Inside Sustainable Packaging Tag

31 Aug 2010 Small Boxes are Big Problem for Large Retailers

[caption id="attachment_1768" align="alignnone" width="325" caption="Small Size Changes Make a Big Difference"][/caption] We have spent a great deal of time suggesting the idea of “right sizing”, which is essentially only using as large of a shipping container as is truly needed for any product being shipped. Minimizing the size of a shipping box is green and economical because it also minimizes everything that goes along with it such as the necessary void fill and tape used to seal the box. Disturbing Trend – Minimum Allowable Box Size Two months ago we found out about a major electronics retailer who instituted an 8” cube minimum box size. Keep in mind that an 8” cube box is actually EIGHT times larger and eight times the waste compared to a 4” cube box. Then, just a week ago a large ladies accessory retailer notified their suppliers and vendors that they too had adopted a new “minimum allowable inbound shipping container.” It appears this policy is designed to eliminate product loss because smaller boxes have a tendency of becoming lost or damaged in a high volume receiving environment at many large retail operations. This policy is not very positive in terms of packaging sustainability but perhaps it is necessary and important. Greener Options In the spirit of “you can’t fight city hall,” perhaps the best we can do is offer some suggestions to minimize the negative green aspects of this change, as well as minimizing the cost.
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23 Jun 2010 Packaging Sustainability and Baby Steps

[caption id="attachment_1551" align="alignnone" width="400"] Too Much Packaging![/caption] The nouveau green packaging industry loves to talk about biodegradability, recyclability, compostability, recycled content, PLA, PCW and a constantly growing variety of green acronyms. They are also just as eager to debate which product or process is best for the customer and for the environment. We ourselves are helping to lead the charge on reusable and recycled content packaging products but often times we all over look the easiest sustainability “R” of all and that is reduce. Packaging reduction opportunities are usually very simple to identify and almost always even easier to correct.

A Perfect Example - A Recent Shipment from Zappos.com

Zappos.com is a terrific company and one of my personal favorites but the recent order (photo) we received from them caught my attention. The box they used to ship our order of baby shoes is obviously more than two times larger than it really needed to be. To be fair, it could have been almost any internet retailer, shipping almost any order and most of them are indeed guilty of this same sustainability crime. I realize it is possible the packer simply selected the wrong size box but having reviewed and assessed many order picking and packing stations; I know the correct size box is usually not available for the packer to utilize. “Use the smallest box available” is the common direction a packer receives but the smallest box available is frequently not the right size for the application and product being shipped. Using an oversized box obviously adds packaging material cost as well as much more difficult to calculate costs such as storage space, shipping cube space, fuel costs, load inefficiencies, etc. Perhaps even more important, it just plain looks wasteful to an ever vigilant eco conscious consumer.
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11 May 2010 Mills Gone Wild or How to Play Safely in a Fast Rising Market

What may sound like a story about intoxicated college students on Spring Break is really not that at all. It is about a paper and corrugated box industry that has just announced a second, substantial price increase in less than four months. It’s definitely not fun and the only “wild and craziness” involved here is an effort to try to keep up and minimize fast rising product costs, while many of our customers resist increases and are simply working hard to survive.

Are the Paper and Corrugated Increases Justified?

My personal opinion is no, they are probably not but then again who knows. As a non-manufacturing distributor of corrugated products, our largest competitor is but a flea in the overall market and scope of an industry that measure sales in terms of tons and billions of dollars. There is a lot of industry talk about expired government subsidies, a shoot out between two major mills with the rest of us as innocent bystanders caught in the cross fire and of course the ability of the industry to control pricing by controlling output and production. The week of January 22nd Pulp & Paper reported an increase of $50 per ton on liner board and the end result was an increase on corrugated boxes that ranged from 6 to almost as much as 10% depending on the manufacturer. This most recent increase announced the week of April 23rd of $60 per ton, is likely have a similar impact in terms of increase percentage on box pricing.
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13 Apr 2010 Smart Green Customers Choose Globe Guard Products

