DoTT marks the TREE

Posted on October 20, 2007

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At the DoTT07 Festival I found some student work that  is quite inspiring .  As part of Dott07, design students were challenged to design a “stuff-0-meter”to help us  understand more about the”hidden rucksack of everyday products”, cradle to grave, and make informed choices.   The award was won by David Foster Smith. His winning entry “TREE”: Total Recyclability and Efficiency Evaluation is showcased at the DoTT Festival.

TREE is described as a visual representation of the ‘cradle to grave use of a product’s component materials.  It is inspired by the nutrient cycle – the ideal cycle (sic) of materials  in nature where nutrients are used, broken down and reused without loss.
 The basic premise is a tree that shows the various inputs to the product process as the roots (with width indicating volume).  Disposal of the material is represented by the branches (again with width indicating volume).  Branches with leaves show the recycled materials, branches without leaves show where materials are lost.  Transport is represented by the distance from the root to the trunk; length of use is represented by the length of the trunk; losses in production we shown by a section cut from the trunk.

I think this is a wonderful device: I’m struggling to fault it.  I’m not 100% convinced by the tree metaphor, it ignores the light capturing nature of the branches (although the leaves do distinguish good waste from bad), but this is probably just the botanist in me being picky. I’m not quite sure about the length of the trunk representing length of service. Before I understood this my notes said “what about emotional attachment, cradle to cradle etc?”.  The suggestion (wonderful though it is) of product is for coffee machines -how could this be applied for cups of coffees, airline flights etc?

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It would be wonderful if there could be a simple way of showing the impacts of the materials.  A tiny amount of a trace element might appear insignificant on the tree but have considerable consequences.

Well done David Foster Smith, and well done DoTT people for such a competition – do we get to see the rest of the entries?

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