Waking Up from the 'Nightmare on Tech Street'

Reading Om Malik’s Nightmare on Tech Street piece, I wonder if we’re actually just waking up from the nightmare. Yes, the abrupt collapse of demand for consumer electronics and their ilk will hurt tech companies–I’m bracing my own for the slowdown–but the icy bath that brings down a killing fever trades pain for gain.

In a recent conversation with my daughter Arwen and son-in-law Saul Griffith, Matt Webb remarked that he’d like 2008 to be remembered as the year of “peak consumption.” Saul pointed out, though, that the term “peak waste” is perhaps more accurate. In an analogy to peak oil, he suggested that maybe we’ve reached the pinnacle of waste in our consumer culture. I do wonder if we will look back at the past few decades as a kind of sick aberration rather than a golden age, with good times we want to get back to. Like Saul, I’m hopeful that we can get rid of the waste, and get back to creating things of lasting value.

I’ve so often been struck by the incongruity of vast Chinese factories producing millions of truly useless goods, from tourist tchotchkes to marketing gimmickry. (I’ve often wondered: “What do they think of us, so rich that we can afford to spend money on so much that is useless!” And now we find that perhaps our wealth too was rooted in illusion.) And even when it comes to consumer electronics, we’ve built a throwaway culture rooted in waste. As Saul likes to say, you can’t imagine handing down “your grandfather’s iPod” the way you could your grandmother’s watch, or tools, or furniture, or books. It doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, technology improves and old devices get left behind, but there are so many innovations that could reduce waste, improve usability and create lasting value, things like standardized power adapters, open source hardware that is re-usable, modifiable, and repairable, as well as technology that is simple and robust enough to pass the test of time.

We’ve had a shock, yes, with more to come. But let’s hope it wakes us up. Let’s not lament it. Let’s embrace it, and use it to change our priorities. As I’ve said before, the best response to the downturn is to work on stuff that matters!

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  • http://dansteingart.com Dan Steingart

    Very well said. Perhaps we need to go beyond “open sourced hardware”, in the sense that an open design does not ensure a serviceable design.

    It’s like “designed for manufacturing”, but “designed for remanufacturing,” or something like that. Not designed to fail, but designed to evolve.

    A lot to ponder.

  • http://blog.russnelson.com/ Russell Nelson

    Green Plug is possibly not something to advocate, since it’s a proprietary technology. Yes, the client side is free software, but the server (charger) side is licensed software.

    A better standard (in the sense that it’s further towards actually being a standard, not because it’s a better technology) is USB charging.

  • http://socialuxe.com/ Eston

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say that I don’t think 2008 is going to be considered a year of peak consumption for anyone. The peak oil theory works not because people have chosen to consume less oil; it’s because the supply of oil completely ceases to exist. Oil suppliers can’t supply oil if it’s not around. Technology suppliers can still provide electronics; just because the market is contracted and supply has become more limited does not mean there is an asymptote upon its future expansion.

    The Chinese factories have been producing their ephemera because there are plenty of consumers that aren’t finding the ephemera useless. 2008 is no different than any other recession; the concepts of planned obsolescence have existed for nearly a century now as a way to maintain the speed at which we consume things (and in the process generate wealth in the economic sense.) Roughly fifty years ago, Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders criticised the same concepts of lack of value in technological innovation that you are resurfacing, and through the recessions we have been through since the 1920s American culture is still completely a consumer culture. The rest of the world has largely followed suit (this includes the societies of developing countries; China was a star growth sector for luxury goods in 2006.)

    I think you’re totally right about robust, simple technology. Robust, simple technology is what creates heirlooms such as your grandfather’s watch, but there have not been any real disruptive technologies in personal timekeeping for that heirloom to become relegated to a storage bin as opposed to still being worn upon the wrists of posterity. If we switched to a different time system than the watch can support, that watch would become as useless as the 33.6k modem collecting dust in my basement.

    Sure, heirlooms have sentimental value, but they also have a market value that has not really diminished over time. Watches, jewelry, and other luxury goods that maintain a timeless design can’t be (or rarely are) obsolesced by a disruptive technology. That’s why they are what they are. Even today you could sell an old luxury watch for a price close (or higher) to a new one.

