101 posts categorized "business"

Ecology versus Economy

At a recent gathering of eco minded business people, I listened in on a conversation between two green e-commerce business owners who were complaining about the weak economy and the impact it has had on their businesses. One stated he had noticed a substantial slowdown of orders and the other agreed, confirming he was experiencing the same. Both businessmen were certain the reduction of business to the “recession” and “the troubling economic times”, but I am not nearly so sure. 

A stampede is never a group decision

Panic and stampedes both begin when a persuasive individual determines a course for the entire group. Unlike one political adviser who recently claimed the recession is just in our heads, I realize this downturn in the economy is unfortunately very real. But somewhere between hiding your head in the sand and being completely oblivious to the problem, there is a good place to be, a place of cautious optimism combined with a firm grip on the reality of the times.
It is important for all of us in the sustainable products market, including the packaging segment, to keep in mind that what we are trying to accomplish is an important and unstoppable force that while not recession proof, can and will withstand economic uncertainty or a temporary downturn in the economy. If this were a fad or other fair weathered goal, sustainability might be vulnerable to derailment, but if we stay on course and remain positive in our dealings, we will prevail in time.

Five things to keep in mind

·    Having said all that, it is more important than ever before that our green products are price competitive. There may have been a time when green could demand a hefty premium, but I believe those days are gone. Today, we must integrate sound business practices in the manufacturing and in sourcing of the green products we sell.
·    Don’t take it personally. Price pressure is not an anti-green phenomenon. Every supplier is experiencing the same issues whether their products and services are eco focused or not. In fact, I believe that we may be less impacted than non-green businesses because committed believers will likely sacrifice in other areas rather than to revert back to unhealthy, unsustainable ways.
·    There is increased competition in the green market place. We must work harder and smarter in everything we do, particularly marketing, customer service, and customer retention.
·    Saving time, money and reducing cost is never out of fashion. Most sustainable ideas and products reduce cost and are proven more economical over time. It is more important than ever to “sell” the economic benefits to customers who may be wavering and considering apparently less expensive alternatives.
·    Hard times inspire and drive creativity and innovation. Ask anyone who flourished during previous economic tough times. This may wind up being the best thing that could happen because it forces us all to do what we do, only better.

Friends who know me well will confirm I love a good quote whether it is from Einstein or Seinfeld. Somewhere in between those two is the famous author Victor Hugo. As a business person committed to promoting sustainability, you can take some comfort in these difficult times, in one of his most famous quotes:

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world; and that is an idea whose time has come.

Dennis Salazar Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise.   

To contact Dennis, please visit his web site: www.salazarpackaging.com

To read more articles by Dennis Salazar click here

Sustainable Packaging Hot Topic at HBA Global Expo

Cargo Cosmetics Plant-based Sustainable Packaging Industry publication Women's Wear Daily (WWD) reported last week's HBA Global Expo in New York had a major focus on sustainable and more eco-friendly packaging.

Packaging options that companies are exploring include everything from glass containers to vegetable inks and from paper and outer packaging made from recycled materials to biodegradable or recyclable packaging.

“Last year, it was all about biodegradable plastics and I feel that this year there’s been a shift to using recyclable glass,” Taya Tomasello, senior beauty analyst at market research firm Mintel told WWD.

She also said she’s seen more and more companies do away with the outer packaging.

Italy-based Leoplast Group, which uses natural vegetable-based and renewable sources such as biopolymer produced by NatureWorks LLC, said companies don’t realize the kind of impact they can have by using more eco-friendly packaging.

The company supplied Cargo Cosmetics with its VegetalPlastic for the Plant Love makeup line, which was launched early last year.

“From using PLA [polylactic acid] packaging, you can save 60 percent [of the] fossil fuel in comparison to using traditional plastics, in addition to reducing greenhouse gasses up to 90 percent,” said Graziano Reggiani, general manager of Leoplast.

Reggiani told WWD that he finds the U.S. market is more ready to understand and explore more eco-friendly alternatives in terms of packaging, in comparison to the European market, which he said still has a ways to go.

via Women's Wear Daily

European PET Recycling Increases

European PET Plastic Recycling Increases Petcore (PET containers recycling Europe a non-profit European trade association) announced that European post-sorting PET collection reached 1.13m tons in 2007, an increase of about 20% on 2006.

In 2007 just about 40% of all PET bottles in the market were collected for recycle.

The overall share of fibers as an end use for recycled PET decreased from 52% to 47%, although the tonnage processed continued to grow. The sheet market tonnage increased and its share
rose to 24%.

“I am delighted with the continued increase in PET collection throughout Europe and our high rate of recycle. Thanks to the efforts of the Collection Agencies, National Bodies, European Recyclers
and the PET Industry Chain, recycled PET has become a reliable and sought-after feedstock in the PET resin portfolio.” said Roberto Bertaggia, Chairman of the Petcore Board.

He commented further that it should be recognized that PET is the most important polymer in contributing towards achieving the plastics targets stipulated in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (2004/12/EC) which lays down that most Member States should recycle 22.5% minimum of plastics packaging this year.

These recycling targets will further increase to 50% recycling or reuse of plastics from household streams by 2020 and PET will be an important part of this sustainability activity.

The Chairman emphasized that Petcore’s task will be to ensure that the growth in PET recycling continues such that it remains an important mainstay in meeting future recycle legislation.

It was estimated that there is a total mechanical reclamation nameplate capacity in the European region of 1.2m tons in 2008 with approximately 100 ktes of extra capacity planned.

Fragility vs. Utility ~ Less Packaging is more acceptable to consumers

Egg Packaging So Simple Yet so Effective Packaging is a utilitarian necessity.  The egg is a delicate and fragile item.

Then how can an egg be safely and economically packaged in a light weight Styrofoam, or recycled paper board carton, designed to carry/transport, store and protect the “product”?

Sturdy objects such as a kitchen faucet, shower head or stapler for example, are packaged in thick, hard, plastic shells that generally take a knife or scissors and too much time and effort to open!  To some degree, the weight of the product should not dictate the heft and weight of the package.

I can understand that type of packaging for a kitchen knife, or object that can potentially be harmful to the consumer unless properly handled, but many of today’s products are over packaged in this era of ‘less is more’ and ‘eco-friendly’.

Designers need to explore and introduce other forms of packaging, and present to their clients the concept of “non-traditional” as an approach, in an effort to challenge common associations between product and packaging.

Recently, designers have tried to respond to the perception that plastic is environmentally unfriendly.  But, the fact is that decreasing the amount of material in packaging, is usually more important than the composition of the package, to get the most environmentally friendly form of packaging.


At the Art Center College of Design in California, students take courses in "Unpackaging" - learning to simplify and use more recycled materials.

Consumers do not want a lot of excess waste in packaging, and often times will avoid buying products that they think are over-packaged ~ not only for the obvious waste of materials and negative impact on our environment ~ but also because it of the perceived notion that they are paying a premium for the additional packaging, above and beyond what the product is worth.

Typically, consumers make clear distinctions between product and packaging ~ except for the case of a banana, where the product is the packaging and visa versa ~ and so unobtrusive that it is not even noticed.

Today, marketers are looking for ways to more effectively understand the consumer psyche and experience with their brand.

They are employing state-of-the art neuro-science, semiotics (study of signs) and facial coding (for example), to identify “hidden emotional triggers” ~ that through design ~ will more accurately connect the customer with the brand at retail.

But now there is another key challenge consider: how to successfully market eco-friendly products, that are designed with minimal yet appropriate packaging, to protect and promote the brand.

And, since aesthetics are a primary consideration in our style conscious society, there is a fine line when marketing these “green” products in more eco-savvy wrappings.  They have to still look great to sell!

So, remember the power of the package and all it’s glory in less truly being more!

Jackie DeLise Jackie DeLise is Vice President of Zunda Group LLC.  Zunda Design Group creates brands that inspire, by designing visual identity and packaging that evoke emotions and connect consumers to their brand, ultimately captivating attention and purchase intent at retail.  Jackie can be reached at j.delise@zundagroup.com.

PETA Targets Hormel and Tyson Packaging for Greenhouse Gas Impact Info

Hormel Packaging Targeted by PETA PETA, which owns 100 shares of meatpacking giant Hormel Foods as part of its corporate responsibility project, has submitted a shareholder resolution calling on the Austin, Minn.-based company to include information on all of its meat packages about the greenhouse-gas "footprint" that the meat passes on to consumers.

The group points out that shoppers are increasingly concerned about global warming and that meat production is the leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions.  They are turning to Hormel's packaging for the inclusion of disclosure information on the greenhouse-gas impact their products have.

