Designing for the Circular Economy – The Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge

Water scarcity is both a naturel and a human-made phenomenon that affects every continent. There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.

Even the smallest actions could help conserve water. Take for example the basic action of washing your hands. Turning off the faucet after wetting hands can only save water, but according to the CDC and some recent studies, it can also potentially reduce the numbers of germs that are transferred between your hands and the faucet.

That was the inspiration behind Cole Smith’s Finite Faucet product design concept, which he won a prize for in the inaugural C2C Product Design Challenge.

Organized by the Cradle to Cradle Products   Innovation Institute in partnership with Autodesk and the Alcoa Foundation,   participants from 16 countries submitted their original product concepts that   can be perpetually cycled to retain its value as nutrients to fuel growing   global economies. 

 Caption: The Finite Faucet releases two streams of water. The first ensures your hands get wet, then it stops just long enough for you to properly scrub with soap.

“With 10 billion people soon to be living on the planet with finite resources, designing for a circular economy is the only way forward. Solving today’s epic challenges require bold new approaches to how we design and make things. Creative young talent in many cases is leading the charge, leaving the linear economy in the dust,” said Lynelle Cameron, Senior Director of Sustainability and Philanthropy, Autodesk.

The idea behind Smith’s idea was simple: what if we had a faucet that not only helped reduced water usage, but also educated people of   their impact of even the smallest decisions on the environment?

“When public restroom users are reminded of water’s limited supply, they endeavor to waste as little of the resource as possible,” said Smith.

  C2C 2

Caption: The Faucet’s clear upper cylinder acts as a visual monitor of water usage and drains until it is empty, at which point it must be turned off to refill and upon doing so, acts as a timer for scrubbing hands.

Designed almost entirely from recycled materials like copper and PET, the Finite Faucet can also be recycled again if someone decides to change to a new sink later. The design further addresses sanitation concerns and water conservation by moving the stainless steel handle into the sink rather than out of reach of the stream.

Participants in the C2C Product Design Challenge had free access to the Autodesk portfolio of 3D design software, as well as a self-paced online course providing strategies, tools, and examples of the Cradle to Cradle design principles leading to Cradle to Cradle Certified products.  

“It’s one thing to sketch out an idea on paper, but quite another to figure out if the valves and switches will physically work. Fusion 360 made it much easier to measure and tweak the volumes and relative sizes of my parts to promote the Centre for Disease Control’s guidelines for hand washing. Also due to the cloud-based nature of the software, I could   work with a team in which each member modified this design for additional material savings & efficiency,” Smith added.

Other innovative product concepts that received top honors in the C2C Challenge were the Venlo Bag by Tjitte de Wolff of the University of Twente in the Netherlands (Best Student Project) and PURE|IF|HIDE by Jerri Hobdy, Furniture Designer and Savannah College of Art and Design Graduate (Best Professional Design).

“We plan to further develop the program and foster a community of practice who share best practices for making products that earn the Cradle to Cradle Certified mark for excellence in quality, beauty and sustainability. We appreciate the support from the Alcoa Foundation and our partnership with Autodesk in helping us bring this program to the world,” said Bridgett Luther, President of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

Learn more about the winners of the Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge and stay tuned for the next installation of the challenge in Fall 2015.