Getting Started with GrabCAD's 'Boast Your Toast' Ecodesign Challenge

The competition is tied to IDSA's Sustainability Deep Dive and ends May 24, 2020.

May 15 2020 - 3:17pm


As part of the Industrial Designers Society of America's virtual Sustainability Deep Dive (June 3-5, 2020), IDSA is partnering with Sustainable Minds on a GrabCAD challenge to reinvent the toaster with environmental performance as a key component. Read our Q&A below on how to get started.


Prizes include a 3D printer provided by Autodesk, one free registration to IDSA's International Design Conference 2020, a one-year subscription to Sustainable Minds' Eco-concept & Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Software and more.


The challenge is open for entry through May 24, 2020 at 11:59pm EST, and the winners will be announced during the Sustainability Deep Dive on June 4, 2020.



Competition Jury & Sponsors


Stephan Clambaneva, IDSA, one of the competition's judges and co-emcee of the Sustainability Deep Dive, came up with the idea, concept and initiative for the challenge—his third for GrabCAD, following an IDSA CAD Rendering Challenge in 2013 and Designed to Print Pin Challenge in 2014.

Sustainable Minds is the main sponsor of the challenge, providing the software that contestants will use to reimagine and reinvent the toaster to differentiate and position an existing kitchen appliance manufacturer, or a new company, as a leader in high-performance home appliances with environmental performance as a key component of the story.

Special offer: Sustainable Minds' Learning Center, demo videos and more can be accessed by signing up for a Sustainable Minds student account here, using the code IDSA2020.

Competition Jury:


Shruti Parikh and Terry Swack share more about how to use the software and the many benefits of making improved environmental performance a key aspect of one's design success story.


IDSA: Why is it important to use life cycle thinking and life cycle assessment (LCA) when designing/engineering new products?

Terry Swack: Environmental performance is now a standard criteria in product development, just like functional performance, cost, ergonomics, aesthetics and safety. There are real business drivers creating market demand.

• External drivers include cost and competition for natural resources, regulation and supply chain risk.

• Internal drivers include opportunity for increasing brand value and presence, new product innovation and revenues derived from those products.

Environmental performance is an innovation driver that lowers costs and increase revenues. Companies making performance improvement a goal will achieve competitive advantage. Doing it requires new knowledge, processes and tools.

Connecting ecodesign with LCA drives greener product innovation. It enables new idea generation and opportunities for innovation. It does not guarantee that these new ideas will have superior environmental performance. Environmental performance of new concepts must be measured using LCA. It’s not enough to think differently without measuring. Conversely, if you just measure without thinking differently, you’ll likely only get incremental improvements.

Shruti Parikh: LCA is used as a tool to assess the environmental impacts of a product or process throughout its life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials through to processing, transport, use and end of life. The lifecycle includes all activities that go into making, using and disposing of a product, and the assessment tool helps to identify the resource intensive centers and design to mitigate the environmental impact.

Ecodesign has many strategies that allow us to design greener products, but LCA helps us decide where the opportunities are for achieving the most meaningful environmental performance impact.

The LCA process starts with defining the goals and scope for the redesign of a greener product. In this case, we are talking about improving the environmental performance at least 15% or more than the reference project (demo toaster model). In the Sustainable Minds Eco-concept + LCA Software, you can create an unlimited number of concepts by changing inputs through the life cycle: materials, processes, use phase consumables, transportation and end of life. The results views enable comparing each concept to the reference by total impacts, just the carbon footprint (global warming potential) by life cycle stage.

The data for the inputs are in the software and you can see the impact of your selections on environmental performance in real time as you explore. This helps you not only identify the design opportunities but also create a high performance solution to meet your project goals.


How can the uninitiated use the Sustainable Minds software to the best effect? 

Swack: Getting started is easy. Watch the demos, do the example toaster project, read through the content in the Learning Center. The software is extremely easy to use and general. Within a minute, you can model the impacts of a single part made from different materials or you can build a model of an entire product system. It all depends on what you want to learn. Once you start thinking with a life cycle mindset, you’ll never think about products or design products the same way again!

Parikh: The Sustainable Minds software is an easy and efficient tool for designers to evaluate the impact of their design through the product life cycle. The software tutorial videos clearly explain the features and functionality in detail. You can also visit the Learning Center, which provides excellent in-depth content on how to design greener products.

The software can be best understood by creating new models and evaluating the environmental impact through variables like material selection, processes, use phase consumables, transportation and end of life scenarios. For questions regarding data for inputs not already in the database, feel free to write to us  For any questions that are unanswered here, feel free to write to us at


What are the benefits of making environmental performance a key component of your design process?

Swack: Sustainable Minds’ mission is to operationalize environmental performance in product development & manufacturing to drive revenue and growth through greener product innovation. We are committed to delivering knowledge and tools in an empowering and credible way to drive real change. Evaluating and measuring the environmental performance of products and systems is now part of business as usual. Industrial designers and engineers who understand this and develop the skills and knowledge to participate will be more valuable in the marketplace.

Parikh: In putting people at the front and center of innovation, human-centered design has come to exclusively represent buyers or users alone. This fails to acknowledge other stakeholders in the value chain. Our ‘take-make-waste’ linear economy is heavily extractive and resource-intensive, and produces greenhouse gases that are causing the climate crisis.

Its obvious today that our model of design thinking is missing any reference to sustainability, planetary limits or wider responsibility to society. We must evolve this model from ‘human-centered’ to ‘value-centered’ design, stretching beyond the customers and bringing in value for people, planet and prosperity. We need to strike a balance between human-centric and eco-centric design thinking.

This process aims to minimize the environmental impact of a product over its entire lifecycle. Benefits include better utilization of resources and materials, higher quality products, happier consumers, more efficient production and market differentiation. 


Do you have any tips for students and/or newcomers to ecodesign?

Swack: To develop a life cycle mindset, try using the Ecodesign Strategy Wheel as an analysis framework to figure out what a manufacturer is doing to make its innovative, high-performing products. It doesn’t take long. Select a product product that interests you and read about it on the manufacturer’s web site. Then go through the wheel by life cycle stage and identify the strategies they’re using. Using multiple strategies in multiple life cycle stages is the recipe for innovation. 

Parikh: Companies designing products and product designers can protect our planet and people’s health through sustainable design choices.

The designer has an impact in a pivotal stage where decisions are made about what materials are needed, how they must be processed, what the product’s use end of life looks like. When creating new products, both companies and product designers can advocate using ecodesign strategies. They can design products that minimize waste and energy consumption. Both of these reductions also reduce costs.

We can all agree that selling good-looking products is great, but understanding customer desires and goals and making life cycle thinking and environmental performance improvement a permanent part your (and your company’s) product development processes is even better. Welcome to the new normal.


Learn more and enter GrabCAD's "Boast Your Toast" Ecodesign Challenge before May 24, 2020 here.

Register for IDSA's virtual Sustainability Deep Dive (June 3-5, 2020) here.