According to PETA, some food companies have already begun printing greenhouse-gas emissions levels per serving on product labels--but Hormel is not among them.

The animal rights group's focus on packaging indicates the importance packaging plays in consumers buying decisions as well as the increase in the importance consumers place on greener more eco-friendly product options.

The resolution represents a new tactic in PETA's international campaign against factory farming.

The group cites the following as evidence about meat's devastating impact on the environment:

U.N. scientists have determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, SUVs, trucks, and planes in the world combined.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard car to a Toyota Prius.

PETA will file an identical resolution with meat giant Tyson Foods later this week.

The two resolutions mark an interesting new approach in providing consumer additional information on product packaging.

California Considering Ban on PFOA in Food Packaging by 2010

Pfoa The Los Angeles Times ran an important story yesterday on the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in food packaging.  The California legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate the use of PFOA in all food packaging by 2010.

The PFOA is used in food packaging as a coating to prevent food from sticking to the packaging.  PFOA-based coatings are used to repel grease on a variety of fast food packages, including pizza boxes, microwave popcorn packages and french fry containers. 

The chemical coating is also used a large amount of consumer food packaging including candy and other pre-packaged foods.

According to the LA Times, studies show that PFOA is present in 98% of Americans' blood and 100% of newborns. It doesn't break down and thus accumulates in the system over time.

Federal investigators determined in 2005 that PFOA is a "likely carcinogen" and called for expanded testing to study its potential to cause liver, breast, testicular and pancreatic cancer.

The chemical industry says there's no reason to worry about PFOA, which is used to make Teflon pans and Gore-Tex clothing, and to prevent food from sticking to paper packaging. The industry says that while the EPA's carcinogenic concerns are based on animal tests, there's no evidence that PFOA is harmful to humans.

DuPont Co., the sole U.S. manufacturer of PFOA.

3M used to produce the chemical but stopped production in 2000 after learning that the chemical was accumulating in people's bodies.

California State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), has drafted legislation -- SB 1313 -- that would ban PFOA and a similar compound in any food packaging sold in California by 2010.

The bill has been approved by the state Senate and passed the Assembly Health Committee last month. It's expected to come before the full Assembly in the next few weeks.

"I was shocked to learn that people are being exposed to toxic chemicals in foods they serve to their family and may ingest every day," Corbett said.

No clear way to determine which packaging uses PFOA

She said she was also troubled that it's virtually impossible to know which manufacturers have PFOA in their packaging. There are no labeling requirements.

In 2006, the EPA invited all companies involved with PFOA to join a voluntary "stewardship program" to reduce use and emissions of the chemical by 2010 and eliminate the substance by 2015.

DuPont said in a letter to the agency that it would eliminate "where possible" use and emissions of PFOA "so that any residuals are reduced to the maximum extent feasible." The company is working on alternative chemicals.

via LA Times:  Read full story here

Buying Groceries with Less Packaging

Enviromom Buying groceries with less packaging is something more and more consumers are becoming aware of and concerned about. 

The growing trend, while still in stages of infancy across overall group of American consumers is gradually becoming something companies and manufacturer are recognizing. 

Within the green community packaging has always been something seen as excessive and often unnecessary and we've seen many green brands undergo design changes for their product packaging.

Enviromom, a blog run by two mothers focused on living a greener lifestyle with their children in the Portland area, ran a detailed piece on packaging issues consumers face at grocery stores across the country.  The post which rant late last week provides an in depth look into issues more and more consumers are starting to pay attention to related to packaging. 

In addition to touching on many of the current issues in consumer packaging Enviromom provides a series of useful suggestions and observations to reduce or eliminate excessive packaging.

An except on packaging and convenience.

"Let's talk about convenience. No wait. Let's stop thinking about convenience when shopping. If something is being marketed as convenient, it's probably not good for you or the environment. I really doubt that the mom who packs a Lunchable and a juice box for her kid really has a less stressful day than mine. I usually make a sandwich, fruit, yogurt and water bottle for my kids. It doesn't take that much time to pack or wash the durable containers. I will not kid you. There are not many ways to RECYCLE or REUSE a Lunchable plastic tray."

Read the full piece on Enviromom

Shades of Green


Marketing, packaging & branding all have critical roles in shaping sustainability in the eyes of the consumer.

“One of the things you have to remember about Sustainability is that it will take us all forever to accomplish."  This is a quote by William McDonough, co-founder of the firm MBDC and co-author of the book Cradle to Cradle.

These words are not meant to discourage, but rather reflect the holistic manner in which the topic of Sustainability, needs to be approached

Today, there is a significant increase in the use of environmental claims in product marketing, including “green” claims concerning product packaging.  Sellers and marketers frequently use terms such as “recyclable,” “recycled content,” “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “compostable,” “sustainable” and “renewable” to make green claims about their packaging.

When such claims are used to sell products, consumer perception and substantiation issues may arise.

Also, in recent years, there has been an increase in the use of environmental seals and third-party certification programs purporting to verify the positive environmental impact of product packaging.

The trend towards verification is attributed to the rise in mandatory national reporting.  Organizations that join these programs agree to voluntarily reduce their environmental impact beyond what is required by law.

In addition, these programs act as a powerful communication tool with consumers and corporate stakeholders, as the perception of the seal on a package denotes authenticity.

But consumers are savvy and may have varying interpretations of such seals and programs, and there is a great deal of confusion, false perceptions, and inflated reality.

So much so, that the FTC recently held a forum on Packaging specifically related to eco-marketing claims on packaging.

Packaging is an easy target for legislature, and now that the FTC is involved in creating mandates around the validity of claims, we still  need break through innovation in materials, design and recycling to truly be on the path to sustainability.

While there is a raft of packaging needs to consider, e.g., on food ~ portability and shelf life ~ these needs do not always align with the environmental necessity of our planet.

For example, a package claims that the company is 100% wind-powered…what does this really mean and how does the message get carried through to the consumer!?  What is the real, (in)tangible value of this claim!? And, why should the consumer care!?

Communicating Sustainability Effectively to the Consumer

There is a real, not perceived, knowledge gap.  Marketers and designers must communicate with authenticity, transparency and sustainability ~ in a language that consumers understand.

In the business of brand packaging design, visual imagery has become an emotional “short hand” to trigger Consumer buying motivations and purchase responses, so it is key to learn how to translate the new “Green” vocabulary into meaningful nomenclature

Let’s further explore some terms from this new lexicon:

• The Three R’s ~ in the world of “Green”, this is the standard for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle ~ to extract and reuse useful substances found in items that may be otherwise considered as waste

• Alternative Energy ~ energy derived from sources that have little or no impact on the environment and produce no net greenhouse gas emissions in generating electricity.  Such sources include wind and solar.

• Biodegradable ~ a material that breaks down with the assistance of microorganism

• Carbon Footprint ~ 
the amount of carbon dioxide emissions created by a person or industry; and estimate of an individual’s or organization’s impact on the environment

• Compostable ~ a material that breaks down to become what is effectively dirt. It contains no toxins and can support plant life

• Fossil fuel
 ~ fuels containing methane, petroleum, coal and natural gas, which are derived from fossil matter.  These are called "fossil" fuels, as it takes many years for them to be created in the natural environment.  Burning fossil fuels creates greenhouse gases, which are a factor

• Green sheen ~ similar to Green wash, has been used to describe organizations which attempt to appear that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment

• Renewable resources ~ those that can be replenished, so they are not permanently depleted; alternate-energy sources such as solar or wind power instead of nonrenewable oil, or fast-growing plants like bamboo

• Repurpose
 ~ to take what may be otherwise a waste item and use it for another purpose - e.g a coffee jar becomes a jar for keeping nails (reclaimed or recycled materials are rescued from the garbage dump and turned into new products (plastic bottles reborn as fleece jackets; old magazines become packaging)

• Sustainable ~ indefinitely viable, capable of maintaining productivity or usefulness in the long term. 
Sustainable design, graphic or otherwise, seeks to reduce impacts on the environment by relying on the use of renewable resources, among other measures.  It employs practices that do no lasting harm to the Earth's resources, valuing the survival of future generations over immediate needs!

Sustainable Design - A Visible Issue

Preservekitchen There is growing pressure around sustainable design, because unlike the climate, it is a visible issue. 

The consumer has contact with packaging every day and contributes to the growing problem of waste through packaging.  Our research has found that not only do consumers want to simplify their daily lives through “low impact” living, they do not want or need all the unnecessary packaging that surround their brands; they perceive it as extraneous to the product.