    We’re just not there yet in consumer electronics, and we may never be. The iterative cycles in this industry are far too fast; the velocity of these cycles are multiplied by short product timelines, brutally intense competition and a lack of evolved technological standards.

    Furthermore, the early-adopter personalities of techies and the tech scene’s social structure also pin us this to this wasteful state: if we don’t have the latest technology, our own peers will look down on us. With the economic and social/evolutionary constraints on this industry, there’s no way we ever could create true heirlooms. The wasteful state will continue until either our technology life cycle slows dramatically or the economic and social incentives to maintain the desire for the “latest and greatest” stop. Neither seem to be coming true anytime soon, and in the case of the common tech consumer I believe the recession is more of a comforting rationalisation of the fact we can not currently afford as many of these goods than a true paradigm shift.

  • http://www.causecast.org/ Ryan Scott

    USB charging does make more sense, I think. And charge pads but open, open open!

    Everything must be open!

  • Bernard Golden

    Not to defend trash, but in a sector of the economy that is evolving rapidly, doesn’t it make sense to plan for obsolescence?

    It made sense to hand down grandfather’s watch because watches stayed pretty much the same (and therefore it made sense to manufacture them as stores of value with gold, jewels, etc).

    However, anything chip- and software-powered is evolving so rapidly that something five years old is ancient. It would be a waste of resources to build it for a 50 (or 100 or 200) lifespan. It might make sense to make the system upgradeable so that its innards could be swapped out, but even the displays are evolving tremendously, so not sure that would make sense, either.

  • http://www.mymeemz.com Alex Tolley

    Tim,
    I think you are viewing this through the wrong lens. When goods were durable and expensive, like watches, they were also very rare, relatively few people could afford one. Naturally, that made them cost effective to repair. The triumph of manufacturing has been that goods are now extremely cheap, so cheap that everyone can afford them but it also makes no sense to repair them, but rather through them away.

    The problem is not that they are cheap, or cost-ineffective to repair, but that they waste resources when they are discarded, rather than being recycled.

    Biology is also cheap, also extremely wasteful. The difference is that discarded organisms can be fully recycled quite quickly. We should really be attempting to emulate that model more. Manufactured goods should be easily disassembled and the parts either fully recyclable or at least non-toxic to dispose of. (And the manufacturing process be non-toxic too).

    I do agree with you that the world produces an awful lot of junk, but manufacturers wouldn’t make it if we stopped buying it. That requires more sovereignity on the part of consumers over their buying decisions.

  • http://www.makezine.com phillip torrone

    here’s something that i helped put together…

    =The Maker’s Bill of Rights=
    *Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included.
    *Cases shall be easy to open.
    *Batteries should be replaceable.
    *Special tools are allowed only for darn good reasons.
    *Profiting by selling expensive special tools is wrong and not making special tools available is even worse.
    *Torx is OK; tamperproof is rarely OK.
    *Components, not entire sub-assemblies, shall be replaceable.
    *Consumables, like fuses and filters, shall be easy to access.
    *Circuit boards shall be commented.
    *Power from USB is good; power from proprietary power adapters is bad.
    *Standard connecters shall have pinouts defined.
    *If it snaps shut, it shall snap open.
    *Screws better than glues.
    *Docs and drivers shall have permalinks and shall reside for all perpetuity at archive.org.
    *Ease of repair shall be a design ideal, not an afterthought.
    *Metric or standard, not both.
    *Schematics shall be included.

    @dan – i agree, “serviceable design” might not be open source hardware at all, it might just be another approach or practices for companies to consider

    oh, out of all the electronics i have, the “homemade” mp3 player i made is the only thing i can imagine “passing down” to the next generation – they’ll never need to worry about sending it off to get repaired because the only way to repair is to repair it yourself!

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Right.

    -t

  • Kurt Cagle

    I have in my basement two dead VCR players, a dead DVD player, two dead microwaves, two dead laptops, three dead computers, two dead monitors, not to mention several dead mp3 players, CD players and similar electronic gadgetry purchased within the last several years. I doubt very much that I am unusual in that regard.

    We have built a culture where we are willing to spend several thousand dollars on a piece of hardware that will last perhaps three years, and accept it as the price of technical innovation. Not surprisingly, I’ve stopped buying such gadgets unless I can’t live without them, and I’m finding increasingly that I can live without them just fine.

