Sustainability in product design is not determined only at the creation of an object; it can be acquired over time, just like a product that was designed with sustainability in mind is misused and underappreciated. Designers need to redefine how products and systems are created, and users need to reevaluate their relationship with them by engaging in sustainable behaviors at multiple points of their lifecycle. This paper introduces a categorization of products based on their ability to solve user’s needs and to minimize environmental impact across the lifecycle. Categories range from sub and ephemeral products, which don’t even serve relevant functions, to regular, superior and catalysts products that operate with minimal environmental impact while also promoting sustainable behaviors in their users. This categorization is not intended to be a comprehensive framework for sustainable products but rather an enabler of discussion around sustainability potential which be obtained in multiple levels.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit

Summer 5-30-2017

Document Type

Conference Paper

Department, Program, or Center

School of Design (CIAS)


RIT – Main Campus