Designing Green Products

In 1998, I founded a company that designed and manufactured sustainable office furniture. Unfortunately, we were ahead of the green “curve,” and the marketplace was not quite ripe for sustainability.  I am both encouraged and discouraged by the new sustainability movement.  Here are three of my observations on the topic of green product design: Continue reading

Sustainability: Duh!

I tried to think of a more eloquent title for this post, I really did. But when I saw this on Environmental Leader last week, all I could think was, “Duh!”

Sainsbury’s, a UK grocery chain, won the European Retail Solutions Best Green IT Initiative Award 2008 for their ingenious switch to using double sided receipts. This small change, which by the end of 2008 will be implemented in about half of all Sainsbury’s UK locations, will save 502,000 paper rolls per year! What a fantastic, easy, efficient and potent solution.

As I read the post, the “Every little bit helps” mantra you often hear with green initiatives kept wafting around in my head. Truly, this little bit will make a huge difference–and very quickly.

It’s so easy to get bogged down and discouraged by thoughts of going green. I hear it from my colleagues and I hear it from our customers–they want to help (ok, well sometimes they don’t, but usually they sort of want to get in the right direction) but everything seems so hard, so involved. Obviously this change was not simple (nor inexpensive) on Sainsbury’s part, but I really commend them for going after something they use daily (probably by the second) and finding a way to make it a little bit better.

Again, it’s not like a company can make a change like this overnight but what’s more important in this case is the ability to focus on a specific, central business function that can be done in a more environmentally-friendly way and figuring out an across the board way to enable it. Duh.


Marketing: Turning pain at the pump into potential profit

It’s inescapable. Everywhere you look, people are talking about gas prices. From CNN’s daily recap of barrel prices to the Minnesota Twins reducing ticket prices to help save fans money at the pumps, it is absolutely unavoidable.

I recently asked whether or not any of you had considered corporate sponsored incentives for your employees, encouraging them to carpool or utilize public transportation (you’ll be glad to know that the Consistency Czarina and I are carpooling twice a week…Go Earth and go our wallets!). All of this hullabaloo got me thinking; in what ways can you utilize this frenzy to drive sales and increase customers? Chrysler has jumped on the bandwagon with their $2.99 gas. I recently was forwarded a campaign for a car dealership offering a free handgun or gas cards with purchase (yes, I said handgun). Have you contemplated ways to turn potential crisis into marketing prowess? If so, have you had success?


Sustainability: Truly a week of green

I was going to write a post about something other than the topic of green today, but there’s not much other news to be found–it truly is a week of green in the print industry. (And I’m certainly not complaining!)

In fact, an email just hit my inbox from the PSDA about a new category in the PEAK Awardsa green product category. In other email news, earlier this morning I received a message from WhatTheyThink announcing their new Environment & Sustainability section which is a fantastic addition for those seeking ideas big and small.

I could go on about all I’ve seen this week, but I’m sure you’re seeing a lot of the same information. Has it inspired any new plans or projects for you? If you weren’t convinced before, do you find yourself less skeptical now?


Sustainability: Green Resolutions

This morning I came across an article with an encouraging statistic: 49% of American adults will make a green resolution this December 31st.

The resolutions with the most advocacy were recycling more (74 %) and reducing the use of harmful household chemicals (66%). Although I’m not usually an advocate of New Year’s resolutions (mostly because I tend to forget mine moments after making them), I do like the idea of making a green resolution or two, especially when they’re as practical and simple as those listed.

The article made an interesting (and logical) point that ‘in general, the more involved or personally demanding an environmental responsibility, the lower the response.’ I think this point could probably be true of any resolution–if your dieting resolution is to not drink pop on weekdays, this will be easier to keep up than if your resolution is to run five miles every morning. This point is an important one though; setting incremental, attainable goals is a better way to reach a destination. Nobody is going to “go green” overnight and simply having the goal of “getting green” isn’t going to get you any closer, either.

I’ve talked to several Four51 customers who have told me that their companies have formulated sustainability plans and initiatives for 2008, and those who I suspect will be successful are those who are putting serious thought and time into plotting real steps toward their intended destination–perhaps starting with FSC certification and then moving on to building efficiency updates or looking into new supplier relationships.

If you’ve gone through this planning, what first steps would you recommend?


