Before you begin:

Key questions for sustainable design and manufacture to ask yourself before you begin

(Note – not all the questions will be appropriate to your particular design idea or product)

  • Is the product something that people want and need?
  • Will it always be wanted and needed? Is it subject to the whims of fashion? Is it economically feasible to make the product given the whims of fashion and the marketplace?
  • Who would benefit the most from this product given their available income and their local environment?
  • Will production (and any subsequent repair, recycling) provide work to help people earn money?
  • Which raw materials will be used? Are they renewable?
  • What pollution is caused by the extraction and processing of the raw materials?
  • How will the product be manufactured?
  • What other materials are needed in order to use the product? (eg fixings, surface paints or varnishes)
  • Can the product be made locally using local skills and local materials?
  • How much energy is used at different stages of the product's lifecycle?
  • How will the product be packaged?
  • How will the product be sold / transported to the shops?
  • How will the product be promoted / marketed?
  • How will it be used? Will it only be used for its intended purpose? How many times will it be used before being thrown away?
  • How will it be disposed of after use?
  • Could it be repaired? Reused? Recycled?
  • Can the product be easily repaired using local materials? How many parts can go wrong? How likely are they to go wrong?




Web reference

What’s the purpose of packaging?

Useful introduction from – an information site designed for young people

What types of packaging are there?

Easy to use site from Packaging Solutions Advice Group

Click on: material advice for information on steel (the ‘tin’ can and the aerosol can) and tetrapak (the carton)

How is steel used as a packaging material?

Advisory service for packaging designers from Corus (formerly British Steel)

Click on space data and then on

How you can use steel


What is tetrapack?

Website of the Swedish company tetrapak

Click on About tetrapak for information about the history of the pack and its environmental impact

Click on Tetrapak for you for news article about recycling cartons to make panels to house homeless people,

What about aluminium packaging?

The story of aluminium packaging – how aluminium drinks cans are made and how they can be recycled. (From the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation)

What happens to the packaging once the product has been used?

Student-friendly site from the US Environment Protection Agency with information about waste, landfills and recycling options.

Website of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment

Click on Information for schools, and then Factsheets eg:

What are the environmentally friendly packaging options?

Schools information page from the University of York with information about:

Plastics, waste, landfills, incineration, recycling, composting, biodegradation and starch-based plastics

How are aluminium cans recycled?

Very readable website from the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation

Click on lifecycle and facts and figures (eg )

What about re-using packaging?

A 13 page document from the University of Illinois outlining some of the issues to consider when re-using food containers.

Information and casestudies from Unilever about the re-use and recycling of packaging materials

Packaging In Kenya

Before you begin

Web references

A typical area in Kenya

The packaging problem

What commodities are re-packaged?

Materials available for packaging

How Fruit Juice Is Made

Design Possibilities
Re-packaging flour, sugar etc.

Packaging fruit juices

Peanut butter container

Other packaging