Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nike Considered

On Monday, Dec. 8, Portland Spaces Magazine and Editor Randy Gragg hosted a lecture with guest Lorrie Vogel of Nike in their Bright Lights series. Vogel works on sustainability and an initiative called Considered.

Some of the good stuff: Nike shoe materials are re-used and made into sport courts. Their sites run on renewable energy and their Laakdal site actually puts energy back on the grid (windmills, I believe). They are strong drivers of sustainability and low impact manufacturing processes and products. It does give one pause, wondering what they may not be saying, but the work they are sharing is impressive.

Vogel talked about design for disassembly, a laudable goal, but also noted that huge systems need to be in order to make that type of cycle valuable. Creating a shoe that can be disassembled is great, creating a process to reuse the material would be awesome.

The conversation also hit hard on how important financial impact is to obtain buy in for sustainability ; something we know from being in business, but something they don't necessarily teach you in school. If you say, "we should use this new system so we produce less waste," a CEO may understand it, but not drive it to reality. If you say "this new system that reduces the amount of waste our company creates and will save us $1 million dollars," you get a conversation and a plan of action.

Most interesting was the software Nike developed to assist the Considered effort. When creating a Bill of Materials, designers see the direct impact and environmental effect of the materials they are choosing. Designers see which material or process is more or sustainable and can choose to use a low impact process or material to counterbalance a higher impact one. This transparency and visibility into the process sounds like the Holy Grail of design tools. Imagine how quickly we could lessen the impact of all products if every designer had insight into the impact of the materials and processes.

Tools similar to this are popping up in many places lately. The Kill A Watt device lets you see your home energy consumption real time, and menus now give full calorie information. It begs the question, what else would you do differently if you could see the impact and make an informed choice?

Vogel's talk and conversation with Bragg was enlightening and engaging. Thanks Portland Spaces!

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