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How businesses learned to embrace sustainable design—and where it’s headed next

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When Fast Company launched the Innovation by Design Awards in 2012 to honor creativity in business, just two of the winning entries embraced sustainability as a central design thesis.

This year, roughly a third of the winners prioritize the environment, ranging from a converted coal power plant to a device that transforms salt water into electricity. As the effects of climate change become increasingly visceral, spreading fires, hurricanes, and other disasters around the globe, design is becoming a crucial tool of adaptation. “Designing for human survival will become the new necessary field of design,” says Slow Factory Foundation founder Céline Semaan in a special Fast Company report on where the industry can have the greatest impact in the next decade.

In some ways, eco-friendliness has always been a key aspect of good design. Legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams declared it nearly 50 years ago, as one of his 10 principles of good design. But the parameters of what constitutes sustainable design have shifted over time. Is a plastic coffee maker that lasts 20 years, but ultimately ends up in a landfill, really sustainable? Today, many designers understand that every part of product development, from the materials used to a product’s........

© Fast Company

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