On Thursday, May 29, Net Impact Boston and the New England Chapter of the National Association of Environmental Management (NAEM), are holding an interactive panel discussion on Solutions for Driving Enhanced Product Sustainability. We’re so excited that Eric Hudson, CEO & Founder of Preserve will be joining us as a panelist. Here’s a sneak preview of what you’ve got to look forward to.
How did you first become interested in sustainability?
I grew up in the Berkshires, so I think my natural roots were born there. A love of the outdoors, adventures, and occasionally surrounded by people who actually did hug trees.
In my late 20s, early 30s, I started to realize that I wanted to take steps to try to reduce the harm that we humans were causing on the planet. It started to hit me in the early 90s that we needed to be more resourceful and people were starting to take more steps to reduce our impact. More and more recycling was going on but there was also this big question of what it was turning into. I wanted to deliver on those actions that consumers were engaging in and also help the recycling industry by creating demand for the materials that were recycled.
Can you tell a little about Preserve’s approach to driving sustainability across the product life cycle?
When we create a product we try to rethink every aspect of its lifecycle. Some parts are built in to our DNA: sourcing recycled is what we do, not something we need to consider. Other challenges give us opportunities to engage with new areas, like encouraging a more sustainable approach to the use of our products.
How can it be manufactured better, with less impact. How can it be disassembled, if necessary to be more recyclable? How can it be used with less impact? How much can it be reused? Could all or some of it biodegrade? Should it be recycled before it biodegrades?
Brainstorming these elements with stakeholders and the project team is essential. Below are some of the guiding principles we seek in our new product designs:
- Designs with people and the planet in mind, creating highly functional and well-designed products that surprise and delight
- Reduce a product’s environmental impact every step of the way: from raw materials to manufacturing to the end of a product’s life
- Surprise consumers, retailers and the competition with new products, delivering answers for real consumer needs imbued with a sense of fun and excitement
- Empower people to expect more by engaging them in Preserve’s supply chain, offering sustainable solutions for their lives
What are the key challenges of driving sustainability across the product life cycle?
One of the greatest challenges is making sure that the key sustainability goals are represented thoroughly and at the right time. Often it can be difficult to make sure the right stakeholders are represented at the right time in the process. Without key stakeholders well represented, systems-level changes in the way we make, use and dispose of products cannot occur.
Debates can occur, often healthy, sometimes heated, around how long to rethink a process or a material. More traditional approaches/applications that are “tried and true” can present more streamlined paths to a product launch. But only in continued rethink and deliberations can the revolutions in product design occur.
What innovations in product sustainability are you most excited about?
Lower emissions, more energy-efficient automobiles. Initiatives in the mass market to reduce packaging and incorporate recycled materials in consumer product packaging.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in sustainability?
Pursue it like you would any other career and incorporate your passion to make a difference. Let your passion drive your ability to excel in new thinking while maintaining a constant focus on building, or helping to build, a strong business. Don’t be overwhelmed by possible futility, rather be energized that you are taking one more step, among so many, to reduce the impact we are having on our planet.
Finally – if you could make one item or product in your life more sustainable, what would it be?
The Business Transportation Device. The truck, train, or boat commissioned by the for profit company, and driven by the driver, both of whom have demonstrated little interest in reducing the impact of their emissions.
Don’t miss out on hearing more from Eric on May 29 – sign up to attend the Net Impact Boston and NAEM panel event today.