And, there are some glaringly obvious disconnects: e.g., food with a 6 month shelf life in packages that last 6,000 years.  Now you not only have solid waste but also greenhouse gases!

Reducing the environmental footprint of packaging requires the cooperation of the entire value chain.

Recent meetings at a variety of Fortune 100 clients resulted in clients sharing their corporate positioning on going green, but the reality is in this economy is that they are not ready to fully commit investments toward "going green".

How Do we Move Forward?

So, how do we change this? Can we change this?  Again, consumer education and a clear communications hierarchy through labeling may help pressure the corporations into action.  Perhaps, if the consumer really understood which claims were truthful and viable, this would become a beneficial point of difference to drive the corporations into making the investments.

Another route would be some sort of government incentive to go green.

The corporations who had the foresight to invest in removing trans fats before there was pressure to, found themselves in a profitable position once the consumers were educated better.

Now that we understand some of the terms that are being used in today's vocabulary, how real should our expectations for a greener world through packaging be?

What do we have to do to design against sustainable packaging?

Actually, the design is easy. In fact, only a year ago my group had a package design prominently displayed at a world renowned packaging show because of its eco-friendly design.

But this was a concept. No different than the concept cars at the auto show that run on water instead of gasoline. The truth is, the design is there, the technology is there, but the funding…what is the price for a company to make sustainability a part of their corporate culture?  The price of the planet…but that is long term strategic thinking and most companies are not willing to invest in the short term (now) to get there.

Lastly, in terms of brand icons as cultural nomenclature ~ a new consumer language has been established, and it speaks of clarity in protecting the environment, reducing conspicuous consumption and our footprint, creating a healthy balance between consumerism and capitalism, and caring for our living earth (one package at a time)!

“In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it’s un-environmental, it is un-economical.  That is the rule of nature.” Mollie Beattie Former Director U.WS. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Jackie DeLise Jackie DeLise is Vice President of Zunda Group LLC.  Zunda Design Group creates brands that inspire, by designing visual identity and packaging that evoke emotions and connect consumers to their brand, ultimately captivating attention and purchase intent at retail.  Jackie can be reached at j.delise@zundagroup.com.

Wegmans Looks to Reduce Packaging Waste

Wegmans New York-based grocery store chain Wegmans is working on finding innovative ways to reducing packaging.

The company is trying to make the recycling of packaging easier for consumers by adding the phrase “recyclable 1” and “recyclable 2” to produce packaging.

The company also reducing packaging waste by eliminating the use of wax containers for certain deli items. The elimination resulted in a reduction of nearly 1 million pounds of packaging waste that otherwise would have been landfilled.

The idea to eliminate the wax containers came from a store manager responding to an open invitation from the company seeking ideas for reducing packaging waste.

Wegmans, like other companies is realizing the operational and PR benefits of improving efficiency and reducing waste. Packaging is an area where many companies can work to streamline.

Miller Brewing Company Packaging Recycling

Miller Brewing Company Last week Miller Brewing Company released their first ever Sustainable Development Report.  The report outlines a number of initiatives and highlight of the company's efforts towards more sustainable operations.

Of interest to Sustainable is Good readers, Miller says they have diverted 2.5 million pounds of packaging waste from landfills over the past five years for an overall packaging recycling rate of 99.9%.

The report says Miller is planning on reducing the weight of their packaging and the amount of materials used.  It also indicates the company will, "Use recyclable materials, where appropriate."

"We have begun to move toward vegetable based inks in our package printing and we began working with suppliers to identify ways to reduce the cardboard content of our folding cartons and the metal content in our bottle caps," the report says.

"These slight adjustments will maintain the integrity and durability of our packaging while providing a measurable impact on our material use and environmental footprint."

Miller is using SmartGate during its product development and has teams working with Wal-Mart and Sam's club packaging and display optimization.

Consumers Confused as to Source of Fiji Water

Fiji_bottle_2 Packaging design not enough to convince consumers the water is actually from Fiji

As we have reported extensively over the past year on both of our sites - bottled water has been the subject of increased scrutiny from a growing group of eco-conscious consumers. 

Its interesting to see Fiji Water is dealing with a new issue - consumer confusion as to where it actually comes from. 

The company is dealing with the problem through marketing and packaging design.  They have added the phrase "From the Island of Fiji" to all the bottled water packaging.

Fijilive reports at least 60 percent of Fiji Water’s customers are not convinced that the bottled mineral water comes from Fiji.

Margo Jamieson of Fiji Water said that while the source makes the product unique, consumer trial is really driven by package design and the “idea” of Fiji.

Some think that the product comes from Mount Fuji (in Japan).

At the FIA Congress, Jamieson said that definitely since the initial researches, they have started to put on the bottles “from the islands of Fiji” in their marketing.

“We point to where Fiji is unique. We are very much taking that as part of an education process and we are definitely part of it.

“In the world that we live in, where we have so many different consumer choices, different brands out there, there is confusion. But we definitely as part of our program is to market the idea of Fiji.

Jamieson says that most of Fiji Water is exported to the United States market, although non US markets are growing most rapidly.

She said Fiji Water holds 2 a percent share of the US market and that “over 600 competitors are always vying for our business.”

Fiji Water does magazine advertising with over 147 million impressions. “Our target consumers are 41 per cent more likely to read magazines and 29 per cent less likely to watch TV versus the general population.”`

via Fijilive

Sustainable Packaging – At What Cost?

A group I belong to recently had an interesting online debate on why sustainable packaging was "always" more expensive. The reasons and theories cited included freight and transportation costs, greedy manufacturers, a shift from some materials to others creating shortages, etc. Most of the wide variety of comments posted were accurate to some degree, but I was surprised no one mentioned the first rule of business, the one even non-business people often quote.

Sustainability and the Law of Supply and Demand

If more people were buying any specific green packaging product, more companies would manufacture it and eventually, probably sooner than later, the market price would be reduced due to increased competition. In addition, whether you are talking about tape, boxes, or void fill, short runs of a green packaging product for any manufacturer are always substantially more expensive than a long run of a similar "non-green" product because of costly changeover time and related costs. We need to understand that companies have spent decades and millions streamlining and automating their manufacturing processes to be able to produce volume efficiently. Once you realize and accept these facts, the solution is fairly obvious.

Globe Guard Sustainable Boxes How Can Brown Boxes Turn Green?

Our company recently introduced a line of 100% recycled post consumer content corrugated boxes with the objective of making them price competitive with "standard" boxes that usually contain 25 to 35% recycled pre-consumer, in plant waste content. Our approach has been rather expensive in terms of time, initial start up costs, inventory buildup, etc., but essentially we helped design the product, enlisted the help of a visionary company to help make the product we were confident the market wanted and needed, and then took it to market. By combining volume of numerous smaller users, we were able to secure the support of a major corrugated manufacturer by providing them the volume that they need to be efficient in the production of our product. Much to our pleasant surprise, we discovered that our boxes are not necessarily much higher in price, in most cases we are within 10% of the current supplier and in some cases we are even less expensive!

Market Response

What has been fascinating to us through the launch and introduction has been the wide range of potential customer expectations and perceptions. Many of the people we speak with expect our product to be outrageously priced and they initially respond with "I want to be green but I can’t afford it". They have been convinced that green will always cost double or more than standard products and we are happy to dispel that misconception.

We have also been surprised by the number of people who believe our product should be less expensive since it is not made of virgin material. They obviously do not understand that saving consumer waste from landfills is more expensive in many ways that cutting down a tree that is genetically engineered to grow back in a relatively short five to seven years. I think we can all relate to high fuel prices and what it has done to freight and transportation costs.

The only prospects that we have not been able to help have been inquiries for highly unusual sizes, custom printed boxes in very small quantities. For all the reasons cited above, they usually discover there is little we can do to make their unique box be price competitive with standard construction, common size, stock box pricing.

Market Reaction by the Environmentally Focused

One fully committed lady told me she understood what we were attempting to do short term as well as long term and offered to help support our program during this initial costly phase. One incredibly eco minded prospect quickly stated that he could justify paying up to 50% more for our product because he was certain it would help him make his environmental message to his customers more consistent and more obvious. I instantly admired him for his environmental commitment and swore not to take advantage of his eagerness and openness. I am pleased to say our pricing was very competitive to what he had been paying to his former vendor.

Full Steam Ahead!

Despite the erratic price perceptions and inconsistent manufacturing costs, we are fully committed to bringing green products to market; in fact, we are about to roll out several new items in response to our customers’ growing sustainable packaging needs.

