Sustainable Perspective

25 Nov 2009 An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude In our household and business we really try to maintain a grateful spirit but like most people, we are no where near perfect and always fail to maintain that thankful mindset for a whole week, let alone an entire year. The photo included in this post is of a print that is displayed in our office conference room and serves to remind us of our need to be thankful. However, since we don’t use that room on a daily basis, it is relatively easy to take our many blessings for granted. Thanksgiving Day For most people Thanksgiving is more than over eating, over drinking, football games and planning the crack of dawn assault at the local mall for the annual shopping ritual we’ve come to know as Black Friday. That is the beauty about Thanksgiving is that it creates a time and day when all of us pause for just a moment to give thanks and appreciation to whomever or whatever we believe deserves the credit. I sincerely try to speak to my God on a daily basis but I admit on most days it is praying for what I want and need, rather than giving thanks for what He has already provided. Prosperity Is All Relative
Read More

15 Oct 2009 Sustainable Packaging and Staples – Still Not Easy!

[caption id="attachment_926" align="alignnone" width="350" caption="Staples Packaging Leaves Much to Be Desired"]Staples Packaging Leaves Much to Be Desired[/caption] Earlier this year, January 13th to be exact, I posted an article complaining about some very eco unfriendly secondary packaging I had received from one of our favorite suppliers, Staples. Large retailers often appear to be leading the green charge so the interest level they create is usually high and this was no exception. The post was soon picked up by Green Biz and other eco focused blogs and I even contacted them on at least two occasions and offered my services at no cost so I could help them determine where Staples' in house fulfillment “eco system” is obviously broken. I was told they were “working on it,” so as a loyal customer concerned about their secondary packaging as well as the environment, I waited, and waited until this week when we received delivery of an order we placed for two boxes of ink cartridges.

Staples Green Update – More Green Packaging Problems

The photo above show the two boxes of Canon ink cartridges which shipped from two different Staples facilities. I appreciate the fact that the order was split-shipped to be filled quickly but I find I hard to believe that neither facility had both items. I am not sure what type of carbon footprint that creates but the worse news is that each facility used a different way of packaging the product and neither passed the green test as far as we are concerned. The term one step forward and two steps backwards comes to mind when we compare it to the packaging described in our January blog post.

Package #1 Shipping from Beloit, WI

At this Staples distribution center the packer opted to use a plastic mailer envelope. Even though I don’t like flexible mailers for crushable product, I am generally a big proponent of mailer envelopes, plastic and paper. I like them because they are light weight, can be made of recycled content and in most areas may be recycled for creating more packaging or other plastic products. However, the mailer that Beloit used did not indicate any recycled content, and did not even offer a recycle code for handling the waste after use. This is a real shame considering some of the new plastic mailers that are available. We offer several that would be better eco options than what was used on this shipment.

Package #2 Shipping from Carol Stream, IL

At this facility they used a 13” long X 10” wide X 5” box (650 cubic inches) to ship a 4” X 2.25” X 2.75” product, or about 25 cubic inches, which is obviously much more box than was necessary.
Read More

08 Sep 2009 Eco Ed Has a New Home

[caption id="attachment_821" align="alignnone" width="350" caption="Eco Ed #1 – April, 2008"][/caption] We are very glad to announce that as on this month, our cartoon series “Eco Ed” will be appearing in Packaging Digest’s digital and print versions. Is Sustainability Funny? Over a year ago, Eco Ed co-creator Brad...

Read More

18 Aug 2009 When Eco and Comfort Clash

Tough Decisions for American Car Buyers

I think my commitment to green is being tested much like my patience is tried on an almost daily basis. The lease on my company car has run out and I am stuck in a frustrating state of indecision. Even after you decide whether or not the purchase of a new car is a wise thing to do in the current economic state, you are still left with a wide variety of smaller and even tougher decisions to make. American or foreign brand? toyota-priusThere has always been a part of me that prefers to buy American whenever possible but is that smart when so much of the domestic automobile industry is on the brink of failure? I am sure I am not the only potential car buyer concerned about warranties, parts availability and even resale/trade in value of some makes and models. For so long “foreign” meant manufactured in Europe or Japan but now manufacturers from China and South Korea are also working for their share of the US market, making good cars and tougher choices. Domestic manufactured or domestic assembled? Many of the foreign cars today are at least in part assembled in the U.S. so that line has become very hazy at best. I was surprised some manufacturers are doing assembly in Canada. That may not be domestic but I can hardly consider that foreign. Luxury versus practical?
Read More

