Sustainable design has been a bit of a buzz term for quite a few years now, and suppliers readily promote products and materials as being sustainable, but what does it mean? The definition that explains it best is taken from ‘Our Common Future’ and it suggests that the essence of sustainable design is design that meets “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development Sustainability, 1987).

There are now many brands that promote their products as sustainable, however it’s important to do your research and consider the ‘life cycle’ of the product in question. For example, just because something comes from a readily renewable resource or is able to be recycled doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be classed as sustainable. Ask yourself, what is the original source of the material/s that this product is comprised of, over what distance has it been shipped, what manufacturing processes has it gone through, how is it assembled on-site (are potentially hazardous chemicals used?), when it’s installed is the product emitting any harmful chemicals into your living environment, what’s the expected lifespan of the product and what happens to it at the end of it’s life?

It’s also important to consider the impact that the product may have not only on our physical environment, but also on our health and the health of others (such as those who manufacture and/or install the products), as certain materials may cause illness and injury that can have significant impacts on our health system into the future. Something that on the surface may appear to be a ‘green’ product may in fact not be when we delve a little deeper in to the ‘life’ of that product.

If you’re not sure there is information out there that’s available from websites such as www.geca.org.au/ and directory.yourfuturehome.com.au.

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