Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's note easy being green

Conservationism (or how they are calling it today: Been Green) has come a long way in the last couple of years. As the concern for global warming and horrible irreversible consequences grow, people (and companies!) have changed the perception for conservationism.
Being green is no longer for "tree-huggers from the Sierra Club" or 'Hippies from California". The thread is a proved reality, and it is very easy to become green.

First I must briefly address the why. Why do something for the environment?. Well, first of all, because we care for the future and it is the right thing to do. Period. Just like you don't through your garbage out of the car window in the middle of the road. Also, and sometimes more importantly for the extreme capitalist, because you can save some money. Do the math, when saving on electricity, you pay less for it. Duh. (As you can see, in reality, the leftists and rightist meet somewhere in the middle, when it comes to conservationism.... though I will not go that route).

Second, what does becoming green imply? - well, I am sure that everybody is expecting me to write no about the famous: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In reality, there is so much more to it....

For individuals, it is relatively easy to comprehend what our role must be, and how we can be proactive. Well, yes, we can (1) consume only the necessary resources by, for example, generating as little as possible trash or shutting off the light when we leave the room [reduce], (2) avoid disposable products as much as possible [reuse], and (3) collaborate with society by recycling [recycle].

Ok, that's great and seems relatively simple. However, for companies to go "green", it is a little harder. Yes, companies are the ones that can have a greater impact in the whole issue. They can not only turn off the lights of the corporate office at night and save a ton of money, but they can also create a tipping point in the whole industrial revolution.

Companies must modify the whole concept of "Product Life-Cycle". They must design products, not just to be recycled, but moreover to have a positive impact in the environment. Product designers have to be able to look further into the future of their products, and instead of thinking about product life cycle as a succession of finite stages, they should be thinking about as a virtuous circle. As a product reaches an end of a particular functional life, it is reborned into a different and beneficial functional life.

For [a crazy] example, today, when a product designer sits down to design a pen, he or she thinks about the classic New Product Development stage where there is no revenue generated, then it moves to a market introduction and growth stage, to finalize in mature and decline stages. He or she builds the product to move thorough those waves, and does not think about what happens once it reaches the end of the ride. Instead, the designer should look at the pen, and think about what other uses the pen could have for another function that is not just writing in paper. Maybe the ink inside the pen could be a natural fertilizer, so that if you write in a piece of special "organic" paper, once the written paper is discarded and put underground, it can germinate into a tree. Notice that we've reached full circle and the thing that once was a tree is back to be a tree. Also notice that the same designer had to devise a "living" piece of paper that is based out of seeds that can become living trees. I have to make clear that this does not mean simply designing a product to be recycled in the future (Or how they call it, downcycle). Rather it is a matter of the product having a 100% positive impact in the environment afterwards; not a reutilization of the same good into another good. Another brief example would be T-shirts made out of positive biodegradable fibers. They don't have to be natural fibers!, they can be synthetic fibers, as long as they can be absorbed by a living being (maybe even eaten by a human!)

This is the tipping point that I am talking about: If all companies adapt their designs, and we break the paradigm of having a finite product life cycle, and we make it a virtuous product life circle, we can truly have impact in the economy and the environment. Again, this is not just incorporating "recycling potential" into the picture. I am talking about positive feedback for the environment. Then, we could finally reach the confluence of business and nature.

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