Welcome To The Un-Green Product Graveyard


Ever try walking backwards only for a day? Or visiting a country where they drive on the "wrong" side of the road? Reversals like these are sometimes just the thing to elicit fresh insights. A decade ago, this writer attended many Design for Environment (DfE) workshops which used a similar approach for inspiring apprentice designers. Before they could practice green design techniques "from scratch", students had first to outline the drawbacks of a seemingly "un-green" product, and propose improvements to resurrect it to "green" status. The novice's choice might be a battery charger, or maybe a cell phone, or an outboard motor. What ever interested them. The process was always similar, but the outcomes generally were a surprise. Let's imagine we're in the modern equivalent workshop - the present term is "green design" by the way - and we've decided to look at disposable spice mills or "grinders": typically clear plastic bottles full of peppercorns, spice blends, or flavored sea salt, incorporating a plastic top with a grinder built into it. The screw-tops are cemented onto common looking bottles. Because the bottles and tops may contain different kinds of plastic that can't be separated, and especially because food remnants would be stuck inside, recycling looks to be infeasible. We'll nominate team leaders to lead our class discussions. See below the fold for a fictional sampling of what very likely would come out of the workshop.

From the marketing expert: "Similar in marketing concept to the unitized disposable blade shavers now widely sold in bulk packs."

From the bored business manager: "This is small stuff and we shouldn't sweat it in the grand scheme of things."

From the dedicated shopper: "Promotes waste because if contents run low, instead of bringing to a picnic, users will be tempted to buy another one "to have enough"."

From the life cycle analyst: "Resource burden per unit of functionality (servings of pepper) is high."

From the hacker in the group: "Open them up somehow and you could refill with any bulk dried spice, offering a low cost product functionality to good cooks on a low budget."

From the optimistic marketer: "Could make cap removable and sell with several in air tight envelopes containing a variety of spices, so freshness is maintained and the user can flexibly extend the useful life of the container and grinder units. This would promote the potential sales of custom spice blends that the consumer is unfamiliar with."

Back to the reality of what the market place actually offers, we found a South African commodity supplier of "disposable grinder caps" which presumably could be bought and used with, or without, the glue. Astoundingly, the pictured items are just one variation on several similar commodities.

Will our wooden based pepper mills end up as antiques? Will sweating "the little stuff" even make a difference to a problem as large as climate change? TreeHugger answer: the more we love and practice good cooking, the more likely we'll hold onto our traditional grinders and the more likely it becomes that the disposable mills will head for the graveyard of the "un-green."

Via:: tip from an interested reader.