    Thrift is anathema to the consumer culture. What does that say about the consumer culture.

  • Falafulu Fisi

    Phillip said…
    here’s something that i helped put together…

    =The Maker’s Bill of Rights=
    *Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included.
    *Cases shall be easy to open.
    *…

    The minute you start doing that (over-regulation), then you can enjoy the mighty economic power of the US in decline over the coming decades. Entrepreneurs/businessmen need less regulations and not more.

    Why us in the West laments production and wealth? Is this some sort of western guilt, that we overproduce? Do we want countries that don’t respect individual rights to rise & prosper while the western civilization are on the decline? Imagine that Shanghai in the next 50 years will be the new Silicon Valley of this world?

    Stop this western guilt non-sense, and just enjoy the prosperity that overproduction gives us, because it ain’t gonna last forever. The undoing of the western economic power, will come from the sort of western guilt feeling of overproduction, therefore some it will prompt some do-gooders to lobby for legislation to slow it down, while 3rd world economies accelerate the rate of their production and hence their wealth.

  • http://www.makezine.com pt

    @Falafulu Fisi – regulation? no way! this isn’t something that would ever be legislation, the list of things from “The Maker’s Bill of Rights” are what people who make things (or would like to repair things) would like to see in the things they buy.

    smart companies can consider them and the market will decide. if our culture changes to desire goods that are more “user serviceable” or less proprietary then those companies will prosper.

    the software world had benefited from this approach and we’re slowly seeing hardware dipping its toes in opening up some of their hardware.

  • Phil Atio

    Very good points. I’d like to see more “serviceable design” but I wouldn’t want to pay extra for it. Especially now that money is tight.

    Saying “you can’t imagine handing down ‘your grandfather’s iPod’ the way you could your grandmother’s watch, or tools, or furniture, or books,” overstates the case. Consider visiting a Hamfest (a flea market for old electronics goods) to see used iPod-like products traded alongside tools and mechanical watches. Look at your own Make magazine or any of the hundreds of hardware hacking websites for examples of re-purposing electronic gadgets. With ingenuity and skill, you can hack, modify, repair, vivisect, or dissect modern electronics just as well as anything made in the 1960s. Modern products, such as webcams and digital microphones, are excellent building blocks. All you need is a good magnifying scope, a small soldering iron, and a steady hand.

    The throwaway character of modern electronics can be a virtue. Today the kid next door doesn’t hesitate to crack open and play with an iPod’s innards, but I sure would never have done that to my family’s stereo (a huge piece of furniture that cost a week’s pay) in the 1960s. Even when I found a stereo set in a dumpster, it was too big to lug back home on my bicycle.

    We DO live in a golden age. There is more opportunity for creativity than ever and we should celebrate, not decry, its potential.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Phil,

    I agree that modern consumer electronics can be a treasure trove of parts, but how much more could they be re-usable if the products were designed with that in mind?

    Bernard, I think upgradability would take us further than you think.

    Falafulu Fisi – I think that the developing economies will realize the pinch of throwaway culture at the same time as we do (maybe sooner – see current factory shutdowns in China.) But you’re right that this shouldn’t be a matter of regulation but of marketplace sensibility, a “flight to quality” if you will.

  • http://www.axoplasm.com Paul Souders

    …you can’t imagine handing down “your grandfather’s iPod”…

    We’ll have to wait 40 years to see if it lasts as long as my father’s Elgin but my vintage 2002 iPod is on its third (!) battery and sees the most use of the four iPods in our house.

    It’s no coincidence that it’s also the most extensible. I’ve cracked the case three times, loaded on Linux, use it like an external hard-drive. The iTouch feels like a glittery prison in comparison.

    My gadgets don’t suddenly stop working — they just seem less and less compelling as time rolls by. The obsolescence is between my ears.

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com/antje Antje Wilsch

    I love this post. I am actually saddened to see that due to the national economy the gas prices have been pushed back down and even saw a journalist online talking to a man who said he regretted buying a small car (!) now. How can one regret to do things that are for the long-term betterment?

    Pushing gas up to $10/gallon would force innovation. I’m sorry but you can’t tell me we don’t have the technology for ALL cars to get 50mpg these days.

