Posted on October 30, 2008 by Dennis Salazar

What’s Wrong with this Picture? A Green Packaging Challenge

Even if you are not a regular reader and subscriber to this blog, please accept this as sustainable challenge #1. How quickly and easily can you spot a product or package that that is, let’s call it, “less than innocent” in terms of greenness? You have an opportunity to be the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) investigator for this possible case of packaging sustainability crime.

Please click on the image below for a better view –

Catalog and Box

We have blocked out the name of the company to protect the guilty but the company name is really not important. If we look around we can spot countless examples like this on a daily basis. This company is shipping their annual catalog in the box that is shown. Ironically on the catalog cover they boast about offering hundreds of “eco friendly products”. But what about the packaging that is designed to get this catalog in the hands of their eco minded customers?

To a certain extent we agree that green is often in the eye of the beholder but we’ve spotted some things that are very likely wrong and some that merit further investigation. Jot down some observations and questions before you read the rest of this story.

Here are some questions you may have asked:

  • The box appears substantially oversized. Unless like Cracker Jacks, there is a prize in every box, why is the box so long?
  • Why and how is the box white? We know it impacts cost but does it also impact recyclability?
  • Are all those graphics really necessary for a catalog that the recipient is likely expecting? What types of inks are being used?
  • Is this the best package design in terms of minimizing the amount of corrugated being used? It may not be real easy to see in this picture but a one piece folder is being utilized which overlaps corrugated on several surfaces. It is very likely a sleeve or even a book fold design would have used less corrugated.
  • What grade and type of board is being used? How much recycled content does it contain and is any post consumer waste? (Note: I am resisting the urge for an obvious plug for our own Globe Guard corrugated board)
  • Let’s face it, no one is going to reuse this packaging, so is there an eco-friendly plastic design or corrugated/plastic combination that would get the catalog through the mail and would result in less waste?
  • Last and not least, isn’t there something highly questionable about a catalog featuring eco friendly products? Most of the green minded people I know hate catalogs almost as much as they hate plastic bags, and lumber jacks.

This was obviously just a fun exercise and not intended to offend anyone. The real questions that we should be asking are: are we being “eco-consistent” in regards to our secondary packaging? Are we unintentionally turning off the very customers we are trying so hard to turn on? Why aren’t we using eco minded designers and suppliers that will catch packages like this before customers catch us and declare us guilty?