Green is expensive, right? Unfortunately, those of us in the eco-blogging space have tended to foster that impression: we just love to discuss the latest advances in solar panels*, or the cutting edge in energy-efficient appliances*. So, we worried when the Great Recession hit: would this mean a downturn in the growing green consciousness we’d seen blooming earlier in the decade as consumers sought immediately cheaper products?
Fortunately, most consumers (and many retailers) got at least one part of the green message: greater efficiency almost always means lower costs. The sale of products like CFLs tends to bear this out: people recognized that, even though these bulbs cost a little more upfront, the savings they’d recognize over the life of the product made buying them a no-brainer. Green didn’t go away as the economy headed South; rather, many consumers embraced “eco-frugality” as a means of living their green values while minding a much leaner pocketbook.
Practecol is a new, St. Louis-based company hoping to expand on this trend. The company’s line of eco-frugal products launched in Target stores today, and while none may be as green-geek-sexy as nano-engineered solar thin film, they all provide means for environmentally-concerned consumers to start cutting their ecological footprint… without any visits to a loan officer. The complete product line consists of:
- 4 Line Retractable Clothesline: Save $40/year by using a clothesline and reducing dryer usage.
- Dryer Balls: Save $20/year with dryer balls that lift clothes and circulate heat to reduce drying time.
- Motion Activated Light Socket Adapter: Save $7/year by using this automatic adapter that turns off lights when no motion is detected.
- Simple Switch Outlet Adapter: Save $40/year by flipping the switch on the outlet to eliminate standby power to any outlet.
- Energy Monitor: Save $40/year with this monitor indicates how cost to keep electronics plugged-in. Once you know how much the energy costs, we think you’ll make small and big changes in your household.
- Remote Control Outlet Adaptor: Save $40/year by pressing the remote control to eliminate standby power to any outlet.
- Remote Control 8 Outlet Surge Strip: Save $84/year by cutting all power to devices plugged into the surge strip and eliminate wasted standby power.
- Foot Switch 6 Outlet Surge Protector: Save $84/year by cutting standby power to power sucking electronics with an easy to use foot switch.
- Shower Water Meter: Save $39/year by decreasing shower time when the alarm signals your shower time limit.
- Perfect Flush: Save $17/year by adding the perfect flush in your toilet tank and reducing water used per flush.
- Refrigerator Kit: Save $38/year by getting your refrigerator set for optimal performance with the coil brush and temperature monitor.
The company sent me samples of everything… with traveling last week, I’ve only gotten to test out the dryer balls (which work very well). I’m already making plans for the perfect places to plug in various surge strips, and which room is perfect for the motion-activated light, though.
I did have time, however, to get some questions off to company president Andrew Sharon. He got right back to me… here’s our email Q&A:
Practecol’s President Discusses Eco-Frugal Living, and Running a Green Business with sustainablog
Jeff McIntire-Strasburg: Practecol’s mission statement includes a focus on “consistently [adopting] green manufacturing practices.” What can you tell us about current manufacturing practices and processes? Have you, or do you plan to, conduct lifecycle assessments of your product line?
Andrew Sharon: As often as we can infuse green practices we do so. Our entire product line has been designed for end-of-life recycling. We have not conducted lifecycle assessments to date, but it is a good idea and we plan on doing so in the not too distant future. We are looking at all aspects of the inputs to our products including their substrates, how “fall off” is being used, using recycled substances whenever possible, printing with soy based inks, using soy as our base material for foam insulation, leveraging low VOC sealants…
JM-S: When I first saw your product line, I immediately thought “this seems like a really Midwestern approach to sustainability” (and that’s a good thing, in my opinion). Though you note that the “eco-frugal” lifestyle is national phenomenon, how much of the company’s mission stems from its Midwestern roots, and the notion of “practicality” often associated with the region?
AS: It’s truly hard to say where one leaves off and the other begins. I think the rapid ascension in popularity of CFL light bulbs is our best guide on the national eco-frugal tendencies. We all want to do the best we can for the environment – and we all would like to save money. When those two things are aligned, the price points for entry are attainable, and the execution is simple, we have a winning proposition that everyone can implement.
JM-S: Your website has just launched. What can you share with us about your plans to incorporate web and social media into marketing, branding, and customer acquisition and loyalty?
AS: We have a robust online presence. We are currently on Facebook and Twitter and hope to generate a lot of public support to do just what you outline. We take social media very seriously and know that it is the way a large percent of our country gets their information, news and product referrals. We hope our efforts and products are rewarded with positive reviews and strong referrals. It’s something we can each do for one another – educate each other about how to save natural resources and money at the same time.
JM-S: Though “green” has become fairly mainstream, what do you and Practecol think you’d still like to (or need to) teach consumers about sustainability?
AS: That with the right tools and simple changes, we can have a material impact on our planet. That lighting (CFL area) only accounts for 11% of your homes total energy spend and our products help you address the other 89%. Saving money and preserving natural resources can be simple with the right kind of help.
JM-S: On your packaging and website, you mention the sustainability benefits of your products. In what other ways is Practecol a “green” company? What kinds of green practices have you instituted for day-to-day operations?
AS: An easy example of how far we’ve taken green practices is in our choice of fulfillment locations. We have chosen to distribute products out of a limestone mine turned cave on the Mississippi river. This cave requires no additional HVAC and therefore has a much lower carbon footprint than most facilities.
While the products have hit Target stores today, they don’t yet appear at Target.com… as soon as they do, we’ll also have them available through the Green Choice product comparison engine to complement our other selections of low-cost, efficient products such as retractable clotheslines, water-saving shower heads, energy-saving light bulbs, and programmable thermostats.
*Links to pages in sustainablog’s Green Choices product comparison engine.
Image credit: Practecol