Business Archives

Live from Copenhagen

Rachel Barge, Conservation and Resource Studies '08, is attending Copenhagen and keeping everyone updated via her blog at the Business Council on Climate Change.

Rachel won the 2007 Brower Youth Award for her work to build the campus Green Initiative Fund.

Eva St. Clair
posted December 10, 2009 9:57 PM

Inspiring evolution through eco design? What does that mean?

Last week, we finally selected a phrase that describes our Company; Inspiring evolution through eco design. Knowing that this type of phrase has the ability to excite as well as turn-off, I thought I’d take a moment to help define what we mean.

Of course, any phrase like this needs to be rooted in a philosophy. We have one: people, product, planet, and we wrestled with how to convert the practices we utilize in operating our business, into a different statement that describes what that process means for the Brand and for the consumer.

Our Brand lives in a world of products that we think up, produce and sell. Through that process, we’ve created a certain set of “new” considerations as to what we are willing to create and what we are willing to produce. That process is what constitutes our whole people, product, planet philosophy. Adding this layer to our already long design consideration of what is possible, reasonable, realistic and sellable, makes the process somewhat more cumbersome. It also becomes more exhilarating, knowing we’re working harder to create even more deeply thoughtful products. This is the essence of eco design – design with an awareness of the eco consequences, both social and environmental, of the decisions inherent in the design.

We see this as the evolution of the process of design. This process is most vividly seen in LEED certifications of buildings. Take the concept of landscaped roofs as seen on the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Putting pots with plants on a roof is a wonderful idea and has been done for centuries. Integrating a full landscape on a roof for all the energy and other possible advantages is a very different story. Just accommodating the added weight, ongoing maintenance, overall roof access, is a significant change to standard considerations for a roof.

And if the design is strong, and the execution is done well, that building will serve to inspire people who visit or even see it. Not that they go home and re-think their roof, that’s extreme. But, maybe they come away with a greater appreciation of what is possible. Maybe a solar panel, maybe a rain barrel, maybe they think differently about storm drain runoff. Who knows, but, the point is, by stretching the boundaries of design, the building acts as a longstanding symbol of changing norms.

Changing norms are what evolution is all about. We do the same thing with our bags. Twenty years ago, who would have thought we could grind up plastic, make it into fabric and make great looking products? Twenty years ago, I bet there weren’t even enough plastic bottles to matter. Now, the volume of bottles staggers the mind, not just in the U.S. either.

Twenty years ago, who would have said Google (what started as a search engine only) would turn out to be part of an online evolution (and a verb, no less). They accomplished that task through design, not just what we see, but, the code they wrote to make it happen. GreenSmart is writing that same type of code, in the work that we do, for bags. We’re applying different thought processes to how we source and create, how we execute and manufacture and finally, how we tell our story. We sincerely hope our work inspires others. It inspires us, and maybe that’s all that matters.


Tom Larsen
posted October 27, 2009 12:06 PM