Environmental impacts of electronics are a growing concern because the amount and type of materials used in production of the devices, the impacts to the environment from discarded

electronics and the early retirement of products due to rapidly evolving devices, changing design trends, and perceived technological obsolescence. Design for the Environment is a sustainability strategy that aims to reduce the environmental impacts through techniques that enable sustainability solutions during the design decision-making process. In order to suit the diverse

needs of sustainable design practitioners, there has been a large number of tools for Design for the Environment (DfE) developed, confusing product designers and engineers about which tool

to choose to meet sustainability and design goals. Therefore, there is a need for methods that help designers choose DfE tools that are reliable, objective, effective, and easy to integrate in the regular product design and development activities. This thesis project develops a methodology to help designers screen, test and validate the results of applying DfE tools recommendations, when

searching for the most effective techniques. First, the project proposes a method to classify tools under common DfE categories of tools, screen the tools, and identify potential techniques. Next,

the author of this thesis, who is the designer on this document, designs an electronics device, under regular design parameters, for testing a set of potential DfE techniques. Prior to testing

DfE tools, the author develops a set of sustainability metrics to measure the impacts of the electronic device and the reductions in environmental impacts obtained from the application of each DfE tool recommendations. After assessing the impacts of the device using the metrics, there were three DfE tools tested, Autodesk Eco Materials Adviser (EMA), DfE Matrix, and Electronic Product Assessment Tool (EPEAT) to determine product environmental burdens, propose solutions, and make design recommendations that improve the product environmental profile. Each tool identified materials, life cycle stages, and components that cause the product

environmental burdens; these findings were targets for redesign. Addressing the tools findings resulted in three redesigns of the electronic device re-assessed with the sustainability metrics to

measure the reductions of the environmental impacts. The metrics were useful to validate the results of applying the tools and help the product designer and sustainability practitioner developing this thesis to identify the most effective tools, the benefits, weaknesses, and strengths of using diverse tools.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Sustainable Systems (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


Callie W. Babbitt


Physical copy also available from RIT's Wallace Library at TK7836 .L435 2013


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes