Okala Practitioner emerged from the struggle of designers and academics to understand how to practice and what to teach about ecological design. In 2001, Philip White, chair of the IDSA Ecodesign Section, met Steve Belletire and Louise St. Pierre. Realizing they were all conducting progressive ecological design research, they joined in making the three-person team to create a curriculum on ecodesign. The curriculum would be developed primarily for undergraduate industrial design schools.

Wanting to honor the indigenous American traditions of respecting our natural environment, the team found the Hopi word "Okala", which means "life sustaining energy". Henceforth the project adopted the name Okala.

The team identified initial sponsorship from Eastman Chemical and Whirlpool to support the process. In 2002 White approached the US EPA and organized the IDSA/EPA Partnership. The IDSA/EPA Partnership focused on educating industrial designers and design students about reducing environmental impacts of products and systems. In 2004 Okala : Learning Ecological Design was printed and distributed to more than fifty schools internationally, along with supporting digital presentations, free of charge. This spurred curricular change in many industrial design programs. In 2007 and 2009 revised editions of the Okala guide were published and distributed through IDSA. Okala 2009 was also translated and distributed in France by Pôle éco-conception, France's national center for ecodesign and life cycle management.

The Okala Team refocused their vision in 2011 to develop a guide that would directly assist working designers, engineers and business planners, as well as support the needs of educators and students. The Okala Team identified sponsorship from Autodesk, IBM, and Eastman Chemical for Okala Practitioner : Integrating Ecological Design. A portion of revenues from Okala Practitioner sales supports the IDSA Ecodesign Section.

In addition to assisting industrial designers, Okala Practitioner addresses the needs of parallel design disciplines: architecture, graphic design, interior design and apparel design, as well as the crucial disciplines of engineering and business. After reviewing feedback from users of previous editions, the range of Okala Impact Factors 2014 was expanded from 300 to over 500. The number of Okala Impact Factors for incineration or landfilling of materials increased significantly to enable the full life cycle modeling of a much broader range of product systems.

United by our passion to deal with the growing challenges to the health of the Earth’s biosphere, Okala Practitioner contains years of insights based of ecodesign research, workshops, design consultations, extensive discussion and team collaboration. White developed the Okala Impact Factors, technical topics, and overall organization. St. Pierre developed ecodesign strategies, explored belief frameworks and social criteria. Belletire developed marketing and business integration and stakeholder needs. Content decisions were made by consensus and refined through a rigorous critical review process. The Okala Team has striven to deliver a balanced and practical perspective on the essential topics of design for ecology and social equity that are crucial to the vitality and survival of our biosphere.