We are confident market pricing will eventually stabilize at very attractive and competitive levels as supply catches up with the slow but steady increase in demand. Unfortunately today’s weak economy has put the spotlight on price and to survive, companies are looking anywhere and everywhere to reduce cost but we remain optimistic. We are counting on the fact that the environment will not be where companies decide to make compromises.

Dennis Salazar Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise.   

To contact Dennis, please visit his web site: www.salazarpackaging.com

To read more articles by Dennis Salazar click here

Dell Responds to Excessive Packaging Claims

Direct2Dell Following up on a story we covered on excessive packaging from Dell, the company has posted a response and outlined steps they are taking to address the issue. 

The way Dell choose to respond to this issue is interesting.  As soon as the stories began appearing on various blogs including this one, a representative from Dell was posting comments indicating they were concerned and looking into the matter.  The company also provided some information on what happened and assured readers they would follow up.

Just over two weeks after the story broke Dell did follow up as they promised.  The company posted yesterday on their Direct2Dell blog.  Todd Dwyer, Dell's Community Liaison - Environment explains in the posting how the company is concerned about the excessive packaging issue and taking steps to insure it will not happen again.

Dell's public response is admirable.  Contrast it to the approach other companies we've covered recently have taken, namely Whole Foods and Target who both opted not to provide information on issues.

Dwyer writes:

It's no secret that Dell aims to be the greenest technology company in the world. But on Earth Day last week, sites like The Consumerist, Gizmodo, and other blogs showed us that there's still more work for us to do.

Shortly after we read those posts, we had a team on the road to Dallas to meet with the vendor that shipped this flash drive to see how we can improve the process. End result, there's some easy fixes and some longer-term issues for us to address. Here's an outline:

* Immediate: Directive to use envelopes for small items such as these.

* Short term: Use of smaller boxes. We have requested an optimization analysis of product volume to box size.

* Short term: Implementation of Dell-defined volumetric metrics on void space in the package to be incorporated into our periodic vendor business reviews.

While third party items such as these make up a very small portion of our overall shipping volume, folks here know we need to fix it. Our sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who pointed this irregularity out to us. We hope that all of you will continue to provide feedback like this on any of our green-focused Direct2Dell posts, or if you have ideas about ways we can make improvements, please share them in the Environment section on IdeaStorm.

via Direct2Dell

Dell Latest Company Featured with Packaging Gaffe

Dell Box

Readers of the popular web site The Consumerist know excessive packaging can be problem.  The site regularly runs stories based on reports from readers who order a product online and receive the item with excessive packaging.

The latest story features a reader who ordered a Kingston 2gb USB flash drive.  The drive arrived promptly from Dell in a box that seemed rather large for the item. 

From The Consumerist: "From the looks of David's package, Dell isn't close to honoring its promise to switch to alternative packaging within the next two months. This obscenely large box contained nothing more than a 2GB flash drive."

The fact consumers are reacting in a negative fashion to excessive shipping packaging is important to note.  It serves as an indicator as to how the issue of excessiveness is resonating with consumers.  Is it the fact that consumers react only in instances of egregious over packaging or are people becoming more and more aware of packaging and excessiveness in general?

Dell isn't alone, Amazon.com is another company whose excessive packaging issues are often featured on the Consumerist.

Australian Scent Packaging

Australian Scent Australian Scent is a small natural skin care company based in Houston.  The company's all natural products are of high quality and appeal to a growing market of consumers interested in natural and organic skin care products. 

Australian Scent uses stock packaging for the majority of their product packaging.  The company is an excellent example of how careful creative use of stock packaging can come together to give a product line the look and feel of custom packaging. 

Company co-founder Megan Enriquez told Sustainable is Good she spends about 15-20% of her time on packaging both sourcing and researching.

“We use multiple companies, including some from California, Ohio, Idaho, Connecticut, Texas and New York, often getting the jar from one area and the lids from another,” said Enriquez. 

The majority of the packaging the company uses is glass and through careful work they have been able to develop a consistent feel to their products through the packaging. 

Sustainable is Good had the opportunity to examine a number of Australian Scent's products and packaging.  The products in the line work well together and the combination of frosted, clear and brown glass jars and bottles signify different types of products within the line.  The products are all drawn together by the consistency of the lid design

Australian Scent Always looking for new more efficient packaging options, Enriquez is confident as her company grows she'll be able to move into more sustainable packaging options eliminating the small amount of plastic they currently use.

Enriquez dislikes waste and the company encourages customers to return the glass packaging where it will be sterilized and reused.

Webextra LEARN  more about Australian Scent, read our story on their products on Sustainable is Good Products

Ireland Exceeds Packaging Recycling Targets

Packaging Recycling According to published reports Ireland has far exceeded EU targets for the recycling of packaging waste. 

Tony Killeen, Minister of State at the Environment Department told attendees of the 2008 Repak Service Providers Conference, “The recycling of packaging waste is probably the leading Irish environmental success story.”

“For the past number of years, Ireland has consistently exceeded EU and national targets for recovery and recycling of this waste stream.”

Figures from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency show that in 2005, 64% of packaging waste was recovered against a target of 50%

Sustainable Packaging, the Housewares Show, and the 5 Stages of Grief

Sustainability – An Unwelcome Change?

Chicago Housewares Show Sustainability A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the sprawling Housewares Show at Chicago’s McCormick Place, where over 1,200 exhibitors showcased the best their companies and industry had to offer.  I took full advantage of the opportunity to conduct an informal “sustainability survey” as I visited each exhibitor’s booth. I inquired about their green objectives and initiatives, and the responses varied tremendously. I suspect that to some degree the exhibitors reflect the population as a whole.

As I listened to the varying comments on sustainability and packaging, I was reminded of the Kubler-Ross “Five Stages of Grief”, which famously describe our natural and very human resistance to change. The five distinct stages are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. In my conversations, all five stages were clearly demonstrated as people reflected on how green is impacting their business.


I was very disappointed by the number of people who are still stuck in stage one and who really want to believe this environmental, sustainability thing is “going to blow over”. I am very sorry to admit that most of these people are of my generation. We “Boomers” may have lived and perhaps even led America through one of the most turbulent times in our history but we tend to not accept change easily or quickly. To be fair, many cited a litany of previous environmental fads that came went, so I can understand why expecting this green season to pass may appear more sensible than addressing it. But whether because of the drugs most of us consumed in the 60’s or simply reduced blood flow to the brain, some among the generation that stood for innovation, change, and social responsibility is now simply out of touch


I was very surprised to encounter some rudeness and even some hostility that went well beyond the “why me?” attitude that often accompanies this stage. I sincerely believe that these are business people who, unlike the group above, recognize the change but are simply unprepared to deal with it. It is a confusing topic with few clear answers, so some degree of confusion and frustration is understandable. The term, “shoot the messenger” came to mind as a few exhibitors tried to convince me that I was perpetuating the problem by bringing it up. They may be right but I gladly “take the bullet” if it means getting them past this counterproductive stage.


This by far is the most troublesome group, because they have already decided how to best “handle this problem” and have determined what they are willing and able to do to satisfy this consumer “whim”.  “As little as possible” appears to be their approach to what they see as an unavoidable issue they have to deal with. Many of the people are not fully committed and see only the cost, not the benefit that could potentially accrue to them and their company. Unfortunately, this is where half hearted measures and deceptive compromise are born and flourish.


This group of people hides behind the convenient excuse of “all my packaging comes from overseas and they make those decisions”. By avoiding that responsibility they can run but will never be able to hide from the inarguable fact that they are contributing to the problem, not the solution. I sincerely saw hints of remorse and sadness in people who know they are not doing the right thing and live in fear that eventually their “greenwashing” ways will be exposed by a growing public awareness.


Here is where the hope is for the industry, if not the planet. I spoke to numerous companies who are making solid commitments and decisions to use better, more earth friendly packaging materials and less of them. They are working toward more local, domestic sources of supply that will reduce the carbon footprint of the products they sell and are sincere in their efforts to implement cradle to cradle thinking and processes. These bright people have figured out what the giant CPG companies already have discovered -- going green may cost time and money initially but it pays huge dividends in the long run.

Sustainability is a Good Bet

The Housewares Show was impressive from every perspective. The bright lights, huge crowds, impressive displays, great food, excellent wine, and lovely models seemed more appropriate for an evening in Las Vegas than McCormick Place in Chicago on a cool spring day. Unlike Las Vegas though, where the odds are always in the favor of the house, sustainability is not at all a game of chance. There will most certainly be big winners and even bigger losers but everyone has an equal and achievable opportunity to come out on top. I look forward to helping the winners celebrate because if we achieve what has to be done and we protect our quickly dwindling resources, we all win.

