At Humanscale, we integrate sustainability into our design process -- but we recently explored what would happen when sustainability is the starting point. How much would it drive innovation and affect the final design? Jane Abernethy, Humanscale Chief Sustainability Officer, asked Humanscale Design Studio to design a new product — a simple stool — three times, using three different approaches that uses sustainability as the source of innovation. The three approaches were around biomimicry, circular economy and biofabrication. Abernethy held educational sessions with Humanscale Design Studio, focused on each approach, then conducted day-long design charrettes where the team came up with and refined a design concept using the various approaches. Over the following weeks, one designer worked on each approach, refining the concept and testing whether the sustainability-driven concepts were actually better.

Humanscale Design Studio Sketches

To find out if Humanscale achieved its goal of actually making a more sustainable product design, the team worked with MIT’s SHINE program (Sustainability and Health Initiative for Net Positive Enterprise) to review the Life Cycle Assessment calculations of each concept, as well as an LCA of a standard stool. What came out of our collaborative efforts were three wildly different, innovative, and environmentally-friendly designs. Check out our posts on each stool -- biomimicry, circular economy, and biofabrication -- to learn more about their sustainable design and what sustainable materials were used. Though these stools aren't yet on the market, you can find eco-friendly innovation in all of our products, including Smart Ocean, the first task chair made with almost 2 pounds of ocean plastic.