Andrew Thatcher
, Gabriel Garcia-Acosta
Karen Lange Morales
Psychology Department, University of the Witwatersrand,
South Africa
School of Industrial Design,
Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia
Centre de Disseny d’Equips Industrials,
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain
Institute of Ergonomics, Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany
This paper provides an outline of the green ergonomics approach
and the relationship between green ergonomics and human factors
for sustainable development. Green ergonomics is based on ergo-
ecology, the broader multidisciplinary field. Four design principles
for greenergonomicsbased on ecologicaland ergonomics science are
proposed and introduced. The principles explained are: (1) evalua-
tion, design and innovation for eco-efficiency, eco-effectiveness, and
eco-productivity; (2) evaluation, design, and innovation consistent
with ecological resilience; (3) evaluation, design and innovation for
indigenous/vernacular solutions; and (4) acknowledge how natural
systems value “design”.
Given the large and growing number of ecological crises, and humanitarian and
economic catastrophes it is important to understand how ergonomics might con-
tribute to the long-term survival of all life on our planet. The area of ergonomics that
is currently gaining attention in this regard is sustainable development and human
factors (Steimle and Zink; 2006). Steimle and Zink (2006) drew on a combination
of Brundlandt’s (1987) definition of sustainable development, Elkington’s (1998)
notion of the “triple bottom line” (TBL), and Docherty et al.’s (2002) concept of
sustainable work systems as the theoretical background. TheTBL approach encour-
ages people to think in terms of a balance between three types of capital (economic,
social, and natural capital) in order to attain sustainability. Sustainable work sys-
tems refer to work that meets the physical, physiological and psychological limits
of human functioning while still allowing sufficient rejuvenation opportunities (i.e.
recreation and rest) to recover. More recently, ergoecolog y (Garcia-Acosta et al.,
iFirst) has been proposed as a multidisciplinary field for developing more compre-
hensive approaches to intervene in socio-technical systems (the built environment)
in relation to ecosystems (the natural environment). The term green ergonomics
(Thatcher, iFirst) has been suggested to explore the synergies between human work
320 A. Thatcher, G. Garcia-Acosta & K.L. Morales
Figure 1. Bi-directional relationships for green ergonomics
systems and the natural environment. Green ergonomics is a component of sus-
tainable development and human factors within the multidisciplinary framework
of ergoecology.
Green ergonomics defined
Green ergonomics is concerned with ensuring human and natural system wellbeing
through understanding the bi-directional relationships between natural systems and
humansystems(as showninFigure1). Natural systems providearangeof ecological
services (Daily, 1997) that provide sustenance and resources that enable human
wellbeing and health whereas humans require a conservation ethic to ensure the
preservation and restoration of natural environments. The ecological crises alluded
to in the introduction produce environmental conditions that are not conducive to
human health and wellbeing and have been linked to a range of human health and
social upheaval impacts (Pimentel et al., 2007).
Green ergonomics plays a role on the one side of the relationship in the conservation
and preservation of natural systems and, more actively, the restoration of natural
systems. These activities are meant to ensure that ecological services continue to
provide environments conducive to human wellbeing and health. On the other side
of the relationship, natural systems provide a range of services that can by harvested
byhumans for a range of human benefits. From the perspective of ergonomics, such
benefits might include the design of work-rest cycles, biomimetic or sustainable
bionic designs, and creativity benefits. See Thatcher (iFirst) and Hanson (in press)
for more detailed examples.

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