Dennis Salazar Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise.   

To contact Dennis, please visit his web site: www.salazarpackaging.com

To read more articles by Dennis Salazar click here

FTC Modifying Green Marketing and Packaging Guidelines

FTC Eco Marketing The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that it is updating and revising green marketing and packaging guidelines. The last changes were made in 1998 and as you can imagine, much has changed. Certainly many more businesses are promoting varying degrees of environmental responsibility as a part of their manufacturing, design and packaging.

The FTC guidelines’ primary objective is to avoid deceptive marketing and packaging practices and some of the issues they plan on addressing include:

-Marketing carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates
-Claims such as environmentally friendly, sustainable, recyclable, recycled content, degradability, compostability
-The use of environmental seals and certifications

You can check out the current and soon to be updated guidelines at the FTC site.

As you will notice, current guidelines really don’t address many commonly used packaging claims that we associate with environmentally responsible practices such as sustainable, renewable, or eco-friendly.

The new FTC guidelines will come none too soon for many environmental advocates and responsible marketers given the recent report from TerraChoice Environmental Marketing showing that most green marketing claims are incorrect and guilty of at least one of the ‘Six Sins of Greenwashing’.

While it’s great to see so many businesses embracing environmental sustainability, it’s also important to provide clarity for both manufacturers and consumers by establishing guidelines and definitions of terminology so we can all evaluate for ourselves if products and packaging meet our expectations.

Webextra See related coverage on the FTC & Green Marketing

Seattle May Ban Foam Food Packaging

Food_foam The Seattle-Post Intelligencer reported yesterday the city of Seattle is considering enacting a comprehensive ban on polystyrene foam packaging items commonly used in food packaging.  The proposed ban would also enact a twenty cent fee on both paper and plastic bags.

If passed the polystyrene foam ban would outlaw items including plates, trays, clamshells, cups, meat trays and egg cartons at stores and restaurants.  The ban would have a major impact on the grocery industry as well as fast food takeout packaging.

As Sustainable is Good reported last week companies like Murrays Chicken are already working with packaging suppliers to eliminate the use of foam trays in their fresh meat packaging.  Murrays is leading the way with their new packaging already available in stores in the Northeast.  The company no longer uses a foam tray in its packaging.

Sustainable is Good Launches New Products Site


Today is an exciting day as we are launching a new site under the Sustainable is Good name focused exclusively on greener more eco-friendly products.  The new site is Sustainable is Good Products

By expanding into a new products site it allows us to focus our original site Sustainable is Good on sustainable innovations in packaging, design, marketing and branding and focus the new site solely on greener more eco-friendly products.

Sustainable is Good has seen tremendous growth since it went live just over a year ago.  Both sites will feature the original in-depth content our readers expect and enjoy.  We've become known for providing relevant coverage and interviews with product manufacturers, designers and companies - that will continue!

Sustainable is Good Products features a familiar site format and just like the original site will offer comprehensive archives, search functionality and as it grows a wealth of information of interest to a wide range of consumers, professionals and others.

Wine Retailers and Manufacturers Seek Lighter Packaging

Wine_packaging Wine industry retailers, suppliers and manufacturers held a forum organized by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) in London to discuss problems with the limited supply of lightweight wine packaging.

Wine industry publication Decanter Magazine ran a piece on their web site on the forum which represented the first time the wine industry and its suppliers have come together in an organized industry forum to discuss the problem.

Decanter reported the forum focused on barriers to the introduction of lightweight bottles, supply and demand and levels of financial commitment to the issue by stake holders.

The WSTA's Kate Coleman told decanter.com various association members have approached the organization seeking more eco-friendly bottles.

While the forum was primarily focused on wine packaging solutions for the UK market it represents an important indicator of the priority eco-friendly packaging has with major wine manufacturers and suppliers.  The forum was attended by major wine producers and leading retailers.

Decanter reports no definitive solution was worked out at the meeting however all parties involved have agreed to make addressing the issue a top priority.

Gift Card Packaging Important to Consumers Survey Says

Seastonephoto_2 A recent industry survey showed consumers are more likely to purchase gift cards that come with additional packaging. 

While the news is good for the gift card industry the results are troubling from an environmental perspective. Increased packaging means increased use of resources primarily trees that produce much of the paperboard used for gift cards and packaging.

The 2008 Gift Card Packaging Study was conducted by The Marketing Workshop, and commissioned by Seastone a leading manufacturer of gift card packaging. 

The study found 84% of consumers would purchase a gift card if it came with free packaging.  In addition the study found 55% of consumers were more likely to purchase a gift card if additional packaging was available for purchase and that number increased to 62% if multiple packaging options were available. 

Continue reading "Gift Card Packaging Important to Consumers Survey Says" »

Why Are We Wasting?


"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

(William Shakespeare, from his play “Julius Caesar”)

“We have met the enemy, and they are us.”
(Walt Kelly, from his cartoon strip, “Pogo”)

The Chicken and the Egg

There are two schools of thought about why Americans generate so much waste. One school believes we have been conditioned to consume by big business, big media, and big marketing. People from this school are convinced that these massive entities – informally or perhaps not so informally – have conspired since the Industrial Revolution to line their pockets by socking us and sacking the environment. The other school believes just the opposite. These folks hold that the consumption treadmill rolls on and on because that is what American consumers want. The American character, they say, is self absorbed and materialistic, so business and media respond by producing more and more stuff.

The first school, which I call the Conspiracy School, believes the sustainable solution is more and more and more government regulation. The second school, which I call the Culture in Crisis School, believes the sustainable solution is blowing up Hummer dealerships. I believe the second school has it right with regard to diagnosing the illness, but has it all wrong when it comes to prescribing the cure.

Continue reading "Why Are We Wasting?" »

Brand Packaging Magazine: Interview with Jennifer Acevedo

BRANDPACKAGING magazine has just come out with its first publication (JAN/FEB 08) in its new format and design and the reaction has been highly positive.  As one of the only industry magazines focused on the brand marketing side of packaging and design it's a refreshing addition to the existing group of packaging industry publications.

Sustainable is Good recently had the chance to ask BRANDPACKAGING's Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Acevedo about the magazine's new look and format as well as her thoughts on sustainability and packaging design.

Brandpackaging RT: Give us some details behind the redesign of BRANDPACKAGING - what is the concept behind it and what prompted the change?

JA:  BRANDPACKAGING has been constantly evolving since it was first launched a little more than 10 years ago. Then, its pages were packed with information on shopping behavior, building shelf presence and taming global markets. This was a publication ahead of its time—the first magazine devoted to how packaging connects to the larger dialogue about the brand.

Today, we find ourselves in a unique position as an industry. The landscape has changed drastically. Design is a business imperative and marketers have realized that the media environment is fragmented at best. Now more than ever, packaging is critical to delivering the brand message. We decided the time was right for a redesign— everything was on the table, from our logo and tagline to the visual look and feel, and even the informational structure, of the magazine.

Visually, the new look is intended to be bold, provocative and powerful. A new logo, which features a “carat” in place of the letter “A” in BRANDPACKAGING, supports our more clearly articulated mission to “Elevate Packaging in the Marketing Mix”.  We have also moved to a new oversized format to provide a larger billboard and accommodate a new two-column layout.

RT: The magazine offers a nice balance between design and packaging information who is the target audience?  Has it evolved?  Do you see it expanding into new areas?  If so which.

JA:  Our primary audience is composed of brand marketers across a wide range of categories of consumer packaged goods—everything from food and beverage to personal care to consumer electronics and cosmetics. We are also heavily utilized by a secondary group, the creative and innovation teams (both internally and based in agencies) who support and collaborate with marketing.

From the research we conducted at the beginning of the redesign project, we found that both of these groups relied on the magazine to sell the value of packaging “up” in their organizations. This understanding of how the publication is used, and by whom, guides us as we are gathering, filtering and presenting information to our readership.


RT:  We've seen a tremendous increase in the focus on sustainability and green issues in packaging over the last year what do you see as the single most important development in packaging design over the last year related to this topic?

JA:  Not long ago, sustainability was addressed by only the most eco-forward of brands, your Aveda’s and the like. These brands embraced sustainability as a core value. When Wal-Mart announced it would begin holding brand owners accountable for the impact their packaging has on the environment, the game changed.

