Products and Services I'd Like to See

A daily dishwasher. Ok, I was just noticing how much time I spend washing dishes. A glass here, a cereal bowl there. Yes, I try to limit my dishwashing to once a day, but sometimes things pile up. In reality, I spend nearly an hour cleaning up after myself in the kitchen every day. Washing dishes is by far the greatest use of water in my house. Using a calculator, I estimated that I use about 40 gallons of water a day in the kichen alone. That's as much as it takes to fill up my washing machine. That is waaaaaaaay too much.

The average dishwasher only uses 9-11 gallons of water per load. I grew up in a family of 6. Our dishwasher was standard size and trust me, we never did dishes unless some item flat out wouldn't fit in the dishwasher. Even then, it took several days to get up a full load of dishes to wash. According to the US Census Bureau, the average household size in America is 2.59. We don't need giant dishwashers. In fact, we need much, much smaller dishwashers. I would like to see a dishwasher about the size of a large microwave oven (reorganized obviously to accommodate a variety of dish sizes and types), that uses less than 8 gallons of clean water per load. In any event, I'm beginning to think of a dishwasher as an energy-efficient and conservation-minded appliance at this point.

Smaller refrigerators with better layout. I have been shopping for a new refrigerator of late. Methinks my current fridge is on its last legs. Anyone who has spent any time wandering around the appliance section of Sears knows that small refrigerators, which are more in keeping with small household sizes, are not popular. Fridges are remarkably large. Unbelievably large. Who the hell needs all that room? And the larger the fridge, the more thoughtful the layout. Freezers on the bottom. French doors. Drawers and shelves that make sense. But if you want a small fridge for a single person or a small family? You get a basic box with one or two drawers at the bottom, shelving that makes poor use of the door and the body of the box. Is there some reason that we can't have a top-end small fridge? For crying out loud already.

Cost-effective hybrid vehicles. How do you get people to drive green? Make cars that save them money. As Edmunds has pointed out, most hybrid vehicle owners pay a premium for doing the right thing. Isn't the point of hybrid vehicles to reduce our dependence on foreign oil AND save money for the consumer? At present, if not for the tax credits, buying a hybrid vehicle is silly since it's operating costs are greater than gasoline-only equivalents. Automakers need to mass market hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles and bring the price down.

A sensible rail system. I lived in Chicago for years. After spending my first year driving 23 miles from Westmont to Lake Shore Drive, I made the switch to the Burlington Northern commuter system. I did this for years. The commuter rail system works. It was reasonably priced, quick, convenient, and safe. If this most recent increase in gas prices has taught us anything it is this: people will use a rail system when transportation costs and/or traffic become a problem. I rode on Amtrack for the first time in years this year, and it was PACKED. Amtrack has added a shuttle between Carbondale and Chicago in the past year due to increased ridership. Don't even get me started on our Democratic governor (cough *asshole* cough) who has threatened to slash state funding for Amtrack to balance the budget. At this point, I don't think he can. Ridership is up too much. But cross-country travel via Amtrack is difficult and time-consuming. To get out west, I have to drive to St. Louis to catch a train. From Carbondale, I can only go north toward Chicago or south toward New Orleans. To get to Washington, D.C., for example, I'd have to first go to Chicago, then catch the Cardinal which runs, I believe only once a week. If you need any more justification for the benefits of rail travel in an environment of high fuel prices, just look at Europe. Nuff said?

Local food in major food chains. I'm tired of buying green peppers in the dead of summer from Argentina. Although I try to capitalize on locally proudced fresh fruits when I can, why do I have so few options? I'd like to see major grocery store chains committed to bringing local produce and meats to market in every market. I shouldn't have to trek down to the farmer's market every week to reduce my carbon footprint.

Speaking of which, I'd like to see a Carbon Footprint label on most products along the lines of the nutrition label on packaged foods. Such a simple comparison would certainly influence my buying habits.

Smaller houses with sensible, updated, space-efficient designs. I think we are beginning to see a market for this in retirement villages, but there is little indication that American's desire to go greener has in anyway abated our lust for bigger houses with more luxuries. Despite all our progress, we still mark our self-achievement by the size of our house and the neighborhood we live in. We have entire channels on cable devoted to the glorification of the luxury housing market. We are being told that everyone deserves a master bedroom suite with amenities that once defined the gilded age. One of the best ways to reduce your energy use is to decrease the size of the box you live in. Smaller houses with sensible layouts would go far toward meeting this goal.

Smaller stores that can compete with the big box crowd. I am a poor graduate student. I also live in rural America. Naturally, I shop at Walmart. I admit it. But when I walk around my store, which was recently remodeled, I am amazed at the amount of crap they sell. There are entire aisles devoted to scrapbooking, and don't get me started on the aisle upon aisle of holiday themed decorations. There are 2 aisles devoted to hair care. I wasn't aware that American hair was under assault. I don't need all that crap. I don't need 100,000 square feet of shopping space to buy the groceries I need. And don't get me started on the parking lot, the checkout lines, or a complete inability to get any help. I want smaller stores back. I'm even willing to pay a little more for it. Just get me out of that madness that is Walmart.

Resale stores. I can't believe our clothing reseller went out of business. I shopped there all the time. It will be missed.

Now it's YOUR turn. What products and services would you like to see? Maybe we can make some of this happen.

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