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A Consumer Revolution

Our collective demand for environmental responsibility has stimulated the market.

With some purchases, like a vacation home or a new car, consumers have long assumed that they should evaluate the total cost of ownership over time. But more and more people shopping for all kinds of things–food, clothing, travel, electronics–are now considering the total cost not only to themselves but to society. In fact, a host of innovative new products aim to reduce our overall costs and protect the environment at the same time. Many so-called green choices, even when they come at a small premium, actually save us money in the long run, because they last longer. I am inspired by this new wave of innovative products that deliver on their promises and are good for the earth.

Companies like Better Place, the Body Shop, and Whole Foods were all founded on the belief and trust that consumers would be willing to pay a little more for high-quality, ethical products. And their success shows that given the choice, many consumers will decide to help society, the environment, and, in the long run, themselves. We founded Boston-Power to produce lithium-ion batteries on that principle, too.

Consumers tend to buy computer batteries on the basis of their initial capacity, only to be disappointed when that capacity shrinks by half after just a few months. We decided that our first notebook-computer battery, designed to run four to five hours between charges, should retain its capacity for three years without degrading. Consumers would be able to buy just one instead of many batteries over the life of the computer.

That translates into a lower total cost of ownership for the computer, saving consumers money. Moreover, when fewer batteries are purchased, fewer are manufactured. Fewer manufacturing materials are consumed, less energy is needed for production and transport, and fewer goods must be recycled or disposed of.

As consumers, we are faced daily with decisions that affect the world around us. To save money and reduce our effect on the environment, we can ride a bicycle instead of driving a car, buy longer-­lasting light bulbs, use high-quality electronics, and stop buying disposable water bottles.Each purchasing decision we make represents a choice and an opportunity for positive change.

Christina Lampe-Onnerud is the founder and CEO of Boston-Power. She was a TR100 member in 2002.

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