We Need to Think to Save Our Planet …

In this mobile age, we’re all familiar with the problem of different sockets for electrical products in different countries. Traveling to Thailand? You’ll need a Type B or Type C adapter to recharge your camera. Touring Tahiti? Bring your Type A adapter for your iPod. Tramping through Tanzania – then you better pack a Type D or Type G adapter for your laptop. Due to various historical and geo-political reasons, each country has adopted different standards (and voltages) for the humble wall socket – a decision which has infuriated millions of businessman and travelers alike and caused billions of dollars in lost productivity. Which, as fate would have it, has only been offset by the highly profitable global adapter/converter industry it has spawned.

Now add on top of this the global supply chain and the production of consumer electronics for multiple markets. What’s a company to do if it is manufacturing and selling printers to Thailand, Tanzania and Tahiti – all shipped from the same factory? I imagine that Hewlett Packard, a most respectable company, must have faced this very issue when they came to designing their Laserjet Pro series of printers, one of which I recently purchased. Now, the printer is exactly the same for each country, it’s just this one little plug at the end that needs to be different?!

What to do? Well, one way would be to include three different power plugs (as highlighted with the red circles in the picture)…

Three Plugs or One? Ask 'Which is better for the Earth and your profitability?'

But wait a minute, including three different power plugs immediately means I will never use two. Why do I need the other two? It is a waste of resources and an unnecessary cost – ie lost profit. For the sake of simplicity (or laziness) no effort has been made to control which power-cord should be in which box for which market. This may be justified for reasons of inventory control.

But surely there must be a better way. And there is – why not include an adapter with changeable heads? That’s exactly what Apple Inc, does (See the green box in the picture). The top part of the adapter can be removed and changed to suit the different socket heads for each country. Simple, elegant and it takes a lot less space, metal and plastic than having three separate cords.

The challenge for our generation, and particularly those of us in developed countries, is how to maintain our quality of life while using less and less resources. That’ll take some creative thinking!

Have you got other examples of egregious wastage? Or brilliant earth saving ideas? Please share!


  1. David, did u know they actually sell 6 in 1 adapters at hkia? I didn’t know they existed until this year but managed to pick one up at the airport while we were there.. And it’s like 6 input types and 6 output types all in one device! Genius!

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