Friday, January 23, 2009

Best Buy Electronics Recycling Program Launches Feb. 15 in All U.S. Stores

Looking at the bleak picture in the last post this news makes me ecstatic.

Under pressure to help dispose some of the electronic waste it helped create, Best Buy Co. is beginning a program from Feb. 15, 2009 that will offer consumers a convenient way to ensure millions of obsolescent TVs,
old computers and other unwanted gadgets don’t poison the nation’s dumps.

“We know the need is there and the waste stream is there. We think everyone needs to bear some responsibility for this — consumers, retailers and manufacturers.” said Best Buy spokeswoman Kelly Groehler.

Here is the full story from
(might have to copy paste this link in your browser if clicking does not work)

Reality behind the eco-friendly disposal of e waste

Only yesterday I was talking about why designers, engineers and businessmen don't think when designing products. And today I came across this 60 minutes video that scares the daylights out of me.

Every few years we throw out old electronic products and buy new ones. Some of us feel less bad about it by turning it in to a company that promises to recycle it in a Eco-friendly manner. Here is a reality behind one such company.

60 Minutes Follows America's Toxic Electronic Waste As It Is Illegally Shipped To Become China's Dirty Secret.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

PS. The major razor companies want the blades to be disposed of quickly as the blades are the consumables that they rely on for recurring income. That is why shaving is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Designed for landfills

Did you know each year nearly 246 million tons of waste from our homes and communities goes to the landfills?
And to bury this waste there are about 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills.

Just thinking about so much garbage make shivers run down my spine.

What were the designers thinking when they designed all these products? Carpets, diapers, furniture, clothes, shoes, TV, laptops, toys... the list is endless. Just on my table I can see dozens of such things: picture frame, lamp, bulb, glass, mug, books, laptop, tissue.

Ever heard of the printer, microwave or any machine coming with a note saying " Please mail us back this machine for Eco-friendly disposal". And why not? Shouldn't they be taking onus of what they started in the first place?

Design should not be against or in spite of nature. Design should be inspired from nature. And design should eliminate the concept of waste completely. Things should be created for long term use.
We are easily capable of producing stuff that is durable, reliable, useful and lasting enough to give years of great service.

But what does really happen around us? Constantly we are bombarded with messages that tell us what we have currently is not good enough. We need the new and improved with added features and more options. Old is out, new is in!!!. This cycle consumes energy, resources and a chunk of our money on its brief trip from factory to landfill.

Razor blades are a classic example. It seems that for most men with average facial hair one blade gives 10-15 shaves per blade and then the blade goes to the trash. One would think that razor companies like Gillette would find ways to elongate the life of the blade. But what they end up doing is increasing the number of blades and recommend changing blades frequently for a better shave!!!

For crying out loud did they ever hear about landfills?

Like the Hippocratic oath taken by physicians (pertaining to the ethical practice of medicine
) all designers should be made to take an oath: To honor the earth and its systems, to abstain from making anything that in any way harms or endangers the present or the future, to be aware of any short term or long term consequences of any of their activities, to never forget the interdependence of humans on the natural world, to be always mindful of the finiteness of resources and pledge never to waste any.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Green minded paper and Eco font

Was reading the book Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart and was pleasantly surprised to find that these guys actually practice what they preach.
The book, as they say "is not a tree". It is printed on synthetic paper that can be recycled over and over again.

Paper always seemed such a waste of magnificent trees anyways. I welcome all ideas that let me cut my use of paper. Synthetic paper has a catch too(i guess there is always a catch). It is essentially made from petroleum-based plastic.

May be it does not reduce or eliminate the environmental damage caused by our dependency on oil but, because synthetic paper is entirely inorganic, it eliminates the use of trees in manufacturing.

No ozone layer-threatening emissions and nearly no waste byproducts are produced during the manufacturing of synthetic paper. Scraps are recycled within the production line and reused. The overall manufacturing process also consumes significantly less energy than a comparably sized traditional paper mill, and the production requires no bleach, chlorine, peroxide or halogens to achieve its brilliant whiteness.

What's even more sustainable than synthetic paper when it comes to printing? An Eco font, of course.

A Dutch creative agency Spranq has developed this new font that will increase the life of your cartridge by using 20% less ink than normal fonts. And how they do it is by punching holes in the base font Vera Sans but still maintaining readability.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our ever increasing need to have bigger, newer, faster!!

Since my last post I've been thinking about the fundamental reason behind the unsustainable choices we have made and are going to be continuously making.

There could be a couple of reasons behind that. Survival (as in evolutionary terms) is the first that seems to be the most probable. Resources were and still are scarce thus, there is a race for consumption. The more one consumes the chances of survival increase. It was true for food in the past and its true for products and services now.

This greed for bigger, newer and faster is making us a threat to the planet and animals. We (i blame evolution again) have pronounced ourselves that masters of the planet second to none. Animals, plants and earth's resource are there only to serve us, to enable a better life for us.

Sustainability experts predict that we will mend our ways. We will start respecting the earth and its resources. However much I want to believe these forecasts one thing is stares right back to me. The 1 billion people who live below the poverty line.

When we haven't found a way to respect our fellow humans (assuming that we will be more empathetic toward humans) how much hope do we have for the earth and its resources?

Unsustainable Businesses - Keurig and its K-cup

Last week I began the first two classes for Sustainable Business Practices.
The first one I'm taking is-Environmental Economics : Evaluating the impact of sustainable business practices.
And the second one is - Introduction to sustainability

While talking about sustainability in the class various various issues were of concern to people. From ever increasing consumption to the dependability on oil and our ever need to have bigger, newer, faster.

It brings a very interesting issues to forefront. What is the real cost of a product?
What escapes out of the factory exhaust, what is discharged in the water bodies, what is dumped in the landfills. Who bears these costs?

Should there be a land fill tax? Take the coffee machine company Keurig ( They make single serving coffee cup called K-cup. Every little plastic cup is thrown after one cup is brewed.

To have a business model based on "use and throw" of non biodegradable resources like plastic should be a sin. Companies like these should be charged landfill taxes to make business decisions more sustainability friendly.

Keurig should also encourage consumers to empty out the leftover coffee and put the cups for recycle. Figuring out how to monitor the number of cups get recycled and how many end up in land fills another problem to chew on.

We need changes that are lasting and that can be possible only when at both individual and corporate level we think sustainably.