BY DENNIS SALAZAR
The Field Guide to Sustainable Packaging by Steve Sterling includes the tagline, “The journey begins here.” If that is the case, it is a very small step for mankind and the environmental movement, though perhaps a step in the right direction. A “field guide” is typically a compact reference manual. By that definition, the author and publisher delivered what they promised but they definitely left me hungry for more. I usually have the same issue with French restaurants but never mind that, this is a book review.
To give credit where it is due, Mr. Sterling does provide some historical background on the sustainable movement, which is quite interesting. Did you realize the environmental and sustainable movements can trace their roots back to 1972? I didn’t, and as a lifelong student of the packaging industry, I enjoyed those few pages of background very much. What the author wrote, he wrote well. Mr. Sterling is very obviously a capable and talented writer - but I wish he had finished what he started.
“Field Guide to Sustainable Packaging” could have been a great start to a more comprehensive book in this area of packaging where impartial and educational information is hard to come by.
However, the book is not promoted as a great start – it was suggested to me as the new “bible on sustainable packaging”. Always receptive to any, new quality information I can add to my knowledge base, I promptly ordered it and eagerly anticipated its arrival. What I received for my $19.95 plus $4.00 for shipping and handling was 74 pages of information that for the most part, has previously appeared in Packaging World, which is also published by Summit Publishing. I suppose that is one excellent example of recycling and conservation but not necessarily the one I was expecting.
To add insult to injury, the last twenty pages are nothing more than ads for “the companies on the following pages have generously funded the research, writing and publication of this Field Guide”. Well at least the author, Steve Sterling, and Summit Publishing, are up front about the sponsors who supported the project. I suspect sponsor expense exceeded the relatively small investment I made.
In any case, the book once again reinforced my belief that there is not a lot of good, solid information available on sustainable packaging. That is why so many of us are confused. Most of what we read is opinion represented as fact, or simplistic answers to multi-faceted, complex issues. Sustainable packaging is not a black and white issue, but as a very wise boss once told me, “Our job is to manage the gray”. To manage the gray, we need more than 74 pages.
Let’s face it; some people are involved in this movement because they sincerely believe in it and others, because there is a viable market and profit opportunity in sustainability. I admittedly am motivated by both and have helped my clients exceed their sustainability objectives and save money in the process. We all benefit from sustainable packaging solutions in some form or another. I just wish Summit Publishing and Mr. Sterling could have been a little less blatant in their effort to capitalize and/or delivered a little more substance with the green they have promoted so well.
In an effort to finish on a positive note, the “Field Guide to Sustainable Packaging” is very lightweight and was printed with soy based, earth friendly inks on post consumer stock, so it should recycle well, but don’t discard it. It is a keeper and I look forward to reading the completed work some day.
The book is available directly from Packaging World.
Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in flexible packaging products, equipment and solutions. After over thirty years in plastic film sales, he is the self-proclaimed, “Senor Shrink” of the industry and is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his flexible packaging expertise. To contact, please email at: firstname.lastname@example.org