In 1966, a year before the Summer of Love and two years before the original Woodstock, two gurus of the macrobiotic lifestyle, followers of the great George Ohsawa, opened a health food store called Erewhon. Erewhon is meant the title to be understood as the word “nowhere” backward even though the letters “h” and “w” are transposed. It came from the Samuel Butler book about a utopia. One of the fictional Erewhon’s tenets was that everyone was responsible for their own health and wellbeing.
At an Erewhon store, you brought your own jars. Before you filled your jars with the requisite brown rice, organic peanut butter, beans, or cereal, the cashier weighed your jar and put a piece of tape on the jar’s lid. A filled jar was weighed again and the difference led to the price of your food. Erewhon was part of The Whole Earth Catalog movement that focused on managing one’s own health through self-initiative and proper eating while keeping the planet’s health in mind.
The Whole Earth Catalog, first published in 1968, believed in ecology, holistic living, making things yourself, self-sufficiency, gardening, and tools for every possible situation and task. If you were of a certain generational style, The Whole Earth Catalog was a bible. Erewhon and The Whole Earth Catalog gave people a sense of power and purpose.
Old is new. Those self-sufficient, eco-conscious, original Earth Day sensibilities are being rewired for new generations. The push towards reusable packaging is a retro reality. We may not be able to do all the nifty things the fellow on The Weather Channel’s “So You Think You’d Survive?” can do. But, reusing containers seems to be well within reach. For those who passionately wash Ziploc bags and reuse them, reusable packaging may be the next logical step.
In our uncertain world, some brands are testing reusable packaging. These brands are helping to reconfigure our role as consumers by bringing back the idea of reusable, in-store, or online containers. The question is whether or not we will accept the idea of reusable packaging in a world where packaging is so integral to delivering branded messages. We have become conspicuous consumers of plastic waste.
SodaStream is educating consumers to use its bottles over and over again rather than buying carbonated water at retail. Brita’s water filter encourages people to use their own bottles for clean tap water rather than purchase cases of packaged water.
Loop and Blueland are branching out into other areas that will test our commitments to sustainability. And, these brands are doing this in style.
Some brands are selling sustainability with style. According to The Wall Street Journal, Loop is a “closed-loop recycling” service that puts familiar brands in reusable containers. The customer pays a deposit at checkout and then the deposit is refunded when the containers are returned for cleaning and reuse. The returnable containers are elegantly designed. Several P&G products such as Cascade and Febreeze, some Clorox products such as disinfectant wipes, and Seventh Generation cleaning products are available. Beauty, pantry, and frozen products are just some of the categories represented. Häagen-Dazs ice cream is one of the frozen products available.
Blueland currently focuses on cleaning products. Blueland’s mission on its website: At Blueland, cleaning up our planet starts with cleaning our homes. Starting with cleaning products – items traditionally sold in disposable plastic bottles, we can eliminate over 100 billion single-use plastic bottles in the U.S. alone because our cleaners live in reusable bottles.
Blueland’s system is simple. “You buy a bottle once. This is your Forever Bottle. You refill for life so you will no longer be throwing out bottles. You fill your bottle with water and drop in a Blueland cleaning tablet or soap tablet. Think of this as Alka Seltzer for your home.”
Currently, there are seven cleaning options: 3 Cleaning Sprays (Multi-Surface, Glass + Mirror, Bathroom), foaming hand soap, powdered dish soap, dishwasher tablets, and laundry tablets.
Loop, Blueland, SodaStream, and Brita are leveraging our desire for ideas that have stood the test of time and reflect innovation. These brands and others, such as Bengies drive-in movie outside Baltimore, MD, are adapting old ideas about ecology and sustainability and repurposing for a modern, high-tech world of today.
“Old is new” has already taken over many shelves in our local grocery stores. As Christine Muhlke reported for The New York Times, 1960’s co-op stores featured staples such as “… miso, tahini, dates, seeds, turmeric, and ginger that were absorbed from other cultures and populated the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks.” These staples are now part of menus at innovative restaurants and populating the international section of chain grocery stores across the nation. Kombucha, nori, daikon, kale (which Ms. Muhlke described as “the bacon of clean eating”), and tofu are no longer strange.
The trend over several years shows that younger generations are committed to buying products and services from brand-businesses that are socially and sustainably good. It will be interesting to see if that personal commitment translates to personal habits. In the meantime, Loop, SodaStream, Brita, Blueland, and others are paving the way for us.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Larry Light, CEO of Arcature
The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about building an eco-conscious brand.
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