21 ways for eco-innovation

21 ways is a set of checklists and inspiration sources for product ideas or service innovations. Based on successful innovations, we extracted important trends, principles or evolutions.
Looking for new products, imagine if one of the 21 ways is possible for your challenge.
In this episode: green or eco-innovation.

1. Access is becoming more important than ownership
Use it, don’t own it.

Chegg: textbook rentals
Vélib’: bike sharing
Landshare brings together people who have a passion for home-grown food, connecting those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food.
Hire things: help others, comsume less
Spotify no cd’s, no harddisk …

+ 100 examples

2. Standardisation.
Universal cell phone battery charger

Less confusing green labels please

3. Number zero
Why number zero is getting more important: some examples
zero energy buildings, zero waste, zero emission, zero growth, zero defects, …

The E-cube: zero energy house

Null Stern: Zero star hotel ;-)

4. Hybrid versions


Hybrid cars
 of course
GeoSpring: hybrid hot water heater
More examples on MoreInspiration

5. New business models
Yellow Pages

Espresso Book Machine: Books Printed In Minutes At Point Of Sale
For Immediate Pick Up Or Delivery

6. Reuse

Replate: share your leftovers with the homeless
Goedzak:  The Goedzak is a transparent bag for unwanted goods that allows passersby to see inside and decide if they could make use of them.

7. Low tech
The world’s cheapest lightbulb is made of just a plastic bottle

Other examples:
Hippo roller water project
Box Play for kids: eco-friendly, 100% recycled, custom-designed stickers* that (combined with a little imagination) turn any old box into a wonderland of possibilities

.8. Eco Design

For more than twenty years PRé Consultants has been at the forefront of Life Cycle thinking. Here are their 10 Guidelines for Ecodesign
Do not design products, but life cycles
Think about all material inputs and energy use of a product during its whole life cycle. From cradle to grave, or even better from cradle to cradle! A simple way to document your findings is the MET matrix (Materials, Energy, Toxicity). Just write down some of the most important facts in a matrix.
Natural materials are not always better
Of course, the production of 1 kg of wood causes less emissions than the production of 1 kg of plastic. But have you thought about the paint to preserve the wood, the energy needed to dry, the sawing losses? Environmentally sound materials do not exist, but environmentally friendly products and services do. Life cycle thinking helps a designer to develop these.
Energy consumption: often underestimated
Many designers focus their attention on material selection. This is not always justified. People normally underestimate the environmental impacts of energy as you cannot hold electricity or gas in your hands.
Increase product life time
You can influence the product life time in several ways. Make it more durable from a technical point of view, or by making it upgradeable (allowing to place the latest chip in a computer or washing machine).More importantly, try to design the product in such a way people will feel attached to it. Many products are not thrown away because they are broken, but because owners got bored with them.
Do not design products, but services
People do not always want a product. They want a solution for a certain problem. A service rather than a product can be the right solution.
Use a minimum of material
Often you can reduce the amount of material by critically looking at dimensions, required strength and production techniques. It can even be beneficial to use materials that have a high environmental load per kilogram, if you can save weight. This is particularly true in transport, where less weight means less fuel consumption.
Use recycled materials
Do not only make your product recyclable, but use recycled materials as much as possible.If there is a demand for recycled materials the supply will follow certainly.
Make your product recyclable
Only products that are disassembled easily and have a high enough yield will be chosen for recycling.You can increase the chance that the product is recycled, by optimizing its design.
Ask stupid questions
Very often decisions are based on common practice: “We have always done it this way and it has always worked well”. You can make huge improvements in the environmental performance of products, with consequential cost savings, by simply asking the very obvious “Why?”.

9. Less space / transport
Holland Container innovations: foldable containers

10. Feedback

Nest: learning thermostat

Bottle bank Arcade machine (movie)

11 Crowd generated
local energy networks

MyFarm: crowdmanaged farm offers participants a share of the crop
Windcentrale: crowdfunded windmill will generate energy for members’ own use

12. Slow
Slow Food, Slow Tourism, Slow City, Slow Marketing, Slow Travel, Slow sex, Slow everything …

13. Transparency
GoodGuide: Find safe, healthy and green products using GoodGuide’s expert ratings for popular food, personal care products, household chemicals and electronics.

Food miles

14. Innovating in intangible products and experiences

From gross national product to gross national happiness
Gross national happiness

15. Small actions
Google –> Blackle: energy saving search


16. Less is more
Buy nothing day

17. Sharing
ZipCar: car sharing

Real time / dynamic ridesharing

18. Local

CouchSurfing: When you join CouchSurfing, you tap into our network of welcoming people worldwide. You can share your hospitality and experience your city through new eyes by offering travelers a place to stay on their journey. You can bypass the typical hotel experience by staying at the home of a local and learning about their culture.

19. Digital
Melotte: Direct Digital Manufacturing

Digital books

20. Use existing resources
Curb: natural and eco-advertising

The ice highway running to Olkhon Island. This road is set up by the government each winter when Baikal freezes, they check the ice thickness and post weight limits each day. There are several ice highways running across Baikal, the longest is over 800km.(Flickr)

De kettingzaagfiets / chainsaw bike
movie (Dutch)

21 Repair
Repair Manifesto

More inspiration
Eco & Sustainability ideas Springwise
Greener Gadgets
Trendhunter Environmental Trends
Worst practices: greenwashing

Previous sets of 21 ways for innovation
21 ways for cross industry innovation
21 ways to learn from failures
21/37 ways on slideshare

Marc Heleven