Friday, October 31, 2008

squeaky green: the method men

The Times Online UK has a nice method article (which includes Adam drinking some method bathroom cleaner! Gah!):

"Lydia Slater

Eric Ryan pours out a tumblerful of pale-blue, frothy lavatory cleaner, lifts it to his mouth and swallows. “Hmm,” he says, licking his lips. “Not bad, actually.”

Encouraged, I take a sip too. It’s sticky and acidic, and tastes of mint and eucalyptus. While nobody is recommending that any kind of cleaner should be consumed, the fact remains that if you drank a shot of Toilet Duck, you would be on your way to hospital. As the co-founder of Method, the ecological home-care company that’s put the glam into green cleaning, Ryan is proud to be able to say that he can put his products where his mouth is.

What is perhaps more revolutionary is the packaging design. The washing-up liquid comes in an hourglass-shaped bottle created by the award-winning industrial designer Karim Rashid, which squirts fluid from the bottom through a nifty leakproof spout. It’s also recycled and recyclable. No wonder, then, that you will find Method cleaners in Stella McCartney and Madonna's cupboards.

The label has also become set-designer shorthand for right-thinking cool, appearing on gleaming sinks in Will & Grace and Desperate Housewives.

The germ of the concept came to Ryan, 35, when he was sharing a bachelor pad with four twentysomething friends.

“It was probably the dirtiest apartment in San Francisco,” he says. Cleaning up after one particularly wild party, he realised that it wasn’t so much the stench of stale beer that was making him feel ill as the products he was using. “There’s a reason that your eyes water and you have to hold your breath with all those harsh cleaners,” he says. “They contain a lot of toxic chemicals, so you’re polluting when you’re cleaning — you’re using poison to make your house healthier. And that didn’t make sense.”

Coincidentally, one of his flatmates, Adam Lowry, was a chemical engineer and environmental scientist. Together, the pair launched Method in 2001, with four spray cleaners, made and bottled in the grotty flat. Even in green-leaning, early-adopting San Francisco, they struggled to survive at first.

“I expected us to fail, quite honestly,” Ryan says. The pair borrowed money from their family and friends. “That’s pressure, because you really don’t want to let grandma down. So you keep going forward, no matter how bad it gets.”

At one point, they had £8 in the bank, £51,000 owing on credit cards, and their label company refusing to make any more until the outstanding bill was settled.

Finally, funding came through from an investor: Method became profitable three years ago. It now has a turnover in excess of £51m and is widely available in the UK (at shops including Boots, The Co-op and Waitrose).

The latest range is a collection of cleverly designed baby products, inspired by Ryan’s daughter Anya, 2. The cute, squeezy, otter-shaped bottle of children’s body wash is designed to be used with one hand, while you hang on to your slippery baby with the other; the baby hair and body wash has a cap that doubles as a rinsing cup.

Ryan has also written a book with Lowry, called Squeaky Green: The Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home, which makes unnerving reading. Did you know that most big-brand toothpastes contain pesticide? Or that non-iron sheets are often treated with formaldehyde? Or that fabric softeners are made from beef fat? The good news for ecoworriers is that Ryan insists detoxing even the most chemically dependent home will take only two weeks, and you will have not only a healthier house, but a cooler-looking one, too."

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