Inventing and the Environment

As with any new invention, there is genuine excitement in finalizing the design, completing the manufacturing process, and finally seeing the product on store shelves. However, throughout the entire process, it is vital to always consider how your product will impact the environment.

Here are some questions to consider:

• Will it have a negative or a positive effect?
• Is the product environmentally friendly?
• Is the product packaging environmentally friendly?
• What are other methods to improve the impact of my product on the environment?
• Is there room in my budget to allow for eco-friendly packaging or design?

One of the greatest considerations for your invention in terms of the environment involves the materials used. Before I explain what types of packaging to consider, take a look at the table below.

• Paper and Cardboard: 100 to 400 years to decompose
• Plastic Bags: 100 to 500 years to decompose
• Aluminum Cans: 100 to 500 years to decompose
• Textiles: 100 to 500 years to decompose
• Plastic Wrap: 100 to 1,000 years to decompose
• Plastic Bottles: Many hundreds of years to decompose
• Glass Containers: Never decompose
• Tires: Never decompose

Product packaging is often an expense that inventors fail to consider in terms of their budget, material options and the impact on the environment. The expense of a part to be packaged can sometimes be as much as the actual product itself and, in some cases, it can be more. Because of this, it is vital that inventors consider the cost when they first outline the budget of the overall project to ensure that they not only factor in the pricing but have a guideline of what they can afford well in advance to eliminate any potential surprises.

All too often, inventors come to me and confess that they manufactured a part that they only later realized that they could not complete because packaging was far too expensive to continue. Simply put, they forgot to account for packaging in the budget and quickly ran out of funds. As an inventor, consider the amount of time and effort you put into designing and developing your product and then seeing it into production. Then, imagine the feeling of putting in an extensive amount of time and money, only to have to stop the process before it can be completed. This can be devastating and can often be avoided with adequate budgeting and planning throughout the invention process, especially in terms of product packaging and design.

On the other hands, perhaps you have planned for product packaging but are now wanting to consider a more environmentally friendly material that will not further harm the planet. If you have budgeted for typical product packaging, you may be surprised at the cost of eco-friendly products as they can often be a bit more expensive. However, weigh this expense with the benefits of advertising a “green” or an “eco-friendly” product. The more recyclable your packaging and even your product is, the more it could increase sales as people often opt for eco-friendly products. This, in turn, generates great respect for your branding as consumers are aware that you took the extra step (and cost) to ensure your product benefited the environment.

In sum, opting for an eco-friendly product and packaging will incur additional costs on your parts but, if your part is sound in terms of form, fit and function, you can easily swallow this cost in the final sale price.

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