And even though the scorecard is not the only criteria that Wal-Mart will use when making purchasing decisions, it has gotten the attention of the brand owners and I think the program offers a couple of long-term benefits as the consumer becomes more and more savvy about the issue of sustainability.

First, the scorecard gives brands a relatively clear-cut means to quantify and evaluate their packaging and its impact on the environment. The scorecard generates a number that tells the brand where it stands and how it can improve.

Continue reading "Brand Packaging Magazine: Interview with Jennifer Acevedo" »

Consumers Drive Demand for Green Packaging

Us_packaging Following up on Friday's piece on American consumers willingness to  reduce packaging JoAnn Hines The Packaging Diva, recently gave a speech touching on the the same topic.  Hines' speech entitled "From Green to Great," was presented at a Retailing Today sponsored forum, “Best Practices in Sustainability: Top Trends, Tips and Takeaways from Thought Leaders in Green Retailing.”

U.S. Consumers Driving Greener Packaging

Hines says in the U.S. only about 10% of the population is willing to pay more for eco-friendly products and their corresponding packaging.

According to a Nielsen Global Food Packaging Survey, nearly one in two global consumers would give up all forms of packaging provided for convenience purposes if it would benefit the environment, which includes packaging designed for easy stacking/storing at home (49%); packaging that can be used for cooking, or doubling as a re-sealable container (48%); and packaging designed for easy transport (47%). "That sounds good on paper and in theory but what will it cost us," asks Hines.

"There is no country in the world that has as much convenience packaging as we do in the U.S.," she said.  "Think about what would you be willing to give up?"

Hines said the important message here is that we are a convenience and disposable society.  "We are way behind other countries on the issue of sustainability and other environmentally friendly practices," she said.

Are Americans Willing to Reduce Packaging


Glynn Davis over at Retail Bulletin has an interesting post today on consumer reaction to excess packaging.

Nielsen stats from this week in the US showed majority of Americans would give up all forms of packaging provided for convenience purposes if it would benefit the environment. Consumers said they would give up packaging designed for easy transport, packaging designed for use in cooking, and packaging designed for easy stacking.

Davis writes that sounds great until you delve deeper into the same survey and find that a minority of people would be willing to give up packaging designed for other purposes such as keeping food fresher for longer or keeping products in good condition.

Perhaps most troubling was the revelation that 10 percent of Americans would not give up any form of packaging to help save the environment.

Herein lies the problem for retailers and manufacturers - many consumers claim to do one thing in surveys but their actions say something completely different.  Davis says, "In reality they don't give a damn about the environment."

The piece is quite timely and highlights the challenges major companies face in this arena.  Sustainable is Good covered P&G earlier in the week and their greener packaging improvements fall in line with the results of this survey. 

Makers of many mainstream consumer products are hesitant to make significant packaging adjustments solely for environmental purposes perhaps because as Davis points out consumers are difficult to gauge and the last thing companies want to do is jeopardize sales.   

OASIS First U.S. Organic Standard for the Beauty and Personal Care Industry


Cosmetic Industry Companies Create OASIS

In a major development within the cosmetic and personal care industry here in the U.S., representatives from a number of the leading companies in the industry have come together to create OASIS, the first U.S. industry standard for certifying organic cosmetic products.

OASIS (Organic and sustainable industry standards) is a collaborative effort between a number of companies including Estee Lauder, Aveda, L'Oreal, Private Label Select, Oh Oh Organics, Hain Celestial Group and others.  The organization is a registered 501c 6 Mutual Benefit Trade Association designed to represent the concerns and goals of companies that make sustainable and organic products for the beauty and personal care industry.   The organization has 30 founding member companies which include both product and ingredient manufacturers as well as distributors.

Fueled by the lack of U.S. industry standards and the increased harmonization efforts of similar policies and standards in the EU, OASIS is aimed at providing clear industry standards.  "We (US beauty industry) needed to have a voice in this discussion," said Tim Kapsner a Senior Research Scientist with Aveda. 

Oasis_impact Kapsner explained the lack of a clear industry standard and increased consumer demand for organic beauty products have caused some companies to apply the USDA Organic food-grade standard to their cosmetic products.  But those standards were never designed for the beauty industry and presented a number of challenges to companies looking to certify high-performance products.

For Kapsner and his colleagues, OASIS is the result of nearly 10 years of work to establish organic standards and clarity in the industry.

In the EU, ECOCERT is the leading standard using 10% certified organic content as its benchmark for certification.   OASIS will require 85% certified organic content.  According to its organizing board, the "organic" standard will gradually increase until it reaches 95% organic content in several years.   

Karl Halpert, Founder of Private Label Select told Sustainable is Good the new OASIS certification will carry a significant education component both within the industry and also to consumers. "It will bring clarity to a very confusing marketplace," Halpert said.

Halpert said he expected products certified through the OASIS process to be available to consumers within 9-12 months.

OASIS certification will be conducted by International Cosmetics & Regulatory Specialists L.L.C.  an independent certifier using standards developed by OASIS.  Products certified by OASIS will carry the OASIS seal logo on their packaging.


OASIS will initially focus on certifying ingredients used in cosmetic/personal care products but will likely branch out to include sustainable practices and packaging.

Ellen Maguire, Vice President of Global Communications for Aveda told Sustainable is Good she expected products from Aveda would be OASIS certified within the next year.  She was also excited the standard would likely branch out to cover packaging noting Aveda's focus and leadership in the area of more sustainable packaging.

FTC to Hold Forum on Green Packaging


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hosting a public workshop to examine developments in green packaging claims and the consumer perception of those claims.  The workshop is part of the agency's regulatory review of the "Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims," commonly known as the Green Guides.

The workshop and the results of the discussion from the event will be of great interest to those following field of green/sustainable packaging.  Since the Green Guides were last revised in 1998 there has been exponential growth in the use of green claims relating to packaging. 

The FTC recognizes sellers and marketers frequently use terms addressed in the Green Guides, such as "recyclable, recycled content, biodegradable, degradable, compostable, or refillable," to claim their packaging is green.  Companies are also now using terms like "sustainable," and "renewable," which are not even contained in the Green Guides.

The FTC is the federal regulatory body responsible for oversight of claims companies use to sell products and resulting issues of consumer perception. 

The workshop will also examine the increase in third-party certification programs purporting to verify the positive environmental impact of product packaging.  Major verification programs used in packaging currently include FSC and SFI both dealing with paper/wood usage.

The FTC's Green Guides and Packaging workshop is scheduled for April 30, 2008 in Washington, DC.

Staples Cuts Ties with Asia Pulp & Paper


Massachusetts-based Staples, the largest US office supply store chain announced late last week it was canceling its contract with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) over environmental concerns.  The action by Staples ended an eleven year relationship between the two companies.

APP supplied roughly five percent of Staples paper products including some marketed under the Staples brand.    Staples spokesman Owen Davis said the company stopped buying from Asia Pulp "due to their clear lack of progress in improving their environmental performance.''

APP has been under fire from environmental groups including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund for its practices including alleged illegal logging in Indonesia and China and other issues.

While Staples action does not specifically address packaging its relevant as a significant move focusing on the sourcing of materials.  Staples clearly determined continuing its relationship with APP was detrimental  and could negatively impact its business.

Paper Packaging Major Threat to US Forests


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.

Webextra Download the full report

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.

International Paper is cited a major producer of packaging with strong ties to the region.   The company owns five container board mills and four consumer packaging mills in the Southeastern US.

The Cost Versus Price of Sustainability

Traditional Detergent Packaging is Slowly being Phased Out PHOTO I KinoSport

What does it cost for a manufacturer to deliver a more sustainable product or package to our retail store shelf and what should the resulting price be to us as consumers?

There is a perception that going green increases a manufacturer’s cost, but does it really? We have found that the answer is, not usually, especially if it is done correctly. There is also an equally inaccurate idea out there that we as consumers are willing and perhaps even eager to pay a premium for a more sustainable product or package. As a consumer who happens to be in the packaging business; the answer is definitely not, unless the higher price is truly necessary and justified.

These perceptions open the door for CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) manufacturers to quietly raise prices. Today I confirmed what I already suspected. While doing something positive for the environment, going green has become an opportunity for manufacturers to improve the profitability of a mature and perhaps less profitable product.

“Cleaning up” in the detergent aisle

Being the well trained husband that I am, I made my trip to the nearby, big box retail store, knowing the laundry detergent my wife wanted me to buy and what I should pay for it. I headed straight for the detergent aisle ( I told you I am well trained) and immediately saw the 200 ounce bottle that we usually buy and the brand new, concentrated version, bragging about its increased strength and the fact that only one half of the usual amount was now needed.

