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Why Are the Majority of Things We Consume Inherently Unsustainable?

Although we’ve made great strides in sustainability–Wal-Mart, for example, has taken a huge step forward by setting a new standard for green manufacturing with its Sustainable Product Index–the majority of products, buildings, and infrastructure designed today still consume excessive energy. They also exhaust and pollute precious water resources and introduce toxic substances into our daily lives.

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Although we’ve made great strides in sustainability–Wal-Mart, for example, has taken a huge step forward by setting a new standard for green manufacturing with its Sustainable Product Index–the majority of products, buildings, and infrastructure designed today still consume excessive energy. They also exhaust and pollute precious water resources and introduce toxic substances into our daily lives.

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Why can’t the design community find a solution to these problems?

If it were easy, we would have figured this out a long time ago. Those of you involved in sustainable design have already figured out that sustainable design is inherently complex. Sustainable design is a systems problem–each decision is intertwined with other decisions. For example, the material you may have selected due to its non-toxic and renewable properties may also carry a hefty carbon or water footprint. Most of our brains aren’t wired to easily dissect and pinpoint the optimal solution out of the millions of possible combinations.

This is where software comes in. Good software should have sustainable design intelligence embedded in the tools so that IT can analyze numerous options and identify the optimal one for us. Our vision at Autodesk is to simplify sustainable design so that we don’t all have to become experts. We want the standard design workflow–whether you’re designing a building, a car engine, or a highway–to be one that optimizes for materials, energy, water, and land use.

Autodesk’s sustainable-by-design blogging team will be tackling these issues all week, bringing expertise in sustainable manufacturing, green building, SaaS, policy, and market dynamics–and offering our thoughts on how to make your corporation operate sustainably.

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Here are the team members, and their areas of expertise:

  • John Kennedy is the brains behind Green Building Studios and one of our resident green building visionaries.

  • Dawn Danby, an industrial designer by training, works at the intersection of sustainable design across multiple industries.
  • Lynelle Cameron (me), is passionate about a more sustainable future and
    the technologies and practices that will help us get there.
  • Emma Stewart is our resident expert on policy, trends in the market place, and implementing corporate best practices.

Tomorrow, Emma Stewart, environmental strategy specialist, will discuss how utilizing the ‘cloud’ can save energy while boosting productivity and innovation in design.

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Lynelle Cameron is Director of Sustainability at Autodesk, a leading provider of design innovation software. Lynelle joined the company with a bold vision–to simplify and democratize sustainable design. By providing the millions of Autodesk users in many different industries with software tools that enable them to make smarter, more sustainable design decisions, she hopes to transform how we are designing the world around us. Lynelle is also focused on optimizing the company’s environmental footprint.

Before joining Autodesk, Lynelle spent seven years in a similar role at Hewlett Packard, and another seven years in the nonprofit sector. Lynelle is on the Board of Directors of the Biomimicry Institute, the Designers Accord, and on the Advisory Board of Net Impact. She holds an M.B.A from UC Berkeley and degrees from University of Michigan and Middlebury College. She is a published author of several articles and chapters concerning business and sustainability.

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