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The Simple Life


By Aaron Dalton

Published Oct 1, 2007 8:00 AM

Bruin Frank Yang is all about sustainability.

You wouldn't expect a toilet brush to be a weapon in the war against environmental waste. But sustainability starts in the home as well as in efforts like UCLA's campuswide initiatives and this year's "green" Oscars, which trumpeted renewable energy credits, hybrid transportation and biodegradable dishware.

Sustainable Interest

Browse the product line here. Learn more about UCLA's sustainability efforts, find out about green jobs on campus, and more at

Sustainable design also can take the form of a paper towel rack, a trash can or a coffee machine. That's the premise behind simplehuman, the company started by Frank Yang '94 to maximize the efficiency of everyday objects.

Yang discovered industrial design in his junior year through his future wife, graphic design major Sandy Chen '93. Though a political science major, he was inspired in a UCLA class with Paola Antonelli, a design superstar who is now a curator at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

After working five years at his father's shelving company, Yang started his own business. In 2000, he unveiled his first product: a stainless steel trash can with a recessed step pedal designed to withstand 150,000 steps (durable enough to offer a 10-year warranty). Since then, his product line has grown to include dish racks, paper towel holders, soap pumps and more.

With celebrities patronizing a new retail store in the Westfield Century City shopping center and simplehuman products selling briskly at stores like Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, it seems that Yang is well on his way to spreading the gospel of function before form.

"Nobody wants to replace a trash can three times in five years," he says. "I think people are sick of buying and throwing things away."