Tag Archives: systems

optimistic design

waterbottle

As an unyielding optimist, it is often difficult to design for an audience that doesn’t share a positive, engaged worldview. It can be hard knowing that, for example, even if greener, more responsible technologies exist, consumers may not be ready to accept them. Or knowing that sometimes designing a package out of a non-recyclable material may actually be better than a heavier, recyclable material (like the handwash refill package we developed at method, for example). Sometimes the reality of a consumers demands don’t synch with the ideal environmental solution.

Whether to design for the worst case scenario or the best case is a difficult question to answer, but it’s one that I spend a lot of time asking. When possible, though, designing for both scenarios should be the answer, which is why I loved the idea of Planet Green Bottle’s biodegradable plastic, called Reverte. Having spent much of the past two years working to develop 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles, we’ve focused a lot of energy on securing a sustainable source for our materials and ensuring that they remain fully recyclable. This is a tremendous accomplishment, and one not to be taken lightly, but it remains a reality that about 75% of plastic bottles in North America still end up in landfills– ours included. Our bottles are designed to be sustainable in the bast case scenario, when the consumer recycles the bottle, but falls short if the consumer throws it in the trash.

Planet Green Bottle’s innovative plastic additive, however, offers a time-delayed biodegradability that breaks down plastic even in landfill conditions. By severing the bonds of a carbon chain into pieces that are small enough to be used as food for microbes, Reverte leaves nothing but CO2 and water behind. And, most impressively, the reaction can be delayed for anywhere from 2 or 5 years, so products can live a normal shelf life without fear of spoiling, leaking, etc.

Although there are plenty of questions that need further answers (does it truly not affect recycling streams? will it really biodegrade in a sealed landfill layer?), it’s nevertheless an exciting opportunity to incorporate optimism in design, knowing that however a product is used and disposed of, it’ll have a beautiful afterlife.

thanks to 2composer for the photo

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the bay area becoming an even better place

betterplace

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the pending bailout of Detroit automakers. Philosophically I’m opposed to it, as the bed-sharing and hand-holding of industry and government has done little good and plenty bad in the past. In practice it’s not that simple, as millions of jobs and entire city and state economies are at stake. Regardless of what happens with the bailout, though, it’s become clear that true innovation in the automotive industry, which is necessary and long overdue, will not be born in conference rooms in Detroit or on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rather, true innovation and progress will come from start-ups across the world focused on redesigning not only the car, but the entire transportation system.

I’ve written before about my love for Zipcar and other car sharing programs, but it’s going to take more than car sharing to make a dent in the way people think about cars. Tesla Motors is selling the most impressive electric car, but it retails for $109,000, and doesn’t solve the problem of recharging remotely. Zenn, Fisker, Venturi, Th!nk and others are all selling (or planning to sell) electric cars as well, but they all succumb to the same problem of remote recharging. What’s needed is not just a new car, as I said, but a new infrastructure.

As a proud San Francisco resident, I was happy to read this morning that the Bay Area has signed on with Better Place to do just that- create a vast network of recharging stations and battery exchange stations throughout the region. Better Place, based in Palo Alto, has developed a unique subscription model, similar to the model employed by most cell-phone companies. By subscribing to a certain mileage plan, buyers will get electric vehicles at a discounted price (even free in some markets!), making the barrier to entry much lower than other cars. And with 250,000 charging stations and 200 battery exchange stations throughout the region, buyers won’t have to worry about running out of juice on a trip to Ikea. Better Place has already signed similar deals in Australia, Israel and Denmark, and will hopefully continue to spread their networks throughout the world, saving money, emissions and our all-too-precious petroleum.

Take that, Detroit.

via Mercury News