Sustainability: Getting Certified

I found an article from Quick Printing’s November issue that I thought might be of interest to those of you still weighing your green options. The article, “Paper: Green, Digital, & Better Than Ever,” makes the case for getting chain of custody certified, which will enable you to fulfill the growing customer request for sustainable printed materials.

The article points out that as more customers become aware and concerned about the products they order, there is “a natural business opportunity for print providers to help them fulfill this need.” I could not agree more and, judging by the increased volume of print providers I’ve been hearing from wondering about certifications and the like, I’d say this article’s timing is perfect.

If you haven’t thought about chain of custody certification, I’d suggest at least looking into it preliminarily. Becoming certified is certainly not the key to sustainability, but it’s a great start.

Forest Stewardship Council information *FSC is currently viewed as the gold standard of certification.

Sustainable Forest Industry information

I’m certainly not an expert, but if you have questions, launch away. And, as always, feel free to contact me if you have a green initiative going on that you’d like Four51 to know about!


Industry News: Greener and Greener

As Harry Potter mania sweeps the world yet again, it was interesting, although not entirely surprising, to find mention of Harry in the print industry. On Tuesday, Adam at PrintCEOblog posted about installment seven being the “greenest” book ever with 16 countries printing the book on eco-friendly paper.

Now, I think this is great. As my recent posts suggest, sustainability and the environment are topics near and dear to me. And here’s the but…I think this is all wonderful but it makes me wonder about the path of “greener and greener” everyone’s on. Like I said, this is truly wonderful and I’m very happy to see printers and publishers concerned with what they print upon but I am left with two overarching concerns: standardization and burn-out.

Just a little over a month ago I posted about Rolling Stone printing a green issue. Now we have millions of green copies of Harry Potter coming out. Everyone keeps saying they’re green and while I do not contest that they are, I find that I don’t actually know what that means. I’m eager to see if standardization is adopted in the industry that really calculates the carbon footprint of the entire printing process.

My second concern is that a green initiative will go the way of leg-warmers. Clearly the environment has more importance than bangle bracelets, but I worry support and innovation may wane…I know that I am being overly pessimistic here, but along with standardization I would like to see printers coming forth with longstanding goals and plans for embracing more environmentally-conscious business models.

What do you want to see happen?


Thoughts from Four51: What are your green initiatives?

Sustainability, environmentally-friendly, going green, a global crisis…there are many terms that go with the same issue and they’re everywhere you look these days. Everyone seems to have an opinion (this author included) about the problems and the solutions we’re currently faced with. Personally, I tend to think dialog is always a good thing and I’m happy to see people and institutions thinking seriously about the environment and what can be done to save it. But dialog only goes so far–eventually something must actually be done to affect change.

Which brings me to my question–what are you doing to affect change? Even if it’s just recycling pop bottles in your office kitchen, I want to know! We’re looking to highlight network members working to make a difference, no matter how big or small the changes. Let me know what you think about the issue and what you’re doing to help.


Industry News: Going green enough?

In my June 12th post I referenced a press release regarding Rolling Stone printing their July issue on carbon-neutral paper. Monday on the PrintCEOblog there was a post from Gail Nickel-Kailing sharing an article from the NYT which discussed environmentalists’ reaction to the Rolling Stone’s effort as not green enough. Although the paper the magazine is printed on is carbon-neutral, it’s still coming from trees, not recycled paper.

Ms. Nickel-Kailing presents the question, “What this all comes down to is – how “green” is “green?” which is a good one indeed. Should Rolling Stone be applauded for its carbon-neutral efforts or shamed for calling itself environmentally friendly when it’s not going the extra mile to truly be “green”?

Personally, I think any step is a good step and that Rolling Stone deserves to be commended for the step it did take, not berated for the one it didn’t. They’ve shown a genuine concern to affect the environment positively and, what’s more, a willingness to actually change their behavior. Yes, they could have done more, but who couldn’t?


Radio Four51: Access Pass & Design’s Green Initiative

Our podcast this week features a conversation Liz had with Seth Sheck, Greer Kukuk and Ryan Sharrer from Access Pass & Design about their initiative to “go green.”

We’ve posted several times on Insights about being more environmentally conscious and my discussion with AP&D made me realize that, although the grandiose idea of “going green” may seem daunting, it’s really not all that hard to incorporate little changes that can make a big impact.

A link on Access Pass & Design’s website talks more about the specific changes they look to make–everything from recycling employee bottles to using soy-based printer ink–and I encourage you to check it out and see what similar efforts your company can make.