I am in the business of green as are most of my friends and acquaintances but there was more green noise yesterday than I could even stand or absorb.
With all due respect and tongue in cheek, You know I am obligated to add to it.
“Top Ten Signs You Might Have Over Done Earth Day”
1. You now work the word “Eco-nomical” into every conversation
2. Your “genius” Earth Day Party Hat Collection made out of used plastic milk bottles did not sell well
3. You won “best float” in the Earth Day parade because you were the only entry
4. You are now contemplating cosmetic surgery to look more like Al Gore or maybe Tipper.
5. Your friends and family got ill at your Earth Day party because of your previously used, recycled paper plates
In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you I consider Wendy a personal friend and ally in our efforts to help make the world greener through packaging. Even though the book includes a photograph of my incredibly cute granddaughter (intro, page VI) and a reprint of something I recently wrote (page 14), I have absolutely no problem being straightforward with my comments on her book. In fact I would dare to say our relationship and friendship would suffer if I was less than honest in my appraisal of Wendy’s work.
“Sustainability isn’t hard: it’s just not simple”
That is the opening thought Wendy shares with us in her introduction, and I will admit that my initial concern was that any book about sustainability authored by a designer, especially an accomplished, talented designer like Wendy, would be technical and therefore somewhat boring for the average, non-designer reader like yours truly. I am very pleased to say Wendy wrote a book that can and should be read by anyone and everyone interested in sustainability from a buyer or seller, user or provider perspective. In other words, almost anyone with even a passing interest in green or in packaging can and will enjoy and learn something from reading Packaging Sustainability.
No magic solutions or secret ingredients provided
Wendy offers no easy answers because there rarely are any. For the person interested in a quick solution or an easy way out, there is none to be had in this book or any other book that is truthful and well informed. On the plus side, this book does not read like a designer’s text book and is filled with excellent case studies, examples and of course Wendy’s well informed insight and very obvious experience. If you too have strong feelings about sustainability, you may not always fully agree with everything Wendy has written but you undoubtedly will conclude it is well thought out and well presented.
One of the best parts of doing what we do is the opportunity to meet some really neat people doing some terrific things for the world we all share. We were recently contacted by Mark Simmons, one of the co-founders of www.Useless.org a unique company selling very useful products for a very good cause. They donate 10% of their profits to fund water and sanitation projects worldwide.
Did someone say “eco-consistency”?
Regular readers know that eco-consistency is my mantra, but when I spoke to Mark that was exactly what he was trying to accomplish. He was committed to buying packaging materials that communicated and confirmed his company’s very deep and sincere values of protecting the earth and “using less”. It sounded like a perfect application for Globe Guard 100% recycled PCW content corrugated boxes and it was.
Eco friendly corrugated boxes – to print or not to print
Even though we heavily promote our stock box unprinted program, we also understand the need for customization and branding. Today, well over half of our Globe Guard box business is custom grade, custom print or custom size. Realizing the importance of branding, especially at this early stage of his company’s development, Mark decided he wanted their logo printed on the box, in white - a most unusual color for box printing. I was not sure how white ink would turn out on a brown box, but the end result is a marvelous shade of green (packaging).
Whether you are talking about composting, oxo-degradability or biodegradability, the options are numerous, the facts confusing and the claims are very often downright misleading. The cartoon shown is appearing in the April issue of Packaging World magazine and it would be great if any degradable packaging product really worked as well or as quickly as the product Eco Ed is complaining about. The fact is that few do.
This option seems to be the favorite of food service companies because quite often their waste includes scrap food waste. It would be absolutely fantastic if that disposable plate, spoon, or clamshell style container could be composted along with the food waste it may contain and then the earth would be a big, happy and green place. Unfortunately the fine print on most “compostable” products is that it will only degrade or breakdown in a municipal or industrial compost facility.
So I went to www.findacomposter.com and typed in my home state of Illinois. I was pleased to see seven composting facilities listed but when I clicked for more information I found out they all do composting of yard waste, not the type of food and food service waste we need to be processed. Keep in mind there are people who buy these products who actually believe they will be able to process them in their back yard compost heap. All I can suggest is keep the house in the family and perhaps the grand kids will live long enough see these products degrade.
Our eco friendly packaging store www.GlobeGuardProducts.com shows just a small sampling of the most popular types of packaging papers, in the most popular width – 24”. The truth is that we offer many more sizes, weights and grades than we can possible show on a web store. Virgin and recycled Kraft, bogus, and newsprint for interleaving, surface protection, cushioning and especially for void fill. They are all excellent materials when used for the correct application but we have found a new favorite and so have our customers. – indented recycled Kraft paper.
What is indented Kraft paper?
Indented is Kraft paper that has been run through a secondary process giving it a raised, bumpy finish which makes it softer to the touch while making it tougher and better for certain applications. For example, it does a better job of filling a void within a box being shipped because the indenting makes it more voluminous and bulkier. Hence you wind up using less of it to fill the same size void and it is more effective in protecting the product, especially if it is heavier, has sharper edges or is more likely to be damaged in shipment.
