6 Tips to Developing an Environmentally “Light” Product

As entrepreneurs, we often have several “next ideas” in mind just waiting for the right moment to pull it them out. Some of these are services, of course, but just as often they are products – often to fill gaps we’ve seen while working with clients. Some “thing” that is missing in the marketplace.

Depending on the product, development can take weeks, months or even years before it’s ready for the public. Trying to balance the cost of R&D with delivering a good quality, easy to use product that perfectly meets the market’s need is difficult. Now more than ever, there is another thing to consider – how will your product fit into an ever-increasingly sustainability-concerned marketplace? Even if you aren’t offering an environmentally-related product, consumers are looking for products that help them live a little lighter on the earth.

Here are some things to consider when you’re planning your next product:

  1. Is it multi-use? Consumers are looking for products that can be used multiple times or have an extended life. Consider rechargeable energy options or a more durable version.
  2. Can it be multi-functional? Often we think of products as being one thing when it can be used for many different functions. For example, roofs have traditionally a covering on the top of the house to keep the rain and snow out of our stuff. Today, roofs are used to create energy to run the household, they deflect heat, offer a gardening surface, protect the house from the elements, collect rain, and are a beautiful architectural design feature. Take some time to think about how your new product could be tweaked to be used in several different ways.
  3. Can it be packaged in an eco-friendly way? Those hard plastic shells protecting the batteries have got to go. They’re impossible to get into – not at all fun when your mouse just died and you have the rest of the sentence waiting in your head – and there is nothing green about them. I won’t even start about the fact that they’re protecting mercury-filled batteries. Please don’t wrap your product in a battery-like packaging. There are lots of other options, from recycled cardboard to compostable bags.
  4. Can the product’s components be sourced in a green manner? That is, can they be found locally? Can you choose a low-emissions plant to manufacture them? Is there an organic or fair trade option? Yes, this can kick up the price of the product. However, take a look at your options. Your green product may be worth a little more to a customer. They may be willing to pick up the difference in cost – or more people may be interested so you can cover the cost in volume.
  5. Take a look at your supply and delivery chain. Are there ways you can reduce the delivery carbon footprint? If you decide to deliver to Europe, for instance, consider renting space at a European distribution center. You only need to ship larger quantities to Europe periodically to refill supplies at the center. They ship your European orders to local customers, reducing the number of times per month you’re shipping your product to a far away location.
  6. Consider an end-of-life program. Do we ever know what to do with products we can’t drop off at a thrift store? I am always happy when a company tells me how to fix, dispose of or recycle their product once it’s finished. For instance, I love the little postage paid envelope I get with my Dell ink jet cartridge refill. I always pop in my old cartridge and mail it off, so happy it’s not sitting in my garbage (eating away at my conscience).

You may not be able to tick off all these boxes, but by planning ahead a little, you may be able to offer a more “Green” product than you thought. Lastly, make sure you talk about how your product eases the customer’s footprint in your marketing! You’ve spent the time, effort, and maybe cash improving the product – flaunt it.