“That’s great,” I thought, knowing enough about packaging to appreciate the fact that the new version’s design meant -

  • - overall less packaging
  • - substantially less plastic resin used
  • - reduced corrugated usage
  • - lower inbound material and outbound finished product shipping costs
  • - a smaller carbon footprint

Then I took a closer look at the numbers that were NOT in big, bright, bold print.

Continue reading "The Cost Versus Price of Sustainability" »

Wal-Mart Buying Illegal Russian Wood to Make Products for US Market Report Alleges

WalmartreportcoverWe've been following an interesting story involving retail giant Wal-Mart.  The environmental watchdog group the Environmental Investigation Agency released a report earlier this month providing a detailed account of Wal-Mart's acquisition of wood and the Chinese manufacturing of its wood products for sale in the US market.  The report includes detailed accounts from numerous undercover investigations the agency conducted with manufacturers and timber buyers in China.

The EIA's twenty-six page report documents product manufacturers in China making products for Wal-Mart including the popular Simplicity baby crib using questionably or illegally harvested wood from Russia. 

Webextra Download the full EIA Report

The report is significant because a typical Wal-Mart Supercenter store in the US carries around 900 wood products.  The company has made a number of important environmental or eco-friendly advances in the last year including pledge to eliminate all non-concentrated liquid laundry detergents from its stores by this May. 

The EIA report is a major setback for the retail giant and offers a glimpse into the large scale problem of procuring wood for inexpensive US retail products. 

EIA investigators found a complex timber trade industry in China focused on selling wood from trees in Russia.  Large amounts of corruption were present in all aspects of the timber supply chain.  Manufacturers repeatedly told undercover EIA investigators they had to turn to Russian wood because it was the only way to get wood of the necessary hardness at prices that fit Wal-Mart's established pricing structure.  In order to meet the pricing demands of Wal-Mart, buying Russian timber is essential.

The report said much of the Russian timber comes from protected habitats where logging is illegal.  Many of the manufacturers covered in the report said or implied Wal-Mart was aware of the source of the wood.  According to the EIA report, Wal-Mart does not ask its suppliers where their wood comes from, and the retailer's 'don't ask' policy" is having particularly dangerous consequences for the high conservation value forest of the Russian Far East and the endangered species dependent on them, including the world's largest cat, the Siberian tiger.

EIA PHOTO - Chinese Timber Yard Processing Russian Wood

Continue reading "Wal-Mart Buying Illegal Russian Wood to Make Products for US Market Report Alleges" »

Secondary Packaging – The Silent Killer of the Environment


While direct contact/retail/primary packaging has been receiving all of the attention and well deserved scrutiny of the world, secondary packaging, without much attention at all, been has been quietly filling our landfills.

Trouble by the Pallet

It is estimated that the stretch film market - that nearly invisible product used to wrap pallets - is over 1.5 billion pounds annually. Stretch film is used for load retention and containment to get a product from one place to another. But after the product is received and the stretch wrap removed, it may well be re-palletized and then, of course, re-wrapped in more stretch film. If it sounds silly and wasteful, understand that scenario is probably played out tens of thousands of times each day between manufacturers, distribution centers and retailers. Guess where most of these 1.5 billion pounds wind up?

I admit my company sells stretch film and I suspect many may categorize it as a necessary evil because it is an excellent way to unitize and protect a load during shipment. For most loads, it can also help to avoid plastic or metal strapping, Strapping may not result is as much secondary packaging waste, but disposal is difficult, can be dangerous (ask anyone who has ever worked with it) and without costly, inflexible automation, the strapping process is labor intensive.

Fill Voids, Not Landfills

For the purpose of this discussion let’s acknowledge the difference between interior packaging and void fill products. Interior packaging is typically used in cushioning applications and can be constructed of a wide variety of flexible and rigid foams or of corrugated design. We usually see this around electronics and other high cost products that are susceptible to damage in shipment, especially from overseas. The volume of this waste is probably greater than anyone would suspect and the shame of it is that most of the foam products can be eliminated with good corrugated designs. That would make a great subject for an article but for now let’s focus on void fill materials.

Void fill packaging materials are used to protect the product(s) being shipped when the outer, shipping case is larger than the products. This is most common in pick and pack operations where orders tend to each be different in size, shape and weight. Most cases you receive are usually filled with some form of paper product (newsprint, indented, bogus, Kraft, etc.), bubble sheets, with one of many commercially available inflatable products, or loose fill materials including the much maligned (deservedly I believe) foam peanuts and shells.

With so many options and manufacturers involved in the void fill industry, it is impossible to determine or accurately estimate the amount of waste being generated. However, I think we can all agree the total volume is substantial. Just check the local landfill and you’ll see that voids in boxes is not all these products are filling.

Continue reading "Secondary Packaging – The Silent Killer of the Environment" »

Method Detox Your Home to Appear on HSN


San Francisco -based Method will appear in a feature this Saturday and Monday on the popular home shopping channel HSN (Home Shopping Network).  HSN will premiere on Saturday at 7am and 11pm and then will feature Method products on Monday in a program called "Healthy Home Featuring Method" at 4 and 9 am.

The network will feature Method's popular "Detox your Home" kits in four configurations, lavender, go naked, pink grapefruit and variety.  Each kit will sell for $19.98 nearly $10 less than from Method directly.  As part of their new relationship with HSN, Method is also launching a co-branded reusable shopping bag with HSN.  The bag is available for $14.99 individually and is also part of the exclusive "Detox your Home" kits being offered.

The fact HSN is featuring Method products is an interesting gauge of the all important mainstream acceptance of greener more eco-friendly products. 

Method has built its business on offering consumers greener more eco-friendly products with a focus on design and innovation.  The idea behind Method's strategy is consumers are more likely to accept these types of products if they are presented in a higher end more visually appealing fashion.  As a result the company has placed a premium on the design and packaging of its products.


How to Use Less Stretch Film for Pallet Unitization

Stretch film, a linear low density polyethylene pallet wrapping material, is the overwhelming choice for unitizing loads for truck and rail shipment. Although a wrapped pallet usually uses one pound of stretch film or less, the weight adds up quickly. U.S. stretch film consumption is in the neighborhood of 1 billion pounds per year.

Shippers can make a big dent in consumption by taking advantage of new film technologies, more efficient equipment, and careful review of their application.

New Films. Since stretch film first became popular in the late 1970's, manufacturers have steadily improved film quality and performance. Today's films stretch more, exert stronger holding force on the load, and have much greater puncture resistance. As a result, shippers can use thinner films and apply less film to their loads without compromising pallet integrity. Unfortunately, in many shipping operations, films are neither tested nor upgraded on a regular basis. A film which was "state of the art" in 2004 may be a mediocre performer by 2008 standards.

Efficient Equipment. Stretch film can be applied to pallets by hand or with a machine. When applied manually, films are typically stretched only 25-40%. However, when applied by a conventional stretch wrap machine employing a rudimentary core braking system, stretch percentages can exceed 100%. To obtain even greater yields, shippers can use machinery with a powered pre-stretching system capable of stretching film as much as 300%. Small volume shippers find it difficult to justify the cost of powered pre-stretch equipment, which runs into the low or mid five-figures. For them a better, less expensive alternative is to retrofit pre-stretch attachments onto existing standard brake machines. For high volume shippers, an ROI of 12 months or less is common when upgrading from conventional to powered pre-stretch equipment.

Continue reading "How to Use Less Stretch Film for Pallet Unitization" »

Fred Natural Spring Water


New York, NY - based Fred Brands producers of Fred bottled water announced a new packaging configuration last week designed at making their water easier to sell in new retail environments and markets.

Fred is an interesting brand as they have focused heavily on their image with younger consumers offering a trendzine called FredSpot and Myspace page to promote the bottled water line.   

The new packaging is a paperboard "six-pack" style package designed to hold six bottles of Fred water.  The packaging is made from recycled paperboard and is printed using Soy-based inks. 

The company says the packaging will offer consumers a new option in buying Fred water, one they believe is important to offer as they are expanding into new markets across the country.

The 2008 “7 R’s” of Anti-Sustainability

With tongue in cheek and apologies to the Wal-Mart version we have all heard, please consider these thoughts that are sure to help us NOT achieve sustainability in 2008.

1. Refuse to consider thoughts and opinions other than your own. If you are right and everyone else is wrong, why bother?

2. Remain glued to the status quo. After all if what you have been doing works, why take a chance on changing anything?

3. Reject any idea that even remotely sounds like compromise even though sometimes, that is the best way to accomplish progress.

