Press Release

Educating the Educators:

A Crash Course on Eco Design™

by David Bergman and Erika Doering

Educating the Educators: A Crash Course on Eco Design is an in depth seminar intended to introduce faculty members to the history, theory and teaching methodologies of ecodesign, with the intent of bringing instructors up to speed in a rapidly expanding and essential area of study. The seminar is directed not just toward ecodesign specific courses, but toward the goal of encouraging inclusion of ecodesign throughout all curricula.

The viewpoint of the seminar is that many educators did not receive any training in ecodesign or sustainable design because the field either did not exist or was not emphasized during their education and that, therefore, there is a need to disseminate reliable and succinct information in a way that is complementary to existing courses and curricula.

Because the field of sustainable design is a relatively new one, there is a lot of confusion and mystery surrounding it. Educating the Educators is designed to address those issues. The seminar is tailored to each design field (e.g. industrial/product design, architecture, interior design, fashion design, graphic design) and to each department or school’s program with the realization that every program is different and requires different foci. The seminar is typically a daylong event (usually on a Saturday to make it easier for faculty to attend), divided into several parts, but can also be adapted for longer or shorter versions. In addition, the presenters, David Bergman and Erika Doering, can make themselves available while visiting for class lectures and/or student project critiques, thus enabling educators to see how ecodesign education principles can be put into practice. The student crits, especially, have proven to be an extremely valuable tool for both the students and their faculty.

The seminar attempts to address the topic in a holistic, systems approach, beginning by setting the stage so that the need and urgency of sustainability is comprehended. Typically, a keynote speaker is brought in to kick off of the day. Doering and Bergman then give an overview of the environmental situation, explaining environmental issues so that, for instance, ozone depletion is not just an abstract concept. This is followed by a brief history of the environmental movement, looking at its origins in activism, in government, in science and, not least, in design.

From this background, the seminar next talks about approaches to ecodesign, beginning with the basic "3R’s" of Reduce Reuse Recycle and moving on to cradle-to-cradle principles as well as socio-political issues. The tools of the ecodesign are discussed and culminate in a presentation on “eco-innovation.” A hands-on segment presents environmentally conscious materials and discusses how to evaluate them.

Another objective of the Crash Course is to bridge the gap between the ecodesign world and the “rest” of design, dispelling the preconceptions about the nature of ecodesign. A significant part of the day’s material deals with topics such as the mainstreaming of ecodesign and with the economic benefits to producers, consumers and the general public. Among the economic concepts included are natural capital and true costing as well as explanations of tools like Life Cycle Analysis. Building on this, much of the presentation as well as the later discussion stresses not just that we "ought to" include ecodesign, but that we should "want to."

Along the way, an array of resources is outlined. The resources are also included in "The Ecodesign Toolkit," a book that accompanies the seminar and, in addition, contains an extensive glossary of environmental terminology, a history and heroes of the environmental movement, and graphics that illustrate many of the points made during the day. The seminar usually concludes with either a practical discussion of how to include ecodesign in existing syllabi or a session of student project critiques.

Doering and Bergman are available to present the seminar to design schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. Typically, they bring all presentation materials. The hosting institution is responsible for providing space, audio visual equipment, refreshments and meals for attendees, as well as registration for the event. The cost of providing the seminar varies with the duration of the event (for instance, whether it includes additional onsite time for class lectures or student crits) and with the travel distance.

Prior to the seminar, they hold a discussion with the host institution to review the host’s existing curricula as well as their current ecodesign offerings, levels of faculty expertise and existing resources. This enables the presenters to modify the materials to the specific needs of the host.


Bergman and Doering are practicing designers and instructors who have been involved in ecodesign for many years.
May 2004