Designing Sustainable Products with Usability In Mind

Sustainable design is all about innovation. That was the message from Adam Lowry, co-founder and Chief Greenskeeper of Method Products, Inc., at last Thursday's State of Green Business Forum in Chicago. He was one of the presenters of the One Great Idea series at the two-day forum.

Prior to launching Method, headquartered in San Francisco, Lowry worked as a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution, developing software products for the modeling of climate change. Lowry was passionate about environmental issues, but wanted to do more than just work on computer software models, he said.

State of Green BusinessSo he took his ideas for sustainable design and focused then on the home. He helped Method Products develop a number of successful laundry detergent products using new innovative approaches to old ways of thinking. "People often forget about innovation," said Lowry. "Innovation is not a process that happens in the absence of human beings. It's created by human beings, and more importantly for human beings."

According to Lowry, people should design with adoption in mind. Lowry said people have step-by-step directions on how to do laundry. In order to adopt a new product, people must acknowledge change.

Method Products came up with a new concept in laundry detergent by designing a super-concentrated version that's sold in many retail stores, including Walmart and Target.

Concentrated products are more consumer-friendly than the original big detergent jug consumers have to carry, he said. According to Lowry, Method products are so small, they're able to fit in your back pocket and super easy to use.

"We need to save the world through laundry detergent," Lowry said.

According to Lowry, the best innovations are self-taught. Method products reduced its packaging by more than 80 percent, which was a big hit with consumers. Lowry said product designers at the company kept in mind the end user and how people purchase detergent at the grocery store and then have to lug it home.

"Because of this new innovation, which was a small step, we plan to innovate again," Lowry said. "We will create something for the consumer that doesn't make it more difficult or questionable to do the sustainable thing."