• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

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The most sustaionable product?

I was speaking with a Greenback student and the question was raised, "what's a good example of a sustainable product?"

Even limiting it to consumer goods, a number of different possibilities came to mind. A good pair of work boots. A well-made hand tool (hammer, screwdriver, wrench). Much hardwood furniture made in this country before about 1980.

But then it struck me.

Corningware.

November 5, 2010
 
 

I was speaking with a Greenback student and the question was raised, "what's a good example of a sustainable product?"

Even limiting it to consumer goods, a number of different possibilities came to mind. A good pair of work boots. A well-made hand tool (hammer, screwdriver, wrench). Much hardwood furniture made in this country before about 1980.

But then it struck me.

Corningware.

Not the recent stuff that gets sold at Walmart with that brand name on the outside -- that's not the real thing. Recently made, imported, so-called Corningware can be used in the oven, the microwave and the fridge. It can probably also go into the freezer. But it can't be used on a stovetop. And it chips/cracks/breaks rather easily.

Good old-fashioned Corningware -- the almost square-shaped pieces about ten inches on a side, white with a blue cornflower (or later, other imprints). Move it straight from the freezer to the oven. Brown the meat on the stovetop, add the other ingredients, put the thing in the oven. One piece could serve many purposes. Not unbreakable, but close (I regularly use one piece I think my mother-in-law bought 50 years back).

I don't know how much energy was used to create the stuff way back when, but amortize it over a 50 (or even 20) year product life and it's pretty minimal. And the raw material (I believe) was a form of sand.

So there's my nomination for the title of "most sustainable consumer product". Corningware exemplifies a lot of the characteristics that I try to get students (and staff, and faculty) to think about in their buying decisions. But, of course, about the only place you can find it these days is at a yard sale or on ebay.

Anybody got another candidate? Maybe even one that's still in production?

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