Design thinking promotes change by encouraging consumers to adopt more sustainable behaviors.

As the evidence for human-made global climate change continues to mount, companies and designers need to consider what they can do to help preserve a livable climate for all.

Design thinking has the potential to increase public awareness and inspire everyone to engage in a more sustainable lifestyle by effectively informing people about environmental issues.

This is not because people are intrinsically interested in environmental sustainability, however. Rather, companies need to find ways to inspire sustainable habits based on behaviors that people already exhibit or that are easily introduced.

For example, after design thinkers realized that shoppers valued style and comfort over basic energy efficiency when it came to purchasing products, the U.S. Department of Energy decided to shift its focus when promoting products to encourage Americans to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Thus designers explored the creation of stylish yet nonetheless energy-efficient products and catchy informational tools to better attract consumers’ attention when shopping.

Design thinkers also understand that to communicate the urgency of climate change, facts alone are not enough. Thus, designers need to start thinking about how to make sustainability more accessible.

One practical way for design thinkers to find a solution is to use a deck of cards, called “Drivers of Change.” The deck is composed of cards with answers to questions like, “Can we afford a low-carbon future?” The cards get a message across with simple facts and images. In fact, the deck has been used by discussion groups to inspire developments in sustainability initiatives.

Design thinkers should look at the entire production process, examining products from the extraction of raw materials to disposal. In doing so, it’s hard not to find opportunities for environmentally friendly innovation!

A good example of this kind of design thinking is Pangea Organics, a company that produces natural body-care products. Its products employ compostable packaging that contains wildflower seeds; thus you can soak the packaging with water and toss it in your backyard, where it would grow!

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