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Source Reduction - The Only Incontrovertibly Green Material

The ideal choice for sustainable environmentally friendly packaging material is the one that does not deplete any resources ( renewable or not ), does not burn fossil fuels in transport and requires no resources to recycle after the end of service life.

The zen image above is an image of the material. It does not exist in this dimension. Just like the classic Zen "no mind", it's the "no material ."

Every material is deleterious to the environment unless it's the one promoted by who promotes it. This is where Life Cycle Analysis LCA comes into play. It's the same game as search engines blaming the algorithm. It starts with the inherent bias of the designer. A properly crafted LCA deliberately weights factors just like mechanics stack the decks. Its easy as making 2 + 2 = ________. Just give weight to different factors for the desired outcome.

Going down the maze of material selection on the way to greenwashing, source reduction a/k/a lightweighting a/k/a downgauging, is an option one will inevitably consider. After testing alternative materials which are strong and require lower wall thickness, inevitably the proposition falls apart when marketing dismisses it out of hand without consumer testing. " We don't want the consumer to think we are cheaping it out " is a common refrain.

Besides, packaging is the cheapest component of the equation, so why risk product returns ?

We recently presented thinner stand up pouches to some old hippies in California who wanted a more environmentally friendly granola package. We mistakenly thought they would be amenable to less plastic derived from fossil fuels. Of course we were wrong.

Biodegradable plastics have their drawbacks, too. They consume a lot of energy in production for starters. Most people believe Economics is about supply and demand. It's also about dealing with scarcity. It is mathematically impossible to satisfy demand for plastics by deriving them from agricultural sources. There would be no arable land available for food.

Imagine you are on team packaging at Globocorp. Are you going to be the one pounding the table about less plastic ? Talk about risky business. Who is going to get the blame when the sales drop and consumers return product ?


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