Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Sometimes, getting greener means being less brown

By David Laituri on August 1, 2008

I was sitting in a humid conference room at our assembler’s factory in Dong Guan, China wrapping up one of the hundreds of loose ends that seem to puddle at the final pre-production stages of a product, when it hit me – this is my product, my company, I get to decide…

My business partner Tim and I started our company, Sprout Creation, to leverage our collective retail and product development experience to simply create better products. We launched the Vers brand in 2007 (; a line of handcrafted, real wood audio systems for iPod, systems that were ‘better’ in every way that we could imagine – better sound and better design with minimized environmental impact. We were actually surprised how much we could accomplish in our first try, knowing all along that this would be a process of continual improvement.

In our view, there’s no such thing as a ‘green product’ – all products require energy and resources to produce, have to be transported, used, repaired and ‘managed’ at the end of their life. Our goal was to simply be ‘less brown’ wherever we could – reduce our impact in as many places along the supply chain as possible, no matter how small -- and still deliver a quality product that could ‘sustain’ the business at the same time. ‘Green’ may be the grand vision, but ‘less Brown’ is how you actually get there.

The topic in the conference room at the moment was the twist ties that held the accessory wires together in the box. I asked if the wires could be, you know – tied in a knot instead? The answer was, ‘sure, no problem’. Seemed like a simple enough decision to make, the cost savings to the product was so small it couldn’t be counted. Based on that decision, though, we will have NOT used 5 miles of twist ties by the end of this year. Not glamorous stuff, but the right kind of decision to make when ‘less brown’ is your goal – sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Dozens of similar decisions followed, many of them harder to make than eliminating twist ties and often not ‘free’, but each of them was ‘less brown’ in some way.

We have a lot of work to do still, but we’re well on our way.

Image Credit: Sprout Creative