Preserve: Proving Plastic Needn't Be Bad for the Environment

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
A Father's Lesson Inspires Groundbreaking Company: The Preserve Story

When Preserve founder Eric Hudson was meeting with plastics manufacturers back in the mid-'90s to make the first toothbrush for his new company, he would start by talking about how it would encourage better brushing.

Specifically, Hudson would walk would-be manufacturers through the unique forward-angle design, which he created with the help of his dad, a former car and boat designer.

It wasn't until the third or fourth meeting, when he thought he might have them sold on the idea, that Hudson would tell them what really made his brushes special.

Hudson didn't want to make the brushes out of new plastic, which is easy to work with. He wanted to use recycled plastics -- and not just any plastic, but No. 5 polypropylene, the stuff yogurt cups and bottle tops are made out of. At the time, most of it was ending up in landfills.

Out of that trash, Preserve would come to produce an entirely different creation.

Chapter 1: Redefining Sustainability

Hudson's reluctance to mention his vision upfront may seem strange now, but in the mid-1990s recycling was just gaining a foothold across America. While cities had begun collecting plastic, there were very few useful products being made from it, and none were being made from No. 5 polypropylene.

Hudson was neither a plastics expert nor an environmental crusader. But the Massachusetts native and former Fidelity securities trader was fresh out of Babson College, where he'd picked up an MBA and nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit. His grandparents were the founders of Brookstone, and his father was an industrial engineer. After years of trading stock, he longed to create something real. Now he just needed a product.

Credit: Lee StraussAmong the household goods Preserve produces using recycled plastics are colanders.
He'd always cared about the environment, and after reading a news story about the Fresh Kills Landfill on New York's Staten Island -- which was turning away trash barges because it was bursting at the seams with garbage -- an idea started taking shape.

"I remember reading about this and going, 'We're really running out of landfill space,' " Hudson says. "We really need to take on this recycling challenge and say, 'We've got to start converting this stuff into useful products made in the United States of America.' "

Speaking of useful products, Hudson had long been kicking around an idea for a backward-sloping toothbrush or idea for a reverse-angle toothbrush -- one that would allow him to brush as his dentist had always instructed. He worked with plastics and dental experts on the design, and a few months after submitting plans to the Food and Drug Administration, he was given the green light. Now he just needed a manufacturer.

Recycled plastics don't always melt and blend as neatly as virgin materials, so they can be hard to work with. Hudson eventually found a company in Tennessee willing to take up the challenge.

The next challenge would be find consumers to buy it and use it. Did the world need another toothbrush, especially one made out of garbage?

"Does it make sense to launch a product everybody uses, and that everybody uses in their mouth, made from recycled materials?" Hudson remembers asking himself. "Is this OK?"

Two decades later, the answer is yes.

Preserve is now a well-established company with 13 employees, a massive supply chain, and four manufacturing partners making not just toothbrushes, but also razors, reusable tableware -- including plates, cups, and cutlery -- and kitchenware items like colanders and food-storage containers.

Hudson no longer downplays the environmental angle. He puts it right on the company's packaging: "Made with love and recycled yogurt cups."

7 Simple Strategies for a Frugal, Prosperous Life
See Gallery
Preserve: Proving Plastic Needn't Be Bad for the Environment

Securing a favorable interest rate is a prime way to maximize savings. On a major loan repayment like a mortgage, a little upfront effort can save you considerable amounts for years to come. To cash in on this frugal hack, you need to get your credit in shape. That means checking your credit history, making payments on time (and in full), and reducing your debt to available credit ratio as much as possible. It means paying down your balances on all your credit card accounts. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest payments and the higher your savings.

Adjust your withholding exemptions so that your payments to Uncle Sam match your actual tax liability, and you won't wind up with a big refund come April. As exciting as it is to get that big check in the mail, that's money you've been loaning to the government for free rather than having it grow in your own savings and investment accounts. As of the start of April this year, the average tax refund was $2,831. That's $235 a months' worth of money that could be working for you.

Just 10 to 20 minutes on the phone with your cable company, cell phone rep, or any other service provider can result in recurring monthly savings through old-fashioned negotiation. If you're not getting anywhere after asking for a lower rate, ask for the cancellation (or retention) department and see what offers start to come in. If you're unable to haggle down to get the savings you want, you can always shop providers to get your service elsewhere -- probably with a new-customer discount rate, too.

While bulk buying can sometimes lead to unnecessary purchases and overspending, it's a great strategy for savings on nonperishable items like paper products, cleaning supplies and alcohol. When you stock up, you save on the unit price and the trips to the store to restock.

Other than the obvious benefits of reduced health care costs over time, exercising and living a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle can provide some more immediate savings on your insurance premiums.

More stuff equals more to maintain, clean and devote time and energy to. From the size of your home to the size of your clothing collection, more "stuff" generates more expenses. Downsize and watch your savings soar.

For each year after full retirement age that you delay taking Social Security benefits, you accumulate a permanent increase in your benefits of 5 to 8 percent until age 70. This one strategy can increase your Social Security retirement income by more than 25 percent. It would take a lot of penny-pinching to add up to that kind of income boost.
Read Full Story

People are Reading