The German Environment Agency (UBA), together with the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUV), is not only the initiator of the German Ecodesign Award but also has a significant role in the evaluation and quality control of the submissions together with the project advisory board and the jury. In this short interview, Lisa Cerny, who has been in charge of the project from the beginning as an employee of the UBA, explains the standards of good design from an environmental point of view.
Please briefly introduce yourself and your tasks at UBA and tell us what you like about it.
I am an environmental scientist and have been working for 10 years at the German Environment Agency on sustainable consumption and ecodesign. Our work has the goal of spreading ecological product design as a design principle. To this end, we are setting up research projects and in this context we have also launched the German Ecodesign Award in 2012 together with the BMUV. The work at the German Environment Agency is very complex. As a subordinate authority of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, our responsibilities include policy advice, public information and the enforcement of environmental legislation. In my case this means in concrete terms that I supervise research projects in the field of sustainable consumption, the results of which ultimately lead to policy recommendations and consumer information.
As an environmental expert, what are the most important aspects for you to reflect on in the design process? What criteria do you value most when evaluating a submission?
First question I ask myself when evaluating each submission is whether the product contributes in any way to environmental relief. This can be done, for example, by intelligent recycling, by replacing materials that are harmful to the environment, or even by replacing a product benefit with a service. We also attach importance to ensuring that the submissions are so well designed that they also take account of consumer behaviour and ideally contribute to the sustainable use of the product.
The German Ecodesign Award celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021. According to your observations, has there been any changes in the relevance of the topic of sustainable design?
Fortunately, the topic is becoming more and more present. In the meantime, certified products, such as textiles made of organic cotton, are no longer available only from selected retailers, but can also be found in a few discounters. In addition, we see a development in the submissions for the German Ecodesign Award from a pure product focus to recycling management and services. The topic of smart products is also becoming increasingly important.
Since its foundation in 1974, the German Environment Agency as a central scientific authority has been helping to make life in Germany more environmentally friendly. In addition to providing research and advisory support to the federal government, the UBA handle a wide range of environmental issues on a national and international level every day.