    Going to the store and seeing how much STUFF there is there, how much packaging, how many animals etc. for our personal consumption is to me just jaw-dropping when it was only 100 years ago that one small general store had pretty much everything a person needed.

    Anyway, Happy Holidays to everyone! :)

  • http://donotreadthisblogunless.blogspot.com/ Nicholas Chase

    Tim,

    Count on O’Reilly to come up with meaningful insights into the ‘crush’ our technologies place upon the Earth’s bountiful resources.

    Consider this, everything we need was provided for our use before we were even born. Air, minerals, water, fuels, sustainable bio-environments, and a brain that thirsts for knowledge to utilize these components to enhance our existence.

    The precise positioning of the sun to prevent baking our planet dry, but not so far to permit global freezing.

    It is remarkable that everyone marvels at the modern technological products we enjoy, but no one gives thought to who provided the raw materials, the original renewable ‘cyclical’ resources that form the basis for the technologies we enjoy.

    I appreciate that I live in a generation that is becoming more sensitive to the issues raised by just ‘producing stuff’ without regard to it’s long term impacts on our Earth.

    If we get this wrong, people will cease to exist, but the planet has sub-systems in place to sustain itself long after we have departed.

    As we recover from the current financial period, and history tells us we will eventually, it gives one pause to see how immature our financial markets are, trusting ink on paper, and perceived value of a share of stock, to globally affect so many people.

    How sad it is that a few greedy traders and mortgage bankers have melted down our recently strong economies. The greatest nation can be brought to it’s knees by ‘thoughts’, how Orwellian is that?

    Respectfully,

    Nicholas Chase
    http://www.twitter.com/nachase
    BLOG: http://donotreadthisblogunless.blogspot.com/

    http://donotreadthisblogunless.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.postlinearity.com gregorylent

    glad that it is finally safe for mainstream voices to say such things … it has been a long time coming …

  • Claudia

    We need to manufacture quality products with standardized parts- that are fixable.

    In 50 years we’ve gone from a ‘can-do’ to a ‘must-have’ nation, with a 70% functional illiteracy rate. Unless we turn that around, we haven’t got a chance.

  • http://www.mymeemz.com Alex Tolley

    @phillip torrone

    “*Docs and drivers shall have permalinks and shall reside for all perpetuity at archive.org.”

    Yes. Just acquiring documentation for any consumer electronics even a few years old is becoming very expensive. There are sites selling these things for more that the used kit is worth.

    Today I have been clearing out old electronics stuff from the garage. There seems to be an abundance of old keyboards (unrecyclable thermosetting plastics), unique voltage and connector power adapators, old hard drives and oodles of spare wired connectors.

    Now what might be useful is if some organization[s] provides a place for me to take this stuff for the parts scavengers to pore over. It certainly isn’t worth my time to do anything else other than take it to a close by facility or put it into the recycling container or garbage whichever is appropriate.

  • http://www.mymeemz.com Alex Tolley

    @Claudia

    “We need to manufacture quality products with standardized parts- that are fixable.”

    Provide some examples. Our technology does not do this well. The best examples I know of are fastenings and connectors. I would really like to see power adapters come is just a few sizes and with a few interchangeable or modifiable connectors. But most parts are unique and appropriately so.

  • David Rippe

    I’ve often wondered: “What do they think of us, so rich that we can afford to spend money on so much that is useless!”

    I’ll tell you what one of my Chinese friends thinks. He owns a manufacturing business in China, and he laughs about it with me. He says he doesn’t understand it, but the fact remains that Americans will buy any worthless piece of crap he can possibly make, no matter how ridiculous it may seem to him.

    All he has to do is hire new designers to design more new junk and he makes more sales and increases his net worth because Americans buy it all every time – in huge volume – and that’s what’s making him a multi-millionaire.

    I say “good for him” because all he has done is to find a need and fill it, and that’s what good business is all about everywhere in the world.

  • http://decisionvelocity.net David Meyer

    I enjoyed this post, so much that I cross-blogged about it here http://tinyurl.com/8d8ag9 … I’m delighted that our culture is finally slowing down and re-examining it’s priorities, regardless of the cause.

  • https://www.xing.com/profile/Martin_Lawrence Martin Lawrence

    Tim,

    first of all: merry christmas from Germany. Thankful to have your thinking around – in particular in this time of global crisis.

