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Can Tide Save The Planet?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on January 4, 2009

Here is an interesting factoid that I picked up visiting Craig Vogel’s LiveWell Collaborative design and innovation program at the University of Cincinnati a few weeks back.

According to Procter and Gamble, if every household in the US switched to Tide Cold Water, and didn’t use hot water to wash clothes, the results would be:

1) a 3% decline in total US energy consumption;

2) a $67 annual saving for each US household in energy costs;

3) 8% of the total US pledge to reduce CO2 in the Kyoto Protocol (which it didn’t sign) would be met.

This is from one product doing one thing. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to reduce CO2 emissions, if we really tried.

Reader Comments

Paul W. Swansen

January 4, 2009 5:35 PM

Yes and if we did this, then all of P&G competitors would be lining up for a bailout due to the drastic decline in their business. No thanks.

Steve Portigal

January 4, 2009 7:26 PM

Or just do what we do at our house: don't wash your clothes in hot water anyway. It's kind of cynical of P&G to optimize a product (a questionable) claim for that common use case and then claim environmental benefits. Greenwash your clothes with Tide.

j david

January 5, 2009 5:42 PM

The change you (or P&G) describe creates an option to create a 3% decline in energy consumption, a $67 (average, I assume) annual savings, and 8% of the US pledge for CO2 reduction. It does not, without a number of significant accompanying steps, accomplish those things. For example, power generators would need to stop firing coal, natural gas and oil boilers--not just ground more power or turn off turbines. This is not automatic.

Exercising that option would (likely) be more expensive. Who is doing the best design thinking about how to create, price and exercise these options?


January 6, 2009 4:24 AM

4. And have no collective memory of white underwear ever again.

David Rankin

January 8, 2009 4:20 PM


Thanks for sharing this.

My sense is that products like this "Tide Cold Water," provide an option for the kind of impact you describe, but can not guarantee the results you describe. These products create the potential for the power generation/transmission/use system to achieve those targets, but require many other actions, some of which will undoubtedly add costs to the equation. It would probably be useful to explore such products as real options, and further explore how to price and use them.

Were these folks thinking about the entire system they were tinkering with, or was this example of "added benefits" external to the product and its use?
Who is doing the best design thinking on the creative development, deployment, and pricing of these options?

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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