Beyond Child's Play: Sustainable Product Design in the Global Doll-Making Industry

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Sustainable product design is more than eco design: it goes beyond "green" to consider the work environment, community impacts, consumer health, and economic viability, as well as environmental attributes. Beyond Child's Play explores the concept of sustainable product design in the context of the global doll-making industry. To initiate this research, the author reviewed eco design parameters and developed criteria for sustainable product design in the doll-making industry. Using this framework, she conducted three case studies of doll making: the American Girl doll produced in China, the Käthe Kruse doll produced in Germany and the Q'ewar Project doll produced in Peru. Themes emerged from this research that have relevance beyond the doll-making industry: the value of making a product with care; designing work for human dignity; intention and vision for sustainability; the implications of materials choices; and transparency and sustainability.

Sustainable product design calls for fundamentally new thinking. By connecting the term "sustainable" to "product," we raise expectations for a radically different approach to design, production, and consumption. This framework integrates the eco design principles of detoxification and dematerialization with the principle of "humanization," to ensure that the work environment where the product is made is safe and healthy and that local communities benefit from production. This approach places increased responsibility on the industrial designer and decision-makers throughout the supply chain, including governments, corporations, and citizens. Sustainable product design can be implemented effectively only when systems are in place thatsupport sustainable production and consumption.

Intended Audience: Students and professionals in the fields of pollution prevention/cleaner production, environmental health, and industrial design (particularly those with a focus on eco design); business professionals and students with an interest in corporate environmental and social responsibility; labor and environmental activists; the informed general reader.
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What People Are Saying

Beth Rosenberg
"Those of us interested in how the stuff we use everyday is produced tend to think of the manufacturing process as polluting and hazardous to workers. Even the final product is usually of questionable value. Sally Edwards uses case studies of doll production to show that, yes, mass production of this seemingly benign object is harmful, and she documents the nature of the harms. More importantly, she shows us that there are alternative ways of making things that are good for workers and good for communities. This is an important book for anyone who has ever thought about where, how, and by whom everyday things are made, and is not pleased with the current reality."--(Beth Rosenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health & Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston)
Ken Geiser
"By focusing on a familiar and highly accessible product, a child's doll, this study explores in rich detail the social and environmental costs of globalization. However, the book goes beyond a simple critique of the doll-making industry and seeks to present models of sustainable production and lay out a framework for designing more sustainable products. The careful selection of three case studies based in Germany, China, and Peru provides evidence of the possibilities and problems we encounter in seeking production systems that are just and fair, respectful of communities, and protective of human health and the environment. These case studies offer a broad menu of options for going beyond 'green' products. This is a fine, upbeat book for those interested in how we should make products in a sustainable future."--(Ken Geiser, Ph.D., Professor of Work Environment, Co-Director, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, University of Massachusetts Lowell)
Lauren Heine
"The case studies in Beyond Child's Play beautifully illustrate the importance of addressing the environmental and social histories that lie behind some of the most lovable and seemingly benign objects found in our societies-dolls. Dr. Sally Edwards defines a powerful framework for creating sustainable products that demonstrate as much care for the workers who create them as for the children for whom they are purchased. While most design and sustainability practitioners acknowledge the importance of the social side of sustainability in product design, they typically only practice eco-design. Edwards lays out a framework for sustainable product design that clearly defines the parameters for what it means to make products that not only are beneficial for consumers, economically viable, and environmentally sound, but also are safe for workers and beneficial for local communities. For too long, consideration of these elements has been deferred. This book will be of much benefit to product designers and to anyone interested in or engaged with corporate sustainability initiatives."--(Lauren Heine, Ph.D., Senior Science Advisor, Clean Production Action, Principal, Lauren Hein Group LLC, Bellingham, WA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780895033864
  • Publisher: Baywood Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Sally Edwards is a research associate at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She conducts research on sustainable product design and has convened a multi-stakeholder initiative of toy manufacturers, retailers, designers, children's environmental health advocates, academics, and government policymakers to improve the sustainability of children's products. Dr. Edwards has wide-ranging experience in the field of environmental health, including 14 years in the public sector (at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Boston and Anchorage, Alaska, and in the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation). Her work in state and federal government included hazardous waste clean-up, risk assessment and communication, comparative risk analysis, strategic planning, pollution prevention, and sustainable development. As an environmental consultant, she assisted the Devens Enterprise Commission with the sustainable redevelopment of Devens, a former U.S. Army base located west of Boston. She received a B.A. from Stanford University and a master's degree in environmental health science from Harvard University, and completed her doctorate in work environment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
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Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1 Why Study Dolls?
A brief description of the three case studies, a discussion of embedded meaning in doll design and a brief history of commercial doll-making.

CHAPTER 2 The Toy Industry Today
Production and consumption in the context of
globalization; hazards in toy production/use; overview of the US/European toy industry; activism to improve toy safety; corporate responses.

CHAPTER 3 A Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Product Design
The product life cycle, a history of terminology in eco and sustainable design, and a framework for sustainable product design.

CHAPTER 4 The American Girl Company
Design of the American Girl doll; marketing strategy/psychology; philanthropy; production process in a typical Chinese factory; working conditions and environmental issues in Mattel's Chinese factories.

CHAPTER 5 The Käthe Kruse Doll Company
The history of the Käthe Kruse doll company; design and production process; health and safety issues in production; worker flexibility and control over job tasks.

CHAPTER 6 The Q'ewar Project of Andahuaylillas, Peru
The history of the Q'ewar project; design and production process; health and safety issues; special aspects of the Project; the economics of this initiative.

CHAPTER 7 Emerging Themes for Sustainable Product Design
Comparing case studies and emerging themes: the significance of care; designing work for human dignity; intention and vision for sustainability; choosing materials/chemicals; transparency and sustainability.

CHAPTER 8 Paradigm Shifting or Incremental Change? Some Thoughts on Sustainable Product Design,Production, and Consumption
The purpose of products; challenges of scale in implementing sustainable product design; linking sustainable production design, production and consumption; roles of different actors.

Appendix-Evaluation of Sustainable Design Elements for Each Case Study


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