The importance of sustainable design in a resource-scarce world

Companies need to start paying attention to the decisions they make when designing devices and hardware. Component shortage alone affects everyone for years to come, but companies must also cut down the carbon footprint of their operations and products. The EU regulations also enforce the energy efficiency of any electronic devices produced. To prioritize sustainable design, companies simply cannot design products without considering factors such as swappable components or high recyclability. 

The entire life cycle of a product or device, from manufacturing to active use and recycling, should be at the core of green device design. It would be easy to assume that keeping the device as simple as possible would be the most sustainable option, due to the decreased carbon footprint of manufacturing the device. But, adding more components to enable additional features geared towards energy efficiency, for example, would greatly increase the life cycle – and sustainability in the long run, too. 

“It’s imperative to pay attention to the entire journey of the product. If we focus on manufacturing alone, we might end up creating devices with unnecessary short life cycles due to lacking features or performance. Or if a plastic component is needed for a certain device to last, say, ten years instead of five, it makes no sense to use a renewable material with weaker durability instead,” says Toni Rosendahl, a Solution Architect at Etteplan. 

Poor component choices, the wear and tear of use, battery life, and the availability of spare parts, all affect the aging of hardware. On the software side, outdated user interfaces and unstable systems lead users to seek new devices. These are the main challenges companies need to solve. Luckily, a lot can be done for each, too. 

“Designing better, more sustainable devices is crucial, of course, but sometimes it is worth investigating if we can tweak or redesign the existing hardware instead of a massive rehaul. Legacy design or products might be outdated on some front but improving repairability or ensuring software stays relevant, for example, could increase the overall sustainability without sinking resources excessively,” Rosendahl adds. 

The Importance of Swappable Components and Recyclability in Electronic Devices 

Designing hardware based on swappable component upgrades would lengthen the overall life cycle with minimal effort. As electronics age, their performance might slow down due to the increased demands of software. Additional processing power could give the device a couple more years of extra life. Of course, we need to have components available in the first place to achieve this.  

Global crises, inflation, and supply chain disruptions have played a key role in component shortage that shows no signs of improvement in the near future. Additionally, the resources and rare minerals needed for components will become scarce in the coming years. Improving the recyclability of electronic devices is crucial to ensure it is possible harvest the existing materials as efficiently as possible. 

“Designing products with recyclability in mind is a choice companies must make. It is possible to offer instructions on how to dismantle products efficiently and gathering any data the devices might have collected before recycling would also help in improving the product design. And of course, replacing materials and packaging with greener options, where possible, helps, too,” Rosendahl notes.  

The initial design and material choices dictate what kind of future the device sees. If companies make choices that play against sufficient sustainability, circular economy, and the repairability of products, they only end up doing a disservice to their business – and everyone existing on this planet we need to save.  


Don’t forget to read our article on optimizing legacy solutions – three points to consider 

Etteplan Max Falenius

Max Falenius

Vice President, Service Solutions Software and Embedded Solutions
+358 40 595 3645
Send e-mail

Ask Max Falenius a question or challenge us

When you submit this form, our specialist will be in touch with you by email or telephone. By submitting the form you accept our Privacy Policy.

More stories you might like