacobsen developed an aluminum stamp to press a wavelike pattern onto the finished bags—a storytelling element meant to instill a connection between user and nature.
"It is not enough anymore to just design a computer bag. One must ask, 'Why should this computer bag exist? and 'Where in our product system does the life of this computer bag fit?'"
The Virginia Tech student responded to the growing issue of plastic bag waste, which is a major pollutant of oceans and waterways despite the fact that the High Density Polyethylene used to make plastic bags is 100% recyclable. Her laptop bag is made from 60-70 recycled plastic bags, organic cotton canvas, canvas thread and biodegradable dyes. At the end of the product's life, users need only cut a few stitches to fully separate the two types of fabrics, allowing the entire bag to be recycled and composted respectively.
Best Professional Project: Barent Roth, BikeShare Helmet
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"I envision a time when sustainable design thinking is so completely integrated into the process that it does not even require to be defined as such, it just is. With 80% of a product's environmental impacts being determined in the design phase, it is imperative that ecological solutions be woven into the design process of every object."
Designer and educator Barent Roth designed a simple unisex style bike helmet intended to integrate with the growing bike share community as an optional purchase accompanying bike share memberships. The BikeShare Helmet uses a recycled aluminum foam shell and a sustainably grown cork liner to provide maximum protection with minimal bulk and weight. He incorporated mechanical flanges into the sides of the cork liner so the two layers could "snap" into place, so no glue is necessary to secure the cork to the aluminum shell.
Best Use of Aluminum: Michiel Meurs, AtoB Seat
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"To me, Cradle to Cradle is a design-philosophy that turns the way we look at things upside-down."
Along with his team, Meurs designed a seat for public transportation made from recycled aluminum, recycled PET and formaldehyde free bamboo plywood. In the research phase, they found out that current commuter seats require a whopping 60-120 parts for construction. Their design is focused on creating a far simpler approach, requiring just a basic aluminum frame, a continuous, ergonomic seat panel and customizable upholstery options. The category Best Use of Aluminum was a new addition in this round of the challenge, meant to highlight the "infinite recyclability" of the material.
Best Use of Autodesk Fusion 360: The Engineers for a Sustainable World Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Chapter, Sweeping the Nation with Change
The design incorporates a mechanism at the base of the broom handle that allows the handle to be adjusted between 0°, 45° and 90°. "This feature allows a customer to afford the functionality of three separate brooms for the material and monetary costs of one," note the designers.
"The design-led revolution is ingrained in our generation and, as engineers, we see ourselves playing a large role in transforming today's industries."
A group of RIT engineers developed a recyclable broom with a bristle head made of highly biodegradable material that can be replaced independently of the broom's other components. "We looked at everyday household items and wanted to transform one of the biggest wastes into something sustainable," they explained. "Broom bristles don't last very long and so the entire broom is then thrown out to go to a landfill." The product uses recycled aluminum, steel springs and wheat straw—an abundant crop with low commercial value to keep the final product cost-effective.
The bi-annual Product Design Challenge is an ongoing platform. If you're interested in the Cradle to Cradle approach to design, keep an eye on our Calendar for updates on the upcoming call for submissions.