Monday, May 18, 2009

method: balancing performance, looks and safe materials

Greener Design has this very indepth Q&A with method co-founder (do I need to even say that anymore? Don't we know the co-founders by now! Oh wait, I guess I do for new readers. Ok, I've answered my own question. Thanks!) Adam Lowry! Read on, lusters!

"By Jonathan Bardelline | Published May 14, 2009

One of the biggest and most recognizable companies in the green cleaning world is San Francisco-based Method. One of the companies' hallmarks, and one of the reasons it's stayed so successful and grown its reach, its it multiple commitments to improving the ingredients in its products, making visually appealing packaging and ensuring that its products work just as well or better as everything else it sits next to at stores.

Adam Lowry, co-founder of Method, spoke with GreenBiz Radio about the indepth work needed to clean up cleaners, and why all the new green products from mainstream companies don't worry Method.

Lowry is just one of the many innovators working in the world of green design who will be speaking at next week's Greener by Design conference.

Jonathan Bardelline: Method has been making cleaners for about eight years, and could you give me an overview of the history of your ingredients? In those years have you made any major changes to the actual ingredients you've been using?

Adam Lowry: Yeah. We've made a lot of changes to ingredients. We're continually looking to bring in the leading edge of ingredient chemistry and really product packaging materials as well. So we're constantly changing both of those.

Sometimes we're doing that from suppliers that come up with novel new chemistries or packaging innovations, materials innovations. And then sometimes actually we're partnering with packaging suppliers or ingredient suppliers to develop proprietary solutions that are sort of new and unique things that are kind of solving both design problems as well as environmental problems within the product's design.

JB: More on the ingredient side, have you had to swap out ingredients where you find an either safer or more environmentally friendly ingredient?

AL: Well, yes. We're always doing that. So what we use is we actually use a scorecard. Think of it as sort of a green, yellow, red. And we've got it for every single ingredient in every single Method product. And we work with Dr. Michael Braungart and his team at MBDC and EPEA, and we outsource material evaluation to those guys so that it is independent, third party, peer reviewed science.

And if you think about each ingredient as a green, yellow, red, we won't do any product if any one ingredient is a red, okay? But there's a lot of greens and yellows. Not every product is perfectly green in terms of across its entire lifecycle, not as perfect as you want it to be. And so in some cases, those are yellow, which means they're okay to use, but you're constantly looking for better alternatives. We're not going to rest on our products until every single ingredient is green across the board. Does that make sense?

JB: Yeah. And to get to those green ingredients, is it people within Method doing the work, your suppliers finding the alternatives?

AL: Yeah. It's usually all of those because - for example, preservatives, which are in some products, some Method products, and they're required in certain products. Like personal care products, you have to have preservatives to keep them from going rancid. Those are products that are inherently a little bit more difficult to make green because they kill bacteria, of course.

And so those are ones where we're not manufacturing those preservatives, our suppliers are. So we have to work with our suppliers, show them what's important on our scorecard in terms of coming from a natural source, being biodegradable, being nontoxic, non sensitizing - like (not) causing irritation and things like that - educate them on what we're looking for, and then provide for them the carrot of our preservative business to say, “Listen. We need to develop a new and novel solution in this area that solves a need, that makes our products a little bit greener because it's a better preservative than what's been available in the past."

And so we do a lot of that in a very targeted way. We do that in the surfactant world with the detergents and products. We do that on preservatives. We do that on fragrances. We do that on enzymes, all of the different functional ingredients that make up a cleaner.

JB: Has that been something difficult to get suppliers on board with?

AL: Well, I'll tell you one of the things that has been difficult is when we first started that process nine years ago now, a lot of times the suppliers didn't even have the information that we were asking for. So if we were saying, “Okay. Hey, you've got this enzyme material. Where does it come from? How are you making it? Does it have any issues with causing allergic reactions?,” things like that..."

Head on over to Greener Design to read the rest!

1 comment:

katie said...

this $1 off any method product coupon popped up on my facebook. thought i'd share the wealth!

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