Growing A Green Business
Growing A Green Business
Spencer T. Brown (Founder And Inventor) gives expert video advice on: What is a 'green business'?; What is 'innovation'?; What is 'green product design'? and more...
What is a 'green business'?
It is a general category. Say for example, what is a business? First you have to look at a business. A business is doing two things. It is providing service to a customer with the intent of making profit. That is what the basis of American business is. Having a green businesses is a little bit different. It ups the ante. It says not only do you have to find customers, provide a service and make a profit, but you have to do it without impacting the environment. And we would love to see green businesses that not only have an impact to your environment in a positive way, but can actually make more profit by being green. So the challenge of a green business is not to make less money, but actually to make more money. By being more resourceful and using resources that are in the industry that are maybe cutting edge, that are sustainable, that are grown locally or used locally, have less transport costs. So you factor that into the equation and you can say, "Wait. I can provide a green service to a green client, and make literally, figuratively green profit."
What is 'innovation'?
Innovation is the ability to take an idea and bring a tangible product to market that enables people to save time and money. To me that's innovation. I think the Web is very innovative. I think iPods are innovative. I think the RecoPack is very innovative. It's enabling people to pack and move. It innovates in a way where it saves people time and money. It's new and it can be improved upon. It'll change the paradigm of how Americans pack and move.
What is 'green product design'?
First it was product, up until thirty years ago, it was, 'Oh hey this is a product'. And we added product design, and it was proven that if you could design a product making it consumer friendly, making it ergonomically appealing and user friendly that you would design the product. Now we've added green product design. Yet again, adding to the complexity of product design by looking at the sustainability of the product as a closed loop, beginning to landfill process, and hopefully mitigating the environmental ecological impact of your product through its production cycle: design, production, consumerism and then post consumerist cycle. So green product design to me is an all encompassing word that says from the concept to the termination of the product it has to be closed looped, it has to be cradle to cradle, it has to be sustainable and it has to have hopefully a positive impact on our environment and our ecosystem.
What factors should I consider when developing a green product?
Before going green, first you have to really focus on the word product, and you have to determine by reviewing the product what is the product? Who does the product appeal to? We use a way of calculating value and that value, if it's greater than ninety, it's a product that you can bring to market. Bottom line is will your product sell? After you determine what your product is, in my situation we designed a box and we realised twenty percent of the population packs and moves, and we realised that you'll do it every five years, so sixteen times in your lifespan, so there's a lot of frequency. And we realised that America's a large place and that there's scalability, and that people pack and move regardless of race, colour, age. And we also realised that when you combine a product you can say can I make this product consistently. Now when you add a green product design, what you're actually doing is looking at how your product is manufactured and how it will affect the environment and how will it affect the consumer and what will happen when it's disposed of.
What is the mission of a green product designer?
Green product design is really adding more complexity, but it's actually easier to do, because with the power of the internet all you have to do is put in green and the product you're looking for, and green and material, and you'll find a sustainable alternative. Here's the challenge. If you can't find it, you make it. That's the key and that's what I call the drive of the product designer, is that the product designers, our jobs are to find solutions and we just can't go down to the store and pick something off the shelf. If it's not there, make it, design it, bring it in, and create an industry. Start something that you, as a product designer, can be proud of. If the raw material isn't available and sustainable, find an alternative. Find an alternative process and you'll be rewarded for it, because the consumer will look at your product and say "wow, I love that hemp shirt, it's so soft and fantastic", or "wow, I didn't know bamboo was made into clothing, that looks great". "I didn't know that's an organic dye, I didn't know that paint was organic paint and doesn't have any VOCs." You talk to any of these green product designers, including myself. It's absolutely phenomenal in terms of learning your raw materials, applying that sustainable raw material to your craft, the design of the product, linking the greenness to your product idea, to the consumer ,and then knowing that when it's disposed of, it's recyclable.
What challenges face green product design?
The number one is communication. I think most product designers really outsource their marketing, copy, branding and packaging. They design a product and then they shot gun it out to thirty people and you have just too many voices which creates noise and clutter. What the product designer really needs to do is not only be a product designer, but also be able to communicate what his product does for the consumer. And being a product designer in the green space, you know what I've learned is that communicating green is you have to be very specific about your impact. Generalities do not work for the green people. A perfect example, is when we started renting boxes, we had customers that would say "What's your carbon offset? What's your carbon footprint? How much energy is used to produce this box"? You'd better have those answers. If you design a product and you're going to design a green product, you're also going to need to be open and transparent in your work. If you're not transparent and if you're not going to share the impact in specifics, you're going to get crucified. Don't show up.
What advice do you have for someone looking to start a green business?
One bit of device is, in starting anything, education and resources and knowledge is power. And the more information that you can gather, and capture, and qualify as terms of credible information, and harness that, you are empowered. Knowledge is power. The more you can learn and the more you know about starting a green business and about watching this particular episode about green business and green product design, that is yet another dimension to your education and knowledge base that you can use, as you develop your own concept.
What is a 'green mission statement'?
A mission statement is one sentence that says what you are going to do. It's a promise. A green mission statement is a mission statement of what you're going to do, but how it will effect the consumer or the environment. We have two mission statements. The first is: "We're changing the way America packs and moves." That's a goal that we're going to be changing. We're going to be changing for 10, 20, 30 years. When we say "we have changed the way America packs and moves", then our mission is complete. We have a long way to go. Our green mission statement is now: "We deliver environmental consciousness in a box."
What factors do I need to consider when writing my mission statement?
The most important factor is that you need to be honest with your product and your business. If you are going to maybe BS or sugar-coat or hard-sell or elevator pitch your mission statement, let me tell you that's a dime a dozen. You need to get very honest with yourself and honest with your product and honest with your business. Then, write down exactly what you want to accomplish. Then go do it.
What are 'carbon credits'?
Carbon credits are a way where you can check your environmental consciousness at the door, pollute, toxify and ransack the environment and get away with it by paying, by taking your money and buying some credits to make you feel good. It's the screwiest way of pacifying a wannabe environmentalist. If you bought carbon credits, however you're justifying it, my suggestion is save your money and apply it to re-engineering your product to a sustainable one.