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Something NOT New for a Change?

March 27th, 2009

I’m never really that surprised when I see the latest gadget on the shelves or on one of the many gadget websites that are for the express purpose of flaunting the fact that you don’t have the latest and greatest “thing”. New things are…. well old. There is always something new. There is always an “upgrade”, “new model” or something “totally revolutionary”.

Revolutionary? That word has been so watered down over the years… it almost lacks meaning altogether. Is shoving 100 gigs of ram onto a USB thumb drive revolutionary? Well, no… cool and complex, but not revolutionary.

Worm Poop in a Jug

Worm Poop in a Jug

Today, I saw something that ACTUALLY impressed me. Not in the “ooh”, “ahhhh”, “gotta have it” kinda way. It caught my attention in the overall purpose and drive behind the innovation. I’m talking about the company TerraCycle, Inc..

Okay, so I’m not typically the tree hugger type, but I consider myself conservation minded. Regardless, this is just cool. TerraCycle, Inc. takes trash, just everyday trash, and makes stuff out of it, reuses bottles and other packaging, etc… What caught my interest is that most other companies continue create new “stuff” that adds to the constant barrage of “buy this” and “get that”, while adding to the mountains of trashed iPods, disc players, spent PC’s and other trendy junk already in the landfills.

While I’m not likely to go out and buy one of their “Capri Sun” handbags or a jug of worm poop, it’s their tactic and business model that I find interesting. What if we applied this to technology? What if instead of making yet another shopping cart, blog system, CMS or code framework, we actually put effort into building on top of or improving what we already have access to? What if we could find TRULY creative ways to reuse the mounds of rejected hardware filling up our landfills for something other than sculptures and doorstops? Sure, there are several developers and companies that do that, but most don’t plain and simple.

I think perhaps there is a lot to be learned by looking at this way of doing business, not only as individuals but as an industry. As developers, can we add value to our industry and the world? Or are we filling the net with endless piles of already done cruft destined to be forgotten about next week for the latest and greatest cruft? Admittedly, every day of our career can’t be overflowing with pure innovation and meaning, but looking at TerraCycle, Inc. has me thinking about how I will spend my energy and resources in the future.

See a video about TerraCycle at CNN.

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