Product Stewardship for Manufacturers

Design for Environment (DfE)

DfE considers the potential environmental impacts of a product and the process used to make that product, including components and raw materials. DfE can be considered one facet of life cycle management. The life stages of a product start with the extraction of resources for raw material inputs, move to manufacturing, distribution, use, and end with disposal of the product and packaging at end of life.

DfE principles evaluate facility and local impacts, as well as global impacts and include habitat disturbance, emissions and effluents, chemical releases, inefficient use of water and energy, solid waste, and much more. Application of DfE also considers recovery of the product at the end of its useful life, through Design for Disassembly, Design for Remanufacturing, and Design for Recycling.

Checklist of suggestions for Putting DfE to work at your business

Who's Doing It?

Nortel Networks

Printed Wiring Board manufacturers

Intel (design for environment, health & safety)

Detroit's Co-Lab (recycled tires in new products)

Herman Miller

IBM's Environmentally Conscious Product Program (see page 63-4)

Office furniture manufacturers


DesignTex, Inc.

National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery


Construction designers/contractors

Additional Resources

Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) Design for Environment Guide including a DfE Strategy Wheel

IRAP's 34 DfE strategies

Netherlands Agency for Energy and the Environment Energy Efficient Product Development (includes 25 examples)

Carnegie Mellon University's Green Design Initiative

EPA's Design for the Environment

University of Washington's DfE Laboratory

National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery

Consortium on Green Design and Manufacturing

Centre for Design

EPA's P2 Framework for chemical design and development

Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for design environmental design of electronic products, including purchasing decisions and marketing information

PPRC's webpage of resources for green construction

Design Your Product, Packaging, and Processes for the Environment

checkbox Educate cross-functional staff on the basics of DfE and make plans for more in-depth training as time and budget allow. Get a great start by accessing available resources

Reason: Many websites, tools, case studies, and manuals are available to get you started
Example: These resources cover a great range of DfE applications (See "Additional Resources" on this page, and on our Life Cycle page). Also, learn from others in "Who's Doing It?"

checkbox Incorporate DfE concepts in your EMS or company policies

Reasons: Help your company move "beyond compliance", and engage all staff in the effort
Example: How Acushnet Rubber Company, Inc. established a DfE-based EMS

checkbox Put together cross-functional teams to evaluate existing products, packaging, and processes for DfE opportunities

Reason: DfE applied to existing products often results in improved efficiency as well as less waste, and pays for itself rather quickly
Example: Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., worked with aluminum can manufacturers to decrease wall thickness and lid diameter, acheiving a 30% weight reduction in aluminum cans. The design was shared industry-wide. Cost (and environmental) savings were tremendous because less material is required and transportation weight was significantly reduced.

checkbox Apply life cycle and DfE design principles in all product phases

Reason: Some seemingly benign products may have significant environmentally impacts when all phases of raw material extraction, production, use and disposal are considered


checkbox If your your program involves takeback of products, for remanufacturing, recovery and recycling, incorporate information gleaned on disassembly techniques and inefficiencies resolved during the recycling/recovery process back into new product design

Reason: Disassembly and remanufacturing inefficiencies are good evaluation measures for optimizing initial product design

checkbox Influence your supply chain (and your customers) in DfE

Reason: Gives suppliers responsibility for meeting environmental standards for the products you purchase from them, and hopefully influences their environmental performance
Example: Require suppliers to address their materials and products for environmental standards. Hewlett-Packard (HP) requires suppliers to meet HP's environmental performance criteria, including incorporation of recycled content materials into products.


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