04 Aug 2009 From “Going Green” to “Growing Green”

eco-friendly-planet Over the weekend I had some time to reflect on how far we have come as a company and product line (Globe Guard) but more importantly how far green businesses in general have come. Certainly green companies have grown and matured and some have become very successful by being exactly what they should be.

Characteristics of a Green Company

  • Authentic – they are legitimately green and not just jumping aboard the band wagon
  • Innovative – creating new products and services that the market wants and needs
  • Competitive - in terms of quality, performance and price
  • Consistent – every person within the organization follows the green path every day with no room for compromise or shortcuts
Green Is Authentic This is an absolute must because the market demands it. I often describe green buyers as skeptical and that is a gross understatement. The massive amount of green washing to be found in the market place forces green minded consumers to be downright mistrusting and unforgiving when they are wronged. Be prepared for the questions because they will be asked and understandably so. The market is getting smarter so looking green and claiming green are not nearly enough. Green Is Innovative I am thrilled and encouraged that real solutions are indeed being developed. I respect the green minded person who complains about the use of plastic coffee stirrers but I applaud the individual who develops a good alternative. When I see what companies are doing in terms of up-cycling, I am amazed. Turning waste into something better than it originally was, is an amazing feat. An example is recycled glass being turned into expensive counter tops and tiles. We are also creating and saving almost every form of energy at unheard of rates and having a legitimate and positive impact on the environment. Green Is Competitive
Read More

25 Jun 2009 Propane Powered Lawn Trimmer and Sears Fall Short in Green Effort

Recently on this blog we published a post applauding mega retailer Home Depot for going above and beyond in their garden department by making it easy for their customers to return their empty polystyrene floral containers. They could have decided their responsibility ended at the cash register but opted to assume some level of responsibility after the sale. If we praise effort like Home Depot’s, we also have to condemn a retailer like Sears who is most definitely guilty of promoting a product for its green benefits; in this case a zero emission, propane powered lawn trimmer, and failing to assume the post sale responsibility that is certainly theirs.

Are Propane Powered Garden Tools Really Green?

[caption id="attachment_564" align="alignright" width="225" caption="The Green Product"]The Green Product[/caption]For my Father’s Day gift, my wife and I went shopping for a propane powered weed trimmer/cutter. I personally dislike the fumes and trouble of a gas powered weed whacker, and have grown to dislike my electric and battery powered units as well. I realize $200 for a propane model is a lot of money at times like this, especially when you can buy an inexpensive electric version for as little as $39.00. However, I decided that the eco benefits would make it worth the higher initial cost. The problems really started when I realized the propane fuel tanks my new trimmer would use are not refillable. So I asked a friendly Sears employee about recycling and disposal. The propane tanks are metal so if not refillable, certainly they have to be recyclable, right? The minimal information provided indicated each tank lasts approximately two hours so it did not take a mathematician or landscaper to determine I was likely to create an empty cylinder every other week or ten to twelve cylinders over the course of a single Chicago summer. I was surprised when the man offering “trained Sears’s assistance” said he had no idea about disposal or recycling. I guess that was not covered in sales training class.

