The New Meaning of ‘Green’
From inside your home to inside your car, manufacturers are changing what it means to be “green.” Eco-friendly products certainly arenât a new trend; however, the definition of what makes a product âeco-friendlyâ is changing. Companies are figuring out that the driving force for many consumers to buy âgreenerâ isnât necessarily the environment- itâs about saving green. While consumers seem more driven to save money than the environment, pairing them together makes the latter very attractive.
There is a new interest in being a more efficient consumer of energy, particularly in the home appliances market. Brands like LG, Samsung and Kenmore are creating appliances that relay to the consumer the best times to use electricity and allow them to make an educated decision on when and how they consume energy. These products gather information about energy consumption rates and empower consumers to make better choices about their energy use.Â For example, a laundry machine might have a display that shows energy consumption trends in the area, helping them determine the best time to run the machine and use less energy, saving money on their energy bill.Â Ultimately, the decision on how money and energy is being spent lies with the consumer.
Mobile applications, like Power Stoplight, can also help consumers monitor the energy consumption in their home.Â Applications such as these make it easy for consumers to be green by making information easy to access and understand, helping homeowners reduce their energy costs and avoid wasteful energy usage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there will be a 19% increase in domestic energy use over the next 25 years, making innovations like the Power Stoplight app timely to meet this rising demand. Applications like this one can help prevent megawatts of energy from being wasted by making consumers more judicious in running their home appliances.
Appliances are not the only products enabling consumers to be more energy-efficient. This year at the North American International Auto Show the emphasis was on alternative fuel or electric cars to attract consumers for both convenience and cost factors. Soon natural gas cars like the Honda Civic GX will change the process of refueling, and the âgas stations of the futureâ will be located in consumersâ homes, saving them a significant amount of money while also being environmental stewards. The energy and fuels already in homes can be allocated when they are in lowest demand to refuel and recharge cars efficiently.
Even non-hybrid automobiles are encouraging drivers to be environmentally conscious by providing âinfotainmentâ to show the benefits of being green. Both Toyota and Ford feature automobiles with dashboard animation to show how the driver is in control of their fuel consumption and carbon footprint by displaying calming animation when moving at a moderate, eco-friendly speed. However, when the driver accelerates or brakes rapidly, or stays at a constant high speed, the dashboard lights up with brighter colors and animation to remind them to drive responsibly.
Automotive accessories such as GPS systems are following this trend of arming the consumer with the power of choice. The Tom Tom GPS system provides alternate fuel consumption routes that calculate how fast the driver will have to drive on a specific route, allowing them to pick the most fuel efficient directions to their destination.
The consumer electronics industry is also becoming âgreenerâ in interesting new ways.Â Until recently, when electronics went out of date, consumers simply went out and purchased a new version. However, there is beginning to be a shift in serviceability while updates to the next version are now available via virtual software updates or applications.Â The ultimate example of serviceable products is a new mobile device from the UK, the âĂ+Yâ mobile phone. The Ă+Y serves not only as a mobile phone, but also a statement of investment and refinement. The metal work for the body of the phone is available in either gold or stainless steel. The phone was engineered to be a quality, long-lasting alternative to other devices on the market that typically need to be replaced after a few years of use.Â Built with this longevity in mind, the phone is offered a service check every two years during which the phone will be thoroughly examined for necessary replacement parts or upgrades.
In addition to smartphones, other electronics like the Sony PlayStation can be virtually modernized to ensure longevity by undergoing a product update every couple of months. These regular updates on electronics make consumers less apt to throw away products that are not easily broken down.
Everything from cars and homes to electronics and simple accessories are presenting new opportunities for consumers to be green. The new meaning of being green isnât just about being eco-friendly, but more energy efficient and budget conscious. Manufacturers are making it easier than ever before for consumers to have the information they need to be informed about their consumption choices, empowering them to positively impact both their wallet and their carbon footprint.
Gil Cavada is a Senior Designer and George Guffey is a User Experience Director at PDT at the Headquarters in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Â Product Development Technologies, Inc. (PDT) is a global, full-service product development firm.Â To learn more about PDT, visit www.pdt.com
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