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Eco-design, the way to make products greener before they've even been produced

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By Aurora Velez
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Eco-design, the way to make products greener before they've even been produced
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On the banks of the Neva, the Russian city of Saint Petersburg is taking part in a European project to integrate good environmental practice into the life cycle of products and services.

The initiative is called EcoDesign Circle 4.0 and it began in the Baltic Sea region in 2016. The project includes eight EU countries and has also grown to include non-EU members, like Russia and Norway.

What are its goals?

Amongst other things, the group tries to strengthen awareness and practical application of the “design approach” to the circular economy.

In other words, SMEs in the Baltic sea region are being given a helping to develop eco-design.

Marina Lebedeva is responsible for the Russian part of the EcoDesign Circle 4.0 project and she is also the Managing Director of Medina Art LTD.

She further explains that "eco-design is about considering how a product will be developed, how it will live, what it will become and how it will be disposed of".

All things that are already being put into practice in many SMEs in the region.

The environment as a starting block

In First Furniture Factory in Saint Petersburg, for example, they have specialised in making customised kitchens for more than 75 years. They now also produce more environmentally-friendly models. Their designs that use ecological methods create less waste and make production times shorter. The production of one kitchen has gone from 21 to 14 days.

Ivan Khodenko is the head of the company's technical department. He tells us that they started working "with new materials that are available on the market, which can be used and recycled". Before this, they used to buy materials, like lacquers, that could be used for only two or three hours. Now they can be used for 24 hours without having to throw them away.

The environmental impact of a product or service is mainly determined at the design stage. Unlike the linear economy, this multidisciplinary approach takes into consideration the circular economy and recycling before production.

'Creative thinking'

Solution finding workshops are also part of the project's strategy. We visited one in Saint Petersburg that brought manufacturers and designers together. The exercise of the day was to convince a group of people including politicians, people allergic to pollen and cleaning services workers to support a green wall project in the city.

Tatiana, a businesswoman and participant, says that "the training is organised in such a way that it immediately appeals to our creative thinking". In only 17 minutes, the group had come up with 40 ways to "get around" the resistance of certain people.

The EcoDesign Circle 4.0 project has a total budget of 2.78 million euros. The majority of this financing comes from the EU's cohesion policy. Russia also contributed over 42,000 euros.

In 2020, EcoDesign Circle reached the final of the European RegioStars Awards in the "Circular Economy" category.