A Magazine Capturing the Story of Health- For People, Environment, Economy & Habitat

When your Choice of Detergent is not Enough!

In the old-normal way of thinking and doing business, the design profession’s marching orders were defined by convenience, stylishness, speed, and most of all, profit. And we literally bought into the wayward direction of these products, because they expressed our codependent, rather unhealthy way of life. But design has a higher purpose, now.

Driven by regulations, changes in consumer demand, fear of future lawsuits, and a green-tinged business environment, design has suddenly increased its IQ. As opposed to passive, accidental design that doesn’t ‘know’ where it’s going or who will use it, next-generation design is analytical, and ergonomic –  packed with synergistic information and “biologic.”

For example, when Procter & Gamble examined the energy impact of its detergents, it discovered that washing machines were the largest single energy user in the whole laundry system. Since most detergents only work effectively in warm water, a lot of energy is used to heat the water, so P&G researchers went back to the lab and invented a detergent, Ariel Cool Clean, which works in cold water, saving energy without any loss in performance.

Ariel has also reduced phosphate use.  According to an announcement by Walmart,  Ariel is said to be Brazil’s first detergent manufactured without phosphates.

During a recent visit to Sears, one appliance salesman boasted that Obama says that manufacturing of the old style washer based on “agitation” technology will cease in 2012. Did this sustainability strategy authored by Procter and Gamble inspire a more wide reaching future value in the appliance industry? There is now a much more complex  value organized for a more ecological laundry approach.  In addition to cold water use, the elimination of phosphates, the newly designed non-agitating washing machines reduce water use up to 50-70% and spin the moisture out of the wash reducing the time needed to dry a load of wash.

The design profession’s capabilities cuts across institutional boundaries and geography, when thought is given to safe chemical and energy practices for ordinary consumer needs. The new generation of design for “future value” is pushing a format of learning and application in social network for lasting social and economic impact.

Procter and Gamble’s company strategy required out of the box thinking that cut across a global geography, a commitment from a leading distribution channel and then pushed the thinking with regard for utility consumption and appliance design.  This more strategic approach built a cluster of value across countries, brands, industry and consumer behavior.

These kinds of opportunities exist in all types of design – we just need cultural instructions to look for them. The challenges we face require radically redesigned production systems, landscapes and structures – all sensitive to changing variables like energy, health, climate and resource availability. We need an inspired new generation of whole-systems designers to express changing values in their creations.

Society should grant the design profession the social stature of doctors and lawyers – calling for pride, skill, and integrity in the design field. As with the age-old physician’s oath to “do no harm”, we need a designers’ oath to “design nothing harmful.” Designers reflect cultural direction, and their designs in turn are responses to directions they receive from the culture, often intuitively.

This approach puts intelligence into the design that is very different than creating products in simple response to what assures customer satisfaction and profit.  These motives alone may have not resulted in a design process to led to new discoveries for safe energy and chemical practices  This approach implies adding an intelligence into equation where by corporations through a chain of evaluation and discovery of future value that leads to a culture of change resulting from meaningful use.

Please comment what you think of this article. Please let me know what other types of research and stories you would like me to report that impacts how individuals can live in the context of the New Normal by commenting here.


Dave Wann

Contributing Editor



  Rosalinda Sanquiche wrote @

I agree that design professionals should get credit and be encouraged to work with sustainability as high importance.

I wonder if the P&G example isn’t a bit of greenwashing since P&G’s Tide and others have had cold water detergent for years and low-water washers have been manufactured in Europe for at least a decade. I’m not knocking their progress and commitment. I’m just hyper alert to the tone implying new leadership when this is nearly the norm. Regardless of motive or presentation, I’m glad the work is being done.

  David Wann wrote @

I agree with you completely; there’s a lot of greenwashing out there. But when we go ahead and give them feedback, they reach a bit further. Some very devoted environmentalists are working with companies like Wal-Mart because changes they make directly affect so much of the U.S. and global economy.

The point of my P & G post was that this is a design example from our everyday lives. For cutting edge, see The New Normal’s reports about , for example, incorporating CO2 into cement, plastics, and organic soil, using new chemical pathways and agricultural methods.

Design is a manifestation of what we value and prioritize. Value in, value out.

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