Method Laundry Detergent's Radical Innovation Wins International Design Excellence Award

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Along with the great news that Method Laundry Detergent has just recently been launched in the UK (yes our clothes are already cleaner) we hear that Method's innovative pump action laundry detergent bottle has won the International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) for its behaviour changing design. Adam Lowry head Greenskeeper at Method is a passionate proponent of using good design to create change, which he blogs about here on these very TreeHugger pages, so he must be delighted that Method is being celebrated for excellent design work.Method laundry detergent bottle photo
Method Smartclean Technology
Meothod's laundry detergent is 8 times more concentrated than normal detergents due to some very clever chemistry, involving hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecules. The process was brilliantly explained to me by Method's Chief Ripple Maker Louise Roper last week, but I would need some good props and pretty graphics (see below) to recount it properly to you now. In short the clever chemists, or Green Chefs as they are called at Method, have reversed the usual detergent technology of suspending surfactants in lots of water, by suspending a tiny amount of water in lots of surfactants, thus using radically less water and dramatically increasing the efficiency of the surfactant cleaning agent.

Method laundry detergent Smartclean technology image
Less Detergent, Smaller Bottle
Method's mega concentrated laundry detergent has many benefits which have influenced the design of the detergent bottle and reduced its impact on the environment. Less water in the detergent means more concentrated, which means you need to use less, which means a small amount goes a long way, which means you only need a small bottle, which means you can fit more on the supermarket shelf, which means you can transport more bottles in one go, which means reduced carbon emissions. Method's relatively tiny detergent bottle, compared with the big brand laundry jugs, "the SUV of consumer products" as Adam Lowry describes them, supplies enough detergent for 50 washes. (The smaller 25 wash bottle is the size on sale in the UK.)

Method Laundry Detergent Bottle 50 loads image
Method Laundry Detergent Pump
One of the biggest misconceptions in laundry detergent land is that the more soap you use the cleaner your clothes. Adam Lowry talks about this in his TreeHugger post The Overdose Dilemma. In fact more detergent is worse on several counts as it clogs up your washing machine, degrades your clothes and pollutes the environment.

So Method in house designer, or Chief Disruptor, Josh Handy was asked to design a bottle that helped people control the amount of detergent they use for each wash. The result is the innovative pump action bottle which only needs four pumps to get the right amount of detergent in your machine and which squeezes every last drop out of the bottle so none is wasted before you throw it in the recycling bin.

Method laundry detergent easy pump image
The whole design package
As was recently reported in Fast Company the IDEA judging panel believed it is not just the pump action bottle, made from 50% recycled plastic, that merited the design award but the product innovation as a whole package:

"To the IDEA jurors, the innovation isn't just the detergent or just the bottle; it is the whole product. 'Even though the pump structure is nothing new in cosmetic packaging, combining it with ultra-concentrated detergent prompted new consumer behavior that reduces both resources and water use,' says Starbucks executive Fumi Watanabe, a judge in the packaging category. 'Why hasn't anybody done this before?'

Method laundry detergent 95% plant based image
What Method are still working on
Method are delighted that their laundry detergent is the first Cradle to Cradle certified laundry detergent available on the market, and that it is such a major improvement on other concentrated laundry detergent products, but they are aware that sustainability is an ongoing journey and that there is always further to go. Method laundry detergent is currently 95% plant based with the remaining 5% being made up of artificial preservatives which they want to source naturally in the future if possible.

Method would also like the bottle to be made from a higher percentage of recycled plastic, but for reasons of stability and efficient pump action function they haven't been able to get to 100% in the first design iteration. At the moment environmental impact measurements show the award winning bottle design as being made from 36% less plastic, with a 35% smaller carbon footprint and using 33% less oil and energy, compared to a regular bottle of big brand detergent.

Innovation is embedded deep into Method's business model and we're looking forward to seeing what radical designs moves they throw out next.

Method laundry detergent is now available to buy in the UK from Tesco's and Ocado and is soon to be available from Sainsbury's and Waitrose in August.

method laundry reel from People Against Dirty on Vimeo.

Method Laundry
More on Method
Laundry's Dirty Secret: The Overdose Dilemma
Spring Clean Your Closet: Method Will Handle the Laundering, and Donate to Goodwill
Let the Crowds Determine Green Ratings
Quote of the Day: Method Co-Founder Adam Lowry, on Green Style
Method Commercial Turns Cleaners Dirty with Disturbingly Funny Shiny Suds (Video)
Adam Lowry - Chief Greenskeeper at Method

Tags: Biodegradable | Clothing | Cradle To Cradle | Designers | Green Packaging | United Kingdom


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