The Search for Information and Eco Truth

[caption id="attachment_565" align="alignright" width="225" caption="The Green Pitch"]The Green Pitch[/caption]We bought the trimmer and the next morning I called our local waste hauler, Waste Management, and asked about the recycling of the empty propane tanks, in hope recycling could be accomplished curbside. They promptly responded they did not want them and have always instructed their people to not collect them. Recalling we do business with a company for propane for our fork lift, I thought they might have some answers. They were kind enough to tell me that they would accept one or two empty tanks but did not want to be a collection point since the small, empty canisters I was eager to get rid of had no value, only cost to them. I turned to our local village for assistance and they quickly sent me to a county department in charge of hazardous waste. The lady who answered the phone immediately understood the problem and told me I was the fourth call that day on the same topic. She admitted her family used a similar propane cylinder for cooking while camping but told me they (county government) could not accept the cylinders because they were not considered hazardous. “What do you do with yours?” I naively asked. “I bury and hide them in my kitchen garbage bags” she replied, “Otherwise our waste hauler won’t take them.”
Read More

09 Jun 2009 Home Depot Wins Mid Year Globe Guard Eco Consistency Award

In an unprecedented move, the Globe Guard Eco Consistency Award judges held a first ever midyear caucus and by unanimous vote decided to give Home Depot this prestigious award. OK, that all sounds quite impressive but the fact is that my wife took me shopping for the seasonal purchase of flowers for her garden and I spotted this sign. home-depot-plsatics-recycling-program That is when I realized Home Depot has launched an excellent, green program to encourage and facilitate the return of the empty flower containers they now sell. Polystyrene - The Plastic Even Waste Management Doesn’t Want What makes this move by Home Depot award worthy is that most flower pot containers are made of polystyrene (Recycled code #6). Most of us know polystyrene as the foam looking plastic material often used for takeout or left over containers, some “foam” drinking cups and some loose fill packaging materials shaped like shells or peanuts. That happens to be reason #42 why I hate foam peanuts, but that is a sore subject and a different blog post. I am not sure why most floral containers are made of styrene but I am willing to bet it is about cost. Polystyrene can easily be blended with just about any plastic or near plastic trash and is able to be formed into the trays and pots we all take home, empty and discard. What I am certain of is that in our suburban Chicago curbside recycling service provided by Waste Management, is very clear to point out they will NOT take back anything with a #6 recycled code which includes any form or type of polystyrene.
Read More

19 May 2009 Sustainable Secondary Packaging and the Third Party Shipper

It may sound like the title to an unusual movie or book, but the fact is that today it is not at all uncommon for an eco conscious e-commerce company (seller) to utilize a fulfillment company, third party logistics (3PL) company, or contract packager to fill, package and ship their customers’ orders. Outsourcing the fulfillment portion of the order process is an excellent way to minimize costs and focus on sales and marketing but it does have a potential down side, especially if the fulfillment company (shipper) does not share the same green values as the seller. The Biggest Risks of Using a Third Party Shipper eco-friendly-packaging-papers-and-corrugated-boxWhat you sacrifice when you turn fulfillment over to another company is control. For example, the people filling your valuable customer’s order are not your employees -  in fact they may not even be the employee of the company you are utilizing. More and more shipping companies use temporary labor services to satisfy their customer’s packaging requirements which can vary greatly with seasonal or other volume surges,  so the phrase “here today and gone tomorrow” certainly applies. In other words, there is little or no accountability for the person actually pulling and packing the order for you and for your customer. Another potential casualty of working with a third party shipper may unfortunately be eco-consistency. The eco friendliness of the packaging materials and the techniques being used, as well as the ultimate appearance of that package shipping to the customer, are completely in someone else’s hands. As a consumer, we all have been on the receiving end of a product that is over packaged, under packaged, or one that uses an excess of packaging materials we hate. For me,  it is foam peanuts of any size, shape or color. The shipper is setting the quality AND green standard for you in the eyes of your customers but remember - while the shipper is invisible to the customer,  you are not. When things go bad, you get the blame whether you deserve it or not. Packaging Sustainability and the Third Party Vendor Can Be a Beautiful Thing scanner-for-order-fulfillmentWe have been fortunate to be the supplier of choice in several of these seller/shipper situations and can tell you that when they work, they work great. One recent situation developed because the customer/seller introduced and recommended us to their fulfillment company. Obviously we had to overcome the relationships the shipper had with their existing packaging suppliers but eventually they saw the many benefits to their customer as well as with other present or potential customers. Today, being a “green fulfillment house” has many advantages as they soon realized when they quickly picked up another, substantial “green” client.
Read More