Packaging paper that does not hurt economically or physically
Since the indented Kraft paper we sell is 100% recycled content, it is considered eco friendly and because you use far less of it, it is green from that aspect as well. Let’s not forget using less also results in a lower unit cost which is good for the pocket book, especially in these tough economic times.
We recently showed 60# indented Kraft to a lady who packs boxes all day and with an immediate large smile on her face, she proclaimed, “no more paper cuts”. As soon as she touched it she immediately realized our paper was softer and would not result in the skin on her fingers and hands being painfully slit on an almost daily basis. Yet she could also see that it was stronger and would do an excellent job of satisfying her void fill needs.
In my opinion, there are some concepts and ideas in sustainability that are still not as well understood and accepted as they should be. Back in November, 2007 I wrote an article for Sustainable Is Good titled “The One Material Myth” .
The theme of that article was that in many cases, a combination of two, easily separated and sorted materials is a much better sustainable solution compared to one material that is not as eco–friendly or as easily recycled.
The key to that theory and statement is “easily separated and sorted”. Recently I have been seeing a rash of two material packaging products being sold under a green flag that are absolutely terrible in terms of sustainability. They are virtual green dead ends because the final outcome will always be a land fill.
Eco Dead End Products
A terrific example of this is the cushioned or lined mailer envelope. The make and model is not important or whether the mailer is lined with foam or a bubble product. If the liner is fused to the paper, no one is going to separate and recycle either material so the whole mailer winds up in the trash. The mailer in the photo brags about its 100% recycled paper with 25% PCR. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is wonderful that they are using recycled content paper. However I know the unsuspecting public is buying this product, thinking they are doing a good thing for the environment and not even realizing that since it is lined with a plastic bubble cushion inside, it cannot and will not ever be recycled.
As we have mentioned before, we enjoy helping customers switch from pressure sensitive tape to water activated tape (WAT) because we are convinced it is a more eco friendly and usually, a better way to seal a box.
WAT Dispenser Cost Can Be an Obstacle
I think most people realize paper water activated tape is a more sustainable than plastic pressure sensitive tape and the reasons are well documented, including several times on this blog. Up to now, we offered two WAT dispensers, both of excellent quality but the prices have been $395 for the semi-automatic unit and $995 for our electric unit. This has often been a major problem for low volume customers or even larger volume tape users with multiple packing and taping stations.
An Unfair Comparison of Tape Applicators
“But my plastic tape supplier gives me my tape guns for free”. I have heard this many times and am amazed some people still don’t realize they are paying for those “free or low cost” pressure sensitive tape applicators, in any number of ways -
It probably sounds strange coming from us because we are so outspoken critics of waste and we encourage using less whenever possible. However, the first objective of being a sustainable (green) business is to be a sustainable (viable) business. At times like this, saving money is a necessary objective for financial and even practical reasons. It does not help the green cause if a eco minded business goes broke because it failed to reduce costs whenever possible, without compromising their green values.
Last week I received a call from a company that uses four different size plastic slip sheets as inter-leavers during their manufacturing and in plant material handling. The sheets are placed between products to prevent abrasion but are removed and discarded when the product is packed into individual boxes. Their goal was to be as green as possible and ideally to reduce the cost of these, single use disposable sheets.
After a review of the use, customer expectations, etc., we discovered an important piece of information. To avoid dimensions, let’s say they use a “small” sheet, a slightly larger “medium”, a substantially oversized, “large” sheet and an even a slightly larger “extra large”. Four sizes and the relatively small volume on each are almost identical. We also determined that for no good apparent reason, they were using a high quality, high clarity, food grade, low density polyethylene virgin resin formulation.
In fact our green idea is fairly small and is only 15.75” X 14.25” X 9” high at its greatest dimensions. Some might even call it compact, so it can more easily be utilized in a small home or business office environment.
What we offer is a ratherunique recycling tote constructed out of Globe Guard 100% recycled content corrugated. It is neutral, natural brown Kraft colored in color so it does not clash with any décor. We realize competitive products are often bright colored plastic but ours is not designed to double as a highway traffic control device. Furthermore, if you are one of the many people who advocate the limited use of plastic, isn’t it a bit inconsistent to utilize a plastic recycling bin for your paper waste?
If you are a regular reader you know we like to have fun with our topics and we are most definitely enjoying this one. In fact I am going to state that when designing our recycling tote, we strictly adhered to the following three R’s:
Here's good news for a struggling economy - sustainable packaging should never involve spending more money. Quite often, making secondary packaging more eco friendly is simply a matter of taking advantage of old ideas.
Box sealing tape is a good example. Most shippers use an RSC style corrugated box and use multiple strips of paper or plastic box sealing tape to secure it for shipment. Because an RSC box has two flaps that meet in the center of the box along its length dimension, a good deal of tape is required for the job.
But what if, instead of an RSC, you used a full overlap (FOL) box or a tuck-in folder? Pictured below is a tuck folder. An FOL is similar in concept, only the flap doesn't tuck in.
With these box styles, one or more "L-Clips" of filament tape can be used to seal the box for shipment. Not only does the L-Clip sealing method reduce packaging material use, it speeds up the case sealing process and is easier for the recipient to open.