    I fully agree. Is not one of the principles underlying the success of the x86 franchise the reusability of its components?
    Just imagine that, when buying a new PC, you could NOT reuse any of your software and peripherals. What would that have done to PC sales cycles?

    Regards, Martin

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Martin -

    Really good point about the PC ecosystem as an example of re-usability and extensibility driving value across a business ecosystem.

    In these tough economic times, I’m hopeful that someone rediscovers that idea for common classes of consumer electronics.

    But it’s also important to think about for all products. How long will they last? What’s the total lifetime value?

  • http://my.nowpublic.com/tech-biz/getting-beyond-my-goring-moment Michael Tippett

    I had similar thoughts back in October. I wrote piece on NowPublic where I said:

    But is there some good that could come of this turmoil, chaos and ruin? Maybe we’ll return to a saner world, the one our grandparents inhabited, where the measure of a man wasn’t the size of his SUV or the flatness of his television. Perhaps the correction isn’t simply a market correction. Perhaps it is not just stocks that we’ve over valued but a purely consumer driven culture. Maybe the declines we should be horrified by are those that represent our fish stocks, fresh water supplies and topsoil. These are the declines that have resulted because of our economic growth to date. With every tree we cut down we are one tree poorer but a few GDP points stronger. But if the environment were listed on the NASDAQ it would be well off its highs. Our present course could not have continued forever.

    Perhaps a reinvented world will emerge that’s not based on the narcissistic consumption of junk designed for obsolescence and built by near slaves in hidden, toxic factories. These are ugly days but perhaps like a well applied treatment of botox, this episode will pass, the poison will work and we will emerge from this transformation a more beautiful world.

  • http://blog.purplearth.net Obbie Z

    Our consumption of the planet’s resources is unsustainable. Yet our economy is designed in such a way that it depends on consumption to continue. How to redesign our economy from one based on consumption to one based on conservation is a difficult question that I don’t have an answer for right now, but it’s something that MUST be done.

    A couple of thoughts on standardization: Back in the early 80′s, PC parts were largely interchangeable. Upgrading meant swapping motherboards. For many years, Apple offered new motherboards to their upgrading users. Now you have to buy a whole new system. The planet would be much better off if we’d swap parts, but manufacturers would whinge about making less money.

    We should apply the old “PC clone” model to the auto industry. Motor mounts and major hardware interfaces should be standardized. If you like Ford’s body design, but like Chevy engines better, you should be able to bolt a Chevy engine into a Ford body. Early VW engines could go into a bug, van, pickup, ghia… any car VW made used the same engine (or you could drop a Porche engine into it). If you need a new tranny, you should be able to buy one from anybody, not suffer thru the search for the one that bolts to your bell-housing that was only used for about a week.

    Phil: right on. Everything should be repairable, and rivets should be outlawed.

  • http://www.mymeemz.com Alex Tolley

    Thought experiment:

    2 products of equal functionality and durability. One can be repaired but costs 2x as much as the one that cannot. Which do you buy?
    Rationally the non-repairable one.

    Or:
    A product can be repaired but repair costs 2x as much in labor time as purchasing a new one. Do you repair or buy a new one?

    Are fine, highly durable products desirable?
    The assumption is that expensive, fine products are intrinsically desirable. We often think of grandfather’s fob watch, possibly handed down to him. But Thoreau reminded us (Walden Pond) that these things may be a burden. The more expensive and fine a product is, the more one is loathe to part with it and over the years acquires sentimental value, making its disposal impossible. Conversely, goods that are inexpensive and disposable are not likely to carry that emotional burden.

    I repeat my argument that repairability or reuse is not the issue – that is a result of the way goods are made. What is important is that goods can be recycled. Disassembly may require using screws as fasteners, but that should be the only similarity to repairable ones.

  • Robert Young

    The reason for the collapse is not that the West is too consumerist (all economies are consumer driven), but that in skew in income distribution since Bush has made it impossible for the “middle class” to sustain the economy. The China example is further proof of the problem: most of those Chinese workers can’t buy those Chinese goods.

