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U.S. demand for “green packaging” is projected to reach $44 billion in 2013, according to
a recent Freedonia Group study. A good chunk of that amount could be due to Walmart’s
initiatives with its vendors – but it could also be that leaner times call for leaner packaging.
 

 

Overpackaging is part and parcel of a consumerist society
Here’s a sobering statistic: 99% of what we purchase ends up in landfill within 6 months. A good (?) portion of that waste is packaging. One silver lining of our current bleak economy is the realization that we need to change our wasteful ways. Corporate leaders are starting to acknowledge that they cannot afford the combined material, transportation and environmental costs that result from overpackaging their products. Nor can their brands afford the negative press tied to excessive packaging.

We can design our way out of the status quo by bringing innovation to industry. Inspirational examples abound: lightweighting of plastic water bottles, replacing Styrofoam cushioning with molded pulp and concentrating liquid detergents to fit downsized bottles to name a few. Furthermore, consumers are hungry for healthier products and non-toxic packaging. Clorox has been hugely successful with their Green Works line of cleaners. HP was able to reduce the packaging for their Pavilion notebook computer by 97% by selling it in an attractive, protective messenger bag made from recycled materials instead of a disposable cardboard box. Apple, Microsoft, Ikea, and many others have eliminated poisonous PVC in their products and packaging.

Score one for the Scorecard
Change is hard. Humans are wired to resist it. When former CEO Lee Scott announced that Walmart was introducing software to gauge the comparative sustainability of vendors’ packaging – and that they would be held responsible for a 5% reduction by 2013 in order to secure a place on their shelves – the market‘s first reaction was panic. How do we compile the information to fill this out? What is “cube utilitzation”? Why does innovation only account for 5% of the score? (Admittedly, that was Ken’s question.)

Areas of sustainable packaging expertise:
• Cradle to Cradle principles and methodologies
• EPA’s Design for Environment (DfE) protocol
• Walmart Scorecard
• Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) guidelines
• Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) best practices
• Structural solutions
• Materials recommendations and sourcing
• Prototyping
• Certified independent testing
• Manufacturer interface and management

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