The Eco-Friendly Evolution of 3 Essential Products

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In business, there are basically two ways to operate. You can be the person who follows all the trends, hoping to achieve a small portion of the same success enjoyed by the leaders you imitate. Or you can be the leader, the trend-setter.

It’s the trend-setters who generate followers due to their innovation and new ways of thinking. But sometimes when businesses happen into a successful rhythm, they get stuck in it, and keep doing things the same way because it worked so well for a while and they become afraid to change.

And they won’t change … until they have to. Or until a competitor comes along who does it better.

Henry Ford was a trend-setter who got stuck

Although he didn’t invent the automobile, Henry Ford is famous for creating the moving assembly line, which streamlined and maximized the pace of the production of cars. Once he had that, Ford shifted focus to quality parts, workflow, and general efficiency.

One component of Ford’s efficiency was his discovery that, of all the available paint colors, black was cheap, durable, and dried the fastest. As a result, for 12 years Ford offered his Model T only in the color black.

In fact, he has been famously quoted from his 1922 book titled My Life and Work as saying, “any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

When Ford’s competitors caught up with his sales by offering more color options to shoppers, Ford had no choice but to rethink his position and offer his cars in other colors as well. Automobiles have become a staple in our lives, and the industry wouldn’t be what it is today if the only color they ever came in had continued to be black.

Many other products have integrated into our lives as staples in the home: items you can expect to see in almost anyone’s home, regardless of their background or class. And over the years, many of these products have evolved into more efficient and eco-friendly tools, thanks to companies that are always on the cutting edge of change.

The following familiar appliances and products have evolved over the years, but not so much that they would have become unrecognizable. Some changed only slightly, yet the tiny difference has sometimes made a huge impact on the way we live.

1. Cast-iron skillets

Years ago you’d have to spend a fair amount of time seasoning your cast-iron skillet, meal after meal, but today you can buy them pre-seasoned. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s fairly significant for the majority of Americans who don’t have time to cook for themselves or their families.

The ability to cook something in a new pan that’s come right out of the box is something your grandmother might well have scoffed at, but when you’ve got a hungry family to feed, this small innovation can be extremely handy.

It’s also eco-friendly because using cast iron eliminates the need to apply toxic cooking sprays with harmful propellants, or use dangerous Teflon pans that have been shown to kill birds with their fumes.

2. The vacuum cleaner

If you have a floor in your house, whether it’s made of carpet or wood, it’s going to get dirty fairly swiftly. Someone figured out the easiest way to remove dirt from the floor on an ongoing basis was to suck it up.

The first recorded patent for a vacuum cleaner was filed by Daniel Hess in 1860. Since then, however, the vacuum has come a long way.

At first, vacuum cleaners came with bags that had to be emptied and disposed of. Now most vacuums are bagless, and this design has been popular for at least a couple of decades. The most common complaint people have about bagless vacuums is that the chamber eventually needs to be emptied, and that can be a messy and dusty task.

Drainvac has solved this problem beautifully by creating a bagless vacuum that connects directly to your building’s water and sewer drainage, which you can see is convenient and eco-friendly for your business.

3. A cuppa joe

If you’ve ever brewed coffee, you know that if you don’t plug in your coffee maker to an electrical outlet, you’re not going to get any coffee no matter how many times you push the button. How would you get your caffeine jolt during a power outage?
Cold-brewed coffee is the answer. It not only tastes sweeter and smoother, but it’s easier to make because it requires no electricity. In addition, cold brew eliminates the need for disposable paper filters, which tend to end up in our landfills.

All you do is take your coffee grounds, put them in a reusable bag such as a nut milk bag, and submerge it in cold water for about 24 hours. It sounds simple, and it is. It’s less acidic, tastes better, and there’s science to back it up.

Evolution has just begun

Given the eco-friendly evolution of these common household products, it’s no wonder people say we can all make a difference with small changes in our lives. Perhaps not everyone will be convinced to ditch their coffee maker in favor of cold brew, but in the coming years, you can bet we’ll see more household products evolve in ways that benefit both consumers and the planet.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.