A report, Southeastern Swamplands and Paper Packaging, released last week by the Dogwood Alliance identified paper packaging as a major threat to forests in the Southeast United States.
The thirteen state region of the Southeastern US the report focuses on is the largest paper producing region in the world producing fifteen percent of the world's paper supply. Twenty-five percent of all the wood fiber sourced from this region is used for paper packaging. The Dogwood Alliance report examines the impact logging has had on environmental conditions in the region where as much as six million acres are logged annually.
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The Dogwood Alliance identifies paper as the most frequently used packaging material at thirty-four percent with plastic a close second at thirty percent of all packaging.
This report and others like the EIA report on Wal-Mart's sourcing of Chinese wood are an important indicator of the direction environmental groups are going in terms of their policy action plans. Examining the components that make up the products or packaging we buy and tracing their source and impact their production has on the environment is important and is something that resonates with consumers. The fact the Dogwood report is focused on the US makes it even more of the moment as the problems they are referencing are literally occurring in consumers backyards.
Smart packaging design firms and companies sourcing more sustainable/eco-friendly packaging options should consider these issues and make them part of their development plans. Things in our culture that are seen as wasteful or excessive like packaging and disposable single use products are going to come under increased scrutiny in the months and years ahead. Smart packaging design firms and converters will stay ahead of these issues and will need to work to develop industry best practices, embrace certifications and openness regarding these issues. Major clients who embrace these issues as concerns and require their designers and packaging department to incorporate them will lead the way and reap the rewards with consumers. Companies who resist and continue with business as usual will be the ones paying the price.
Good design isn't just about being of the moment and providing protection for a product its about being smart, forward thinking and responsible. Design firms who diminish the significance of these issues in the design phase are doing clients a disservice.
The Dogwood Report identified a number of major companies sourcing packaging from the region including:
Unilever, L'Oreal, Wal-Mart, Glaxo-Smith Kline and Schering Plough Corporation source from the August Mill in Georgia.
KFC, McDonalds, Buffalo Wild Wings, Taco Bell and Starbucks all source from the Riegelwood Mill in North Carolina.
Unilever, General Mills and Costco source from the Franklin Mill in Virginia.