Environmental aspects of Ecodesign

Interview with Lisa Cerny from the Federal Environment Agency

Ecodesign considers design in the context of society as a whole, which requires broad expertise. In order to qualify for the jury session of the Federal Award for Ecodesign, the entries submitted must meet both high design and environmental standards. In the first stage of the selection process, experts from various design disciplines and about 50 environmental experts from the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) will examine the quality of the entries.

The UBA, together with the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU), is not only the initiator of the Federal 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 an interview, Lisa Cerny, who as a staff member of the Federal Environment Agency has supervised the project since its birth, explains the standards of good design from an environmental perspective.

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 Federal 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 Federal Ecodesign Award in 2012 together with the BMU.
The work at the Federal Environment Agency is very complex. As a subordinate authority of the Federal Environment Ministry, 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 Federal Ecodesign Award celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. 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 Federal Ecodesign Award from a pure product focus to recycling management and services. The topic of smart products is also becoming increasingly important.

Quelle: Martin Stallmann / Umweltbundesamt

Since its foundation in 1974, the Federal 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.