Saturday, 19 June 2010

Five Steps

This extract gives an idea of this writer's take on the world. It rather tunes in with the ideas of Natural Capitalism, which I was advocating years ago, and which I think could help especially in the transition between the monetary system and an RBE. The idea of needing the service of things like cars and washing machines, rather than the thing itself, is a key one in Natural Capitalism. Of course, if someone is selling you the service of a washing machine, it is in their interest as well as yours that the machine is efficient, effective, reliable and economical, whereas in the buy-sell model, once you have bought the machine and the manufacture has your money, the other costs are down to you. There's littl incentive to sell you a machine that will never break down as the "first cost" (selling price) will be high and put you off, even if the lifetime costs would be lower.

"Consider the automobile. We don't have to list the ways in which car owners have begun to feel that their need for mobility is in conflict with their desire for a convivial, healthy world. But rather than declare the car the enemy, we would suggest that it's just not serving our needs very effectively. It's ripe for innovation.
A designer might respond to this challenge by creating a more efficient car that has a minimal impact on the environment, such as a hydrogen-powered hypercar free of carbon emissions. One could also employ a preference for a safe, organic upholstery fabric, or begin to reassess each material used in the making of automobiles. Ultimately, manufacturers might optimize their vehicles by using positively defined biological and technical nutrients and creating a coherent system for the retrieval and reuse of the cars valuable materials.

Each of these solutions reflects one of the values on the step-by-step path of eco-effective design. Together, they add up to revolutionary changes-changes that we are actively working to bring about with car manufacturers and auto parts suppliers. But we think there's yet another crucial step: What if we thought of the auto industry not simply as a maker of cars but as a provider of mobility? How might the industry best provide the service of mobility to meet the wants, needs and loves of its customers? Could we design new kinds of mobility systems that serve a rich social agenda?

Well, yes. If we explore not just the car but the many needs it fulfills, we can begin to imagine the re-invention of the whole paradigm of transportation. As a mobility provider, for example, a manufacturer might offer customers access to many different kinds of vehicles rather than selling them a car. Why own and maintain three cars when you could use the service of a big, spacious vehicle for family trips, a sports car for a weekend date, or a public community car to transport your children? In each case you'd be provided the service of mobility by an automaker that owned and reused the vehicles' valuable materials-and utilized them effectively by keeping their resources in motion.

Take the community car. As part of a broadly defined local or regional transportation plan, a fleet of community cars could provide people a range of services throughout the day. Responding to electronic calls, the cars could deliver people to transportation hubs in the morning; ferry groceries, laundry, and prescriptions during the day; deliver children from school to violin practice or their grandmother's house in the late afternoon; and take couples to the movies at night.

Built and used within an evolving system of coherent material flows, the community cars could manifest a wide spectrum of positive effects. People formerly excluded from transportation-children, the elderly, the handicapped-would have ready access to mobility. The retirees operating the community cars would be able to maintain their sense of community and their ties to the young. The system's effectiveness-its ability to both optimize the use of materials and conveniently move people to the places they want to go-would generate wealth for providers and satisfaction, free time, and peace of mind for customers.

The re-invention of mobility illustrates a key principle of eco-effective innovation: products are essentially packaging for services. With this in mind, designers can begin to apply the Five Steps to all products of service, conceiving effective, intelligent systems for meeting the most basic human needs-like washing one's clothes.

A designer developing an eco-effective laundry detergent, for example, might follow Steps One-Four to progressively create a product with only safe, nutritious ingredients. A Step Four soap might be defined by the chemistry of the local water supply. It might also be produced locally in dry pellet form and sold in bulk, obviating the need for packaging and the expensive long-distance transportation of heavy, liquid concentrates.
At Step Five one might build on the reformulation of soap to develop a strategy for delivering an effective laundering service to the home. This strategy would include the washing machine itself, which would be conceived as a product of service designed for retrieval, disassembly and reuse. The machine would be delivered to a customer's home pre-loaded with detergent for 1000 loads of laundry-the customer pays not for the machine, but for the service. After the last of the machine's micro-filtered detergent has been dispensed, the appliance would be serviced or replaced, and its valuable materials would enter the technical metabolism to be used again in new machines.

An innovative commercial venture might focus on providing a community laundry service. Laundry could be picked up from customers in a community vehicle and delivered to one location, where washing machines would run on the power of the sun and wastewater would be purified by a system of botanical gardens. The service might even provide a social venue, where those who chose to wash their own clothes could relax in a pleasant courtyard among the garden's flowering plants. Washing clothes, long considered environmentally unfriendly, suddenly begins to generate community wealth."

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