dMASS Trends and Innovations

What's New

Welcome to dMASS.net weekly newsletter! This week, our focus is water and wastewater. Learn how innovative companies are finding ways to get things done without water, find a link to our weekly recommended must-read article, and see our new feature: The dMASS Take-Home. We ask questions to help you think about resources and performance in your work, whether you're focused on process improvements, working on designs, leading an organization, or in any way navigating the world of sustainability. As always, we provide lots of links to satisfy your curiosity and give you some insight into big changes ahead, including a list of dMASS examples.

When you're done reading the newsletter, be sure to read Howard's new post on water, "Rethinking Water Use: Can we do better with less?"  He argues that the amount of water we move around (as we extract, modify, ship, use, purify, and reuse it) needlessly harms our economic health in terms of unintended consequences and higher costs of doing business. 

Why Water?

Reducing water use must be an important part of a comprehensive strategy to increase resource performance.  Water, like any resource, is a cost to business.  Though water use is somewhat hidden - built in to countless processes throughout a supply chain, used in the buildings where we do business, adding to the cost of transportation when it's embodied in products - it's ubiquitous.  It's hard to imagine any business or design that does not in some way involve water and have water-related costs.

Water ScarcityWater is also increasingly scarce in many parts of the world, which poses a serious risk for businesses and investors. Some money managers are intensifying pressure on companies to disclose their water impacts, risks, and plans.  Of course, there are also opportunities related to water scarcity.  Many companies are exploring technologies that will help mitigate water-related risks, or partnering to conserve water.

"Remove Water, Add Profit"

Strategies to minimize water use are appearing in every economic sector.  The most interesting are the ones where someone has considered a process or product and asked, "How can we do this without water?"  Here are just a few examples:

Treating Wastewater

Watewater treatment plant in San Francisco LobbyWater that's "used" in our factories, offices, and homes is actually being recirculated in some fashion. Much of it is treated as wastewater and then released to waterways. The less water we use, the less wastewater we have to treat.

For the wastewater that does remain after we reduce water use, there are new strategies for treatment (many of which get their cues from nature), including:  

The dMASS Take-Home

This is a new feature to help you apply dMASS thinking everyday! 

The first dMASS Take-Home is an exercise you can do with a small team (co-workers, peers, or friends). 

  • First, pick something to focus on from work or home - it could be a design, a product, a process, or an issue you're working through with a client. 
  • Spend 15-20 minutes brainstorming all the different ways water is used in this design, product, or proccess.  Consider the whole supply chain.  Remember that water is used in countless, surprising ways throughout mining, energy production, manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture. 
  • Now, consider how much water is used in each of the areas you identified.
  • Consider how much energy and resources are used to collect, ship, or treat the water that's used.
  • Discuss technological or logistical modifications you could make to your design, product, or process to reduce water use
  • Finally, identify some actionable steps to make changes or explore the issue further.   

Must Read

There is a new European Union initiative focused on increasing resource efficiency:

Resource efficiency essentially promises more for less – more output and sales for less input of money and resources. As companies find themselves ground between higher prices for raw materials and energy, and consumers looking for better value for money, resource efficiency holds the promise of a rescue. And as governments look for ways of squaring the circle of resource constraints combined with the desire for higher material living standards, resource efficiency looks like a way for them to get out of a whole set of dilemmas.

So far, gains in efficiency have not made enough of a difference in total resource use.  But the aim is "true, 'absolute', decoupling – in which output rises but inputs and environmental impacts actually fall."  Sounds a lot like doing better with less, or drastically reducing resource use while increasing the benefits delivered - dMASS. 

Talking about dMASS

If you’re new to dMASS and haven’t seen our video, don't miss it!  DBUILD has a nice review of "Design Matters: Doing Better with Less" on their blog and you can also find the video on our website.

dMASS Examples

Coming Up!

This week, we're busy finding interesting ideas on the future of cars and ground transportation.  Head over to Twitter to hear the latest and then read next week's newsletter for a dMASS perspective on the subject. 

You can hear about this and more daily on Facebook or Twitter @dmass_net, and @BrownHowardJ

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