A Chicago area clothing retailer had a rather catchy slogan I used to appreciate – “An educated consumer is our best customer”. I believe I related to it as a lifelong student as well as teacher within the packaging industry. I’ve never stopped learning and I truly respect people who also share the same passion, to make good decisions based on study and research, rather than supposition or popular opinion. We’re All in It Together If you are a regular ISP reader you know how much I enjoy meeting and interviewing people who are making a difference in this world. I also truly like being on the opposite side of the interview and freely sharing green facts and opinions. Recently a very smart lady named Mary Kearns, owner of Herban Lifestyle interviewed me for her blog. Mary is a fellow Green America member as well as a fellow 1% for the Planet contributor. She also happens to be a customer but that is never an interview requirement. Mary asked great questions and it turns out, is an excellent writer as well. You can read the interview here - How to Green Your Packing and Shipping.
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23 Mar 2010 The Plastic Bag is Exorcized and Recycled

People involved in the green movement love to demonize things and let’s face it, in many cases it is so darn easy. Favorite targets are packaging, plastic water bottles, vehicles like SUV’s, and even companies such as Nestlé’s, and Wal-Mart. And of course, the product everyone loves to hate, plastic bags.

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us

I may be paraphrasing that famous quote but I think you understand my point. I have always claimed, even in mixed green audiences, that only a small part of the problem is the plastic bag. The real problem is what we all choose to do or not do with the plastic bags when we are done with them. [caption id="attachment_1294" align="alignnone" width="400"]Photo of a suburban cornfield strewn with litter, mainly plastic bags. What's Happening to Your Plastic Bags?[/caption] We live and work in southwest suburban Chicago which has become an unusual mix of farm fields and retail and industrial development. Around the corner from us is the first sign of civilization, a McDonald’s and across the street is another sure indicator of suburban sprawl, a Wal-Mart store. However in all directions, there are also farm fields that in a few months will be filled with corn, soy beans and other crops but for now they are littered with garbage. Most of that litter is plastic bags that were carelessly thrown out of car windows or improperly discarded in one of the many retail store parking lots in the immediate area. It is a terrible shame because the eyesore and waste could have been so easily avoided.

My Green Brother Is My Green Keeper

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18 Mar 2010 What Is the Greatest Myth in Sustainable Packaging?

[caption id="attachment_1288" align="alignnone" width="432"] Contrary to Popular Opinion, Green Packaging Doesn't Have to Cost More[/caption] Last Sunday I had the opportunity to make a presentation and attend the International Housewares Show. It is a great event held annually at Chicago’s lake front McCormick Place and one I don’t miss because of the new products that are usually launched at this industry showcase. This was my third consecutive year at this show and in terms of packaging sustainability I would have to admit that the Housewares industry has been a little slow to jump on the green bandwagon. I even wrote an article about it for Sustainable Is Good in 2008 that commented on the very mixed reaction the Housewares industry had to sustainability. I am very pleased to report that two years later they “get it”. I was thrilled to see countless booths showing eco friendly and green products and for the most part, much of the packaging was “eco-consistent” with the products they are making and marketing. I was truly pleased to see how much progress was made in a short two year period. Back to the greatest myth However, there is one area where many of the people still lag behind and that is in the realization that green packaging does not necessarily have to cost more. In numerous conversations I had with people who appeared to have a sincere interest in making their packaging more eco friendly, they commented on the “high cost of green packaging”. In fact many of the inaccurate perceptions and outdated perceptions I have dealt with in the past are alive and kicking in this segment of the market. They include -
  • You can’t find green packaging products
  • The minimums are too high
  • The quality isn’t there yet
  • And of course, the greatest myth of all – green packaging costs too much
Forward to the sustainable packaging truth We have spent the last three years of our lives exposing and destroying these myths by making eco friendly packaging products available and affordable. The minimums are truly minimal and we guarantee our quality to be second to none.
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31 Dec 2009 2009, The Joy of Creating Green Moments

My wife, Lenora, and I are fast approaching our third anniversary as entrepreneurs. During the Christmas break we reflected back on how far we have come, not only measured in sales numbers but just as importantly, in terms of friends. Sure there are headaches and disappointments in owning and operating your own business, but we have also enjoyed the privilege and extreme pleasure of working with some pretty incredible people. We agreed our favorite part of the experience is being able to help create and share some unforgettable Green Moments.

What Are Green Moments?

Green Moments: When a committed green minded individual realizes they can have what they want and that is usually a packaging solution that is as green as the products they are promoting. We call it eco-consistency but our customers usually call it, “problem solved”. Here are some great examples.
  • The lady in Maryland who realized she could have her boxes printed with her very attractive logo and it would NOT cost her an arm and a leg to do so.
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