A Sustainable Design

Photo: Courtesy of Preserve
An interview with Preserve & Continuum on their closed loop recycling program

After falling in love with the Preserve Toothbrush we product tested, we wanted to learn more about this innovative company and their partner Continuum.

Glad we did chat as we learned so much!

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1. Where did the idea come from to use recycled yogurt cups? Why did you think to convert yogurt cups into personal care items, toothbrushes?

Preserve was founded in Massachusetts with a recycled toothbrush concept embodying a radical mission: to reverse the harm caused by the industrial age. In 1996, founder and president Eric Hudson was committed to the need to use our earth's resources more efficiently and responsibly. The developing plastic recycling market represented a great new opportunity to reuse our earth's resources (plastics are made from oil and natural gas—making up roughly 9% of the world's petroleum usage). However, at the time that Preserve was formed, there was a lot of concern that recyclables were not necessarily turning into new products. Seeing an opportunity, Eric started Preserve to reuse Earth's precious resources and turn them back into products that people wanted. He worked with dentists, scientists and engineers to create Preserve's first high-quality product from recycled plastics—the Preserve Toothbrush. Since then, Preserve has grown into a dynamic, green lifestyle company offering a range of everyday products for almost every room in your home. Using innovative methods, we turn used materials into razors, colanders, cutting boards, tableware and more!

2. What has been the biggest learning when it comes to making environmental products?

It is very rewarding to be one of the first companies that not only made environmental stewardship as one of its core initiatives, but actually started the company for that very reason. Our company was founded with the objective to reduce impact.  To show that companies could lead a charge to reduce the harm caused by the industrial age by showing that products and services could be less harmful and just as wonderful.
Preserve products are made from 100% recycled plastics and 100% post-consumer paper. By using recycled materials, we save energy, preserve natural resources and create an incentive for communities to recycle.

  • All of our plastic products are recyclable, either through our postage-paid labels and mailers (toothbrushes and razor handles) or at the curb in communities that recycle #5 plastic.
  • We make our products in the USA, so that we can ship them shorter distances, using less fuel and limiting our environmental footprint.
  • We don't test on animals. Period.

3. How will you continue to encourage consumers to keep taking part?

Preserve products are powered by our consumers and their recycling efforts. Through Preserve's Gimme 5 program, consumers can recycle your #5 plastics—a kind of plastic that many towns and cities won’t recycle. Preserve transforms yogurt cups into toothbrushes and take-out containers into cutting boards—and a lot of other great looking, high performance products for your bathroom, table, and kitchen.

Preserve and our partners created the Gimme 5 program to offer a simple way to save these plastics and make sure they have a second life. Now consumer can enjoy all of those great products that come packaged in #5 plastic. Save them up, clean them out and drop them at one of these retail locations. Just look for the Preserve Gimme 5 bin.

By recycling #5 plastics through the Gimme 5 program, you are:

  1. Saving plastic from being sent to landfills
  2. Keeping it local by recycling it here in the USA
  3. Powering Preserve by helping us transform your recyclables into new Preserve toothbrushes and razors

4. What are your next goals for making your products even greener?

We work to bring sustainable products to market. After identifying areas where we can create a product with significantly less impact than others on the market, we brainstorm and design system solutions. This includes thinking about not only the product, but also how the product is packaged, and how the product and its packaging will be used by our “Preservers,” and how it will be recycled into a new life at the end of its life.

5. What was the biggest challenge in creating something that relies on consumers taking action (the mail in)?

As designers, we understand human behavior, and we know that it's hard for people to change their behavior. So, we knew that we needed to created a system of taking the toothbrushes back that didn't ask too much of the consumer. We wanted to make it easy. Additionally, we know from Colorblind (the environment and consumer behavior research that we've conducted) that people think recycling is important and one of the best things they can do to be responsible and play a role in saving our planet. The mail-back pack feeds into this mindset, in that it's not beyond what the consumer is willing to do. As designers, if we're not addressing and incorporating these essential factors of human behavior, we're not doing our job.

6. What has been the biggest learning when it comes to making environmental products?

It's all about finding the right materials. You need a material that looks great, works on shelf, and protects the product. It's about finding that balance that's acceptable and that you can get to work. For example, cardboard is a great material, but you can't make it look nice, and you can't print on it. Another challenge: it's true that there are environmentally friendly packaging materials, but you can't actually get most of them into production. It's still too expensive. We actually contracted with a firm that was supposed to find these responsible materials. They showed us great sample stuff, but they couldn't get many of them. To actually do something with them was a new challenge altogether.