    Back in the 1920′s Henry Ford pissed off the other automakers when he raised the wages of his workers, those other automakers wanted to continue an economy where only the rich few could afford a car. Ford knew, and said so, that if his workers could afford his cars, he’d sell more cars.

    The China problem (also India) makes manifest that the eternal problem is one of distribution. An export based economy is not self-sustainable; it is based on highly skewed income distribution, where the goods produced are not consumed simply because the indigenous population cannot buy the goods for lack of income.

    If the USofA continues on this path, we will have income distribution the same as China/India with 3/4 of the population at starvation wages. Anyone who disagrees should state a fact based counter argument.

  • http://nicksweeney.com Nick Sweeney

    Of course, the consequence of people being squeezed during this holiday season is that the x-marts become more popular: less crap might be bought, but more of it will be crappy crap. We’re at peak BS, and the NYT seems to have picked up on the phenomenon, suggesting that the Chinese willingness to buy US debt created the conditions for Americans to buy Chinese-made goods.

    But let’s get micro here: there’s a sweet-spot in tech between mass production and craftsmanship. The US occupied that spot for a long time: you can look at manual typewriters; or the fountain pens I collect from the middle decades of C-20. These were not luxury items: they were functional ones, built with use and wear and repair in mind. (Philip T: if you want a blueprint for your modern maker, look to the Parker and Sheaffer repair manuals.)

    Still, valuing reuse and repair entails valuing reusers and repairers, and that’s harder to do, when repair and reuse is necessarily localised, but replacement is rendered cheaper by labour arbitrage.

  • http://nickpoint.co.uk Nick Barker

    Hi Tim It’s seems you are a bit of a greenie?

    Our ‘golden age’ will turn sour and our legacy will be of plundering, selfish wastefulness. Just look at the excess of what Christmas has become – many of us eat too much when we are not hungry and waste money on things we really don’t need.

    We are putting half a billion years of carbon deposits back in the atmosphere in a mere 200 years. As Obbie says, unsustainable – your not kidding!! Whether based on low or high cost goods recycling is the future. It has to be because we are using all the plants resources at an increasing rate. The good news is that the current recession is slowing down emissions as it did in the 1930’s by 30%+.

    Our current economic system is the main route causes of the predicament we now find ourselves in i.e. the continued need for national growth based upon individual rationality. Don’t get me wrong I’m a free market capitalist but we must change. Fix economics whist fixing climate change. It’s a big task. This monster of a downturn is probably our one time opportunity to change before we leave an unstoppable legacy. The recession is really a blessing in disguise.

    P.S. – I’m a capitalist but also bit of a greenie

  • http://nickpoint.co.uk Nick Barker

    Hi Tim It’s seems you are a bit of a greenie?

    Our ‘golden age’ will turn sour and our legacy will be of plundering, selfish wastefulness. Just look at the excess of what Christmas has become – many of us eat too much when we are not hungry and waste money on things we really don’t need.

    We are putting half a billion years of carbon deposits back in the atmosphere in a mere 200 years. As Obbie says, unsustainable – your not kidding!! Whether based on low or high cost goods recycling is the future. It has to be because we are using all the plants resources at an increasing rate. The good news is that the current recession is slowing down emissions as it did in the 1930’s by 30%+.

    Our current economic system is the main route causes of the predicament we now find ourselves in i.e. the continued need for national growth based upon individual rationality. Don’t get me wrong I’m a free market capitalist but we must change. Fix economics whist fixing climate change. It’s a big task. This monster of a downturn is probably our one time opportunity to change before we leave an unstoppable legacy. The recession is really a blessing in disguise.

    P.S. – I’m a capitalist but also bit of a greenie

  • http://www.replicatorinc.com Joseph Flaherty

    In addition to resusable and open technology I would say aesthetics are an important aspect of making things long lasting. Most consumer electronics get tossed partly because the mindset is plastic is disposable and partly because plastic ages poorly.

    One of the big thinkers at IDEO, Diego Rodriguez, coined the term “Beausage” as in Beautiful+Usage and called for designers to consider how their products will age. Examples like a worn-in leather jacket, well-used tools, and ancient ruins demonstrate how things can be designed to age gracefully.

    Apple moving to metal and glass for almost all of their products could do a lot to change this mindset.

    If you want to read more about “Beausage” this is the post that coined the term:

    http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2005/05/beausage.html