Breaking the Barrier of Plausibility
In a way, professional expertise can be a double-edged sword. When a focused group of people dedicate themselves to an industry niche they become able to unlock and extract potential due to their heightened knowledge and experience. We call them “experts,” and defer to their opinion and assessment for engaging with the field in the future. At the same time, “experts” can also wield their power for ends that are less innovative or progressive. The same aura of experience that can ignite enthusiasm in consumers or investors by saying, “Sure, there’s no reason we can’t do that” can also stifle revolutionary thinking by claiming that advances “simply can’t be done.” When we hear an expert say it’s impossible, most of us can’t really argue.
This barrier of plausibility ends up being an industry excuse that bars advancement and sustainability encounters it all the time. Why is our water not cleaner? Why is public transit not fiscally self-sufficient? Why can’t we survive on only renewable energy? Because it simply can’t be done, or at least so we are told.
If there is one thing that can trump expert opinion it is working proof. Sometimes it takes dutiful persistence for a group to defy this deterring message and cross the line of plausibility that turns eager claims into realities. When I find these occurrences, I am struck with a moment of disbelief followed immediately by elation and respect. Afterward, we then have to ask ourselves, “So… if you can do it like this, why isn’t everyone doing it that way?” A fantastic question; one we should be asking more often.
These are a few examples I have found of companies that are breaking the perception of implausibility and offering products at a higher standard to the consumer public:
Why not make all hamburgers out of 100% organic, 100% grass-fed, 100% hormone-free beef and do so at a competitive price with great taste?
A new restaurant recently opened near the corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. It’s not the first of its kind, but it is the first one in both the city and state of New York. Originating in Virginia by an entrepreneur from California, Elevation Burger is a young franchise built around sustainability. Their beef is 100% grass-fed, USDA organic, hormone free beef. They don’t charge extra for cheese, or any other toppings for that matter. Their fries are cooked in olive oil, the waste of which they sell to create biodiesel. It is only natural to think this feast comes at a premium. The only reason something like McDonalds is cheap is because the pseudo-meat they squeeze out of their Play-Dough machines is crap.
The standard Elevation Burger is two-patties and loaded with whatever you want: $5.99 in NYC and it tastes fantastic. (Keep in mind a Double-Quarter Pounder with Cheese at Micky-D’s is $4.59 just a block away) To top it off, the construction of the restaurant incorporated recycled materials, utilized energy efficient lighting and the staff recycles everything that they can regardless of their location. Last I looked, they are not a non-profit organization and their expansion points to them doing well. So… why aren’t we making all burgers like this?
Why not make sure that any bottled water we do sell comes in a plastic container that is made from 100% recycled plastic?
Naya Bottled Water:
Most bottled water companies have been confronting the fact that they are an inherent unsustainable business model and taken measures to reduce the amount of plastic in their bottles. The caps have gotten smaller. The bottles have gotten thinner. While all commendable steps, Canadian company Naya has leapfrogged the trend to make a bottle that is comprised of 100% recycled material. Made of recycled polyethylene terephtalate (rPET), the bottles have the potential to be completely recycled and turned back into more bottles (a trend much closer to upcycling rather than recycling).
By anchoring recycled materials in large volume products we can strengthen the market for reused material stock and avoid the price fluctuations that have plagued the industry in the past. Resource streams will go up in value and we can effectively price trash out of existence. Naya is no more expensive than the bottles of Poland Spring or Dasani sitting right beside it on the shelf. If Naya can do it, why aren’t all water bottles made from a completely recycled plastic?
Why not make aluminum products out of old aluminum we have already used?
Though a lot of architecture can be thought of as large amounts of materials making big moves, any architect will tell you that the details are equally as important and they serve as their own stream of resources and energy. Architectural Grille has been a local company in Brooklyn making custom grille work for decades. Their product type could be seen in virtually any home in the form of grilles or diffusers for heating and cooling units. Having attracted a popular following in New York designers, I recently had specified their “Green” option which included 90% recycled aluminum in the construction of a new grille. Sometime afterward, the contractor on the job called to tell me that they have since decided to use only 90% recycled aluminum in all of their grilles–a pleasant and impressive surprise.
Though a smaller and more localized example, AG shows that even small businesses can be making money after integrating in new sustainable versions of older products.
Collectively, companies like these are slowly changing our perception of the marketplace and giving strength to progressive voices that insist we can be doing things in a different way without crashing the system. This kind of effort reaches back to all of us, every single consumer who is faced with the choice of going beyond simply being impressed and actually being a participant. Changing the face of the products offered to us is as easy as supporting the companies that are trying to support the change itself. If you have to buy bottled water, why not buy it from the ones that are doing the most? (Note: I’m not receptive to the “unique taste” argument) Most of our choices bring the opportunity for repercussions that shape industries.
Image Credit: multifamilyinvestor.com
Sustainable Cities Collective