Embedding Enterprise Focussed Sustainability Teaching Within The Product Design Curriculum
As the world begins to grapple with numerous sustainability challenges such as zero waste, de-materialisation, sustainable consumption, zero emissions, a fair society etc., it is essential that product design students are educated on key sustainable concepts. In industry product designers are embedding sustainable values and processes within their everyday design practice when developing new products and services. At Nottingham Trent University (NTU) the Sustainability in Enterprise (SiE) project (funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund) is working to support local businesses within the Greater Nottingham area to help improve their environmental performance across four key areas: People, Products, Processes and Premises. We present a case study whereby 1st year BSc Product Design students at NTU act as design consultants during a focussed “Sustainability Week” to support local enterprise in the design of new sustainable product solutions.
During Sustainability Week, teams of BSc Product Design students undertook a project alongside a Nottingham, UK, based chocolate shop and bakery by reviewing their existing product line and packaging solutions. Students selected an existing packaging solution and redesigned it to become a more sustainable and carbon neutral. Students learnt through discovery, experience, experimentation, research, practical doing, and other forms of experiential learning. Feedback was collected from students at the end of sustainability week via a questionnaire to gain insight into their learning experience.
The development of Sustainability Week has resulted in improved student knowledge on sustainable product development. Delivered sessions promoted knowledge acquisition, skills development, and improved attitudes towards global issues. Having attended Sustainability Week, >80% of the student cohort suggested that this helped them improve their understanding of sustainable concepts within product design. Students demonstrated through their project outputs and vocational taught sessions improved knowledge on, life cycle assessment, methods of communicating sustainable product solutions through design sketching, an understanding of calculating a products carbon footprint, a basic understanding of designing for longevity and an improved knowledge on sustainable design considerations and material selection using materials databases.
Based on the trial of Sustainability Week, the success and positive feedback from students has resulted in this intense week of sustainability learning now been fully integrated into the BSc Product Design curriculum, with further improvements planned to enhance Sustainability Week in the future. The implementation of sustainability week to the BSc Product Design curriculum will contribute to shaping new sustainability-conscious product designers and professionals who have insight into the sustainable product development whilst being equipped with dedicated tools/learnings that will enhance their professional expertise.
European Regional Development Fund