This morning I brushed my teeth with a recycled toothbrush. As I looked in the mirror, toothpaste frothing, the thought that it had all started with this simple piece of plastic was enough to make me stop for a second. And then I kept brushing.
Over a year ago, one of our designers in our firm brought in a Preserve toothbrush made by Recycline, along with a Stonyfield Farm yogurt cup that mentioned Recycline recycling all their plastic yogurt containers. The toothbrush was their first product—the foundation of all the Preserve products—it received placement in specialty stores, then eventually mass merchants and even a cameo role in a movie (Will Farrell brushes his teeth with it repeatedly in “Stranger than Fiction”).
We had been reviewing the products that we had made in the past and wanted to work with a company that reflected our own mission for sustainability. After all, we didn’t endure the looks from the natives when we turned a sewage treatment plant into our company headquarters for nothing (ah, but that’s another blog entry).
So, as the head of design, I did something and … I called them. I talked to someone on the other line, made a proposal to expand their product line and hung up.
Over the course of many phone calls and meetings, Recycline took us up on our offer to supply them with product design and refinement in exchange for a royalty on whatever went to market. A lot of firms our size have worked on royalties for years but this was our first try. And I’m happy to report that after less than a year, several of the products we developed with Recycline are available at Whole Foods including food storage containers, cutting boards and colanders. (For the whole story, check out Metropolis: Cooking with Leftovers)
You probably won’t believe it when I say it, but it was all pretty easy to set up and implement. Because the people at Recycline are careful and thoughtful about their approach to business in the same way they are about their approach to the environment, they didn’t “stick it to us” when the money started coming in. In fact we have strengthened the connection. For our part, we have been as passionate and unpredictable as any creative team—but we delivered on time and collaborated on building the vision together rather than imposing our will. I know I’m going to sound like a bad tv commercial testimonial, but all it took was picking up that phone.
In the end, all of us, as consumers, benefit from being able to have a choice to choose green products—from a recyclable toothbrush to an entire line of home goods—it’s all coming someday soon to a store near you.
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