Unilever now asks customers, stakeholders, entrepreneurs, inventors—anyone, really–to submit ideas for a next-generation sustainable shower. Launched this week in Europe, this competition culls ideas for showers that will save water and energy, yet will still offer that refreshing morning, or evening, experience. Submitted ideas will then be crowdsourced so people can vote on the best concepts. The top prize wins €5,000, and four runners-up will split another €5,000. Unilever will work with the creative firm eYeka to find a new shower that will “wow” the multinational “with an original and revolutionary design for the next generation of showers.”
Participants in the contest just have to follow a few guidelines. The shower had better recycle water. Such a contraption must fit in a space where a conventional shower is generally located in a bathroom. It has to be affordable, pleasurable and also “deliver a better sensorial experience.”
Sharing one’s ideas for a futuristic sustainable shower is relatively easy. All a contest participant has to do is allow eYeka to access his or her personal information via enrolling in the contest via one of the major social media channels (there is always a catch!). Attention to function, design and sustainability is paramount. In sum, the experience really should not be different from one is taken in a standard shower, and hopefully, perform even better.
Unilever’s contest, which ends on September 8, is just another example of how organizations are trying to rethink how consumers use water in a world that has less and less of it. The Gates Foundation, for example, has sponsored a contest searching for the next-generation toilet. As the emerging middle class grows worldwide, so has the demand for the Victorian-era invention. In the case of showers, even though they use less water than baths and plenty of water efficient shower heads are on the market, water consumption due to the desire for cleanliness will only increase worldwide. The call to simply take shorter showers is noble, but is not enough in a world becoming more and more thirsty for water.
The shower crowdsourcing contest, part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, is another cog in the company’s agenda to transform its business model to increase profits while becoming more “sustainable.” Admirable, but as is the case with many multinationals, the devil is in the big picture. Speaking of showers, for example, while Unilever worked on various water stewardship projects around the world, it turned out its profitable shower gel product lines were full of plastic micro beads further contributing to the degradation of the world’s oceans. The company has since pledged to eliminate them by 2015. Let’s also not forget a bevy of Unilever products contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which could have long term effects on human health. Safer personal care products would help this cause, too.
So stay tuned as the fun begins next month. And if you have ideas to discuss, share them—as of yet response to the contest has been tepid.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Leon Kaye]