4. Resist any new technology unless it is absolutely perfect and supports your position. “See I told you it wouldn’t work” can be all so satisfying.

5. Ridicule anyone who appears to be profiting from their work in sustainability, especially if their margin appears to exceed your own.

6. Repel anyone seeking knowledge or help. Everyone knowing as much as you do cannot be a good thing.

Last but not least

7. Resign yourself to the fact that the environmental problem is too large to be fixed. Seek new goals that are easier to achieve!

Continue reading "The 2008 “7 R’s” of Anti-Sustainability" »

Who Are the Landfillers



We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us

Considering the surge in public awareness and all the media attention on our fragile environment, you may find this fact astounding – it is estimated that only about 30% of the waste able to be recycled, actually is.

Why don’t more people recycle their recyclable waste? The answer is as simple: because they don’t have to.

When I’m in mixed company or in the presence of young children, I refer to these non-recyclers as “Landfillers”. The Landfillers choose not to recycle because there is no immediate, short-term benefit to them, and absolutely no penalty for not complying.

I suspect the 30% figure varies greatly from one town or state to another. I am certain the actual percentage in my area is far less because of the Landfillers. In Southern California and other areas, recycling with meticulous sorting is required, but in our suburban Chicago village, we have no recycling regulations whatsoever. As a result, I would estimate the number of households on our street that do not use their recycling bin is probably close to 50%. What do the Landfillers do with their village-issue recycling bins? My best guess is the bins are used as step stools or toy bins, or got tossed in the trash and now gather dust in … the landfill.

Continue reading "Who Are the Landfillers " »

Field Guide to Sustainable Packaging: Book Review


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.    

Continue reading "Field Guide to Sustainable Packaging: Book Review" »

Simon & Schuster's New Paper Policy: Progress or ? Policies Role in Determining a Company's Greenness

Ss_corp_logo_wout_tag We haven't focused on green marketing/ corporate policy issues much of late but a recent post over on the Environmental Paper Boy (EPB) raised some interesting questions in these areas. 

The piece focused on publisher Simon & Schuster's announcement last week of a new corporate policy related to their paper use.  Being a leading book publishing company their actions in regards to paper are important since they use so much of it.

Josh at EPB found the company's new policy to be a "joke" and was highly critical over the conditions the company set on some of their green goals outlined in the plan.  While the EPB site clearly has a more green slant to the issues it covers - the piece raises some interesting questions.

In a period when just about every aspect of corporate America is trying to "go green" is it helpful or hurtful to publish a policy that really doesn't seem to accomplish all that much? 

Or is Simon & Schuster's policy actually a realistic paper usage policy and we are so heavily inundated with greenwashing and green claims these days that as a result their policy seems insignificant?

Is the fact Simon & Schuster is making an attempt to increase the amount of FSC certified paper they use to 10% by 2012 (with three conditions applied to it) something to highlight or has such an action already become a norm or minimum standard in assessing greenness these days? 

Its an interesting question and one with much relevance to the packaging industry.  When store brands like Target's Archer Farms Organic are using FSC certified Mixed Source paperboard packaging doesn't that establish a baseline? 

So if another company comes out with a sustainable packaging policy that stipulates in five years they plan to convert 10% of their paperboard packaging to FSC certified Mixed Source paper - its not all that impressive.  Others in the industry are doing it and have been for a while. 

Five Steps Target is Taking to Reduce PVC Plastic

Targetpvcsustainableisgood Last week Target, the nations fifth largest retailer announced a comprehensive plan to reduce and eliminate PVC plastic from its products and packaging. 

The announcement will have a major impact on Target's packaging operations where PVC is commonly used in clamshell type packaging.

Five Steps Target is Taking to Reduce PVC Plastic

Reducing PVC in infant products and children’s toys:  All children’s eating utensils and lunchboxes are now PVC-free.  All baby bibs will be PVC-free by January 2008. The company is phasing out phthalates in most of their toys by Fall 2008.  They are also eliminating phthalates in baby changing tables by January 2008.

•  Significantly reducing PVC in shower curtains: They are significantly reducing their sale of PVC shower curtains by offering more shower curtains out of cloth and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), a safer PVC-free plastic.  They expect to be 88% PVC free by Spring 2008.

•  Reducing PVC in placemats, table linens, and coolers: Target will be 96% PVC-free in their placemat and table linen categories by Spring 2008.  All Target soft-sided coolers are now PVC-free.

•  Reducing PVC in packaging: Target is reducing PVC packaging in the company’s Target brand dinnerware, travel accessories, toys and sporting goods. For food packaging, Target has a requirement in place to avoid the use of PVC when possible.  In the media category (clamshells/blisters in electronics), Target is replacing the PVC clamshell with a modified paperboard/plastic packaging.  For instance, iPod carrying cases sold at Target are being packaged in PVC-free packaging.  The company is also asking their vendors to reduce the amount of packaging on their products and use materials that are easily recyclable.

•  Educating purchasers about PVC hazards: The company has developed a “sustainable products guide” that’s being “developed to educate internal product designers, sourcing specialist and merchants about sustainable products, and to help them identify suppliers who are committed to the principles of sustainable design. This guide addresses general principles of sustainable design and specific environmental considerations associated with forest and paper products and PVC plastics. It will be expanded in the future to address other product-specific issues.”

Webextra Visit the Center for Health, Environment and Justice's pvcfree.org web site for more information on their work in reducing PVC usage.

The "One Material Myth" vs. Environmental Reality



We believe that most companies could easily and inexpensively reduce the volume of packaging they use by as much as 15 to 20%. However, to achieve that reduction, companies must be willing to embrace the idea that the best and most cost effective solution may be a combination of packaging materials.

A Multi-Material Opportunity

For example, a worldwide manufacturer of inexpensive writing instruments recently asked us to help them create a greener and more sustainable package design to replace their rack displayed blister cards, which retail customers perceived as being environmentally unfriendly. The young and very talented project engineers had their hands full attempting to process and respond to the wide range - and often conflicting - input they were receiving from key retail customers and various departments within their own company. It seemed everyone had a different concept of the problem and the possible solutions.

One consistent message from the large retailers was a desire for unique packaging using less packaging material. I was confident we could help the manufacturer create a design to meet those demands, provided we utilize a combination of materials. An outstanding option immediately came to mind - a card and shrink film overwrap design, which we have been promoting as a blister and clamshell replacement.

When presenting our design to the engineers, I highlighted several important advantages.

•  By eliminating the blister sealing process, we utilize an uncoated card that is pre-printed with earth friendly and easily recyclable inks.
•  We gain the ability to imprint the cards on an as needed basis, providing flexibility while minimizing unique packaging SKU's, eliminating waste, and giving retailers the unique packaging they each
•  By utilizing a cost reducing, polyethylene based, low energy shrink film, we are able to minimize the card thickness for easy package component separation and recycling.
•  Since no expensive tooling or mold charges are needed for our design, we eliminate capital investment and avoid the necessity of warehousing bulky blister or clamshell components.
•  No blister sealing means we eliminate the blister flange, allowing us to reduce the size of the display card, which in turn would result in smaller cases (less corrugated and sealing tape), and reduced fuel/freight costs.  A key additional benefit might be being able to place more product on the same planogram space allowed them by their customers.

After describing our design, one of the engineers stated that retailers did not necessarily want to make the overall package smaller, for visibility and security reasons. “Hmmm. Let me see if I understand, you want less packaging but not necessarily smaller packaging?”

Always appreciating a good challenge, I pressed on. Knowing how relatively slow and labor intensive clamshell and blister packaging can be and realizing the intense and increasing foreign competition my potential client was undoubtedly experiencing, I was glad to have saved a key advantage for the end of our discussion.

I informed them our concept would provide visibility, security, recyclability, and best of all, a package able to run at much faster speeds with less labor than their current design. Most package designers are focused on the way a package looks on the shelf but have absolutely no idea on how it is going to be produced in a plant environment. Our intimate knowledge of packaging equipment and processes helps us to maintain a dual focus on design and production. After all, what good is a “perfect” package design that requires twice as much labor and only runs at half the production speed of the current package being used?

The “One Material Myth” Perception rather than Reality?

We seem to have hit a package design homerun – less material, less labor, higher throughput, lower cost, greater flexibility, easy customization, superior shelf appeal, and reliable security. That is when one of the people mentioned their preference would be a new design utilizing only “one material” for ease of recycling and that they would prefer that one material used was not plastic.

Currently, the manufacturer is considering an all chipboard, die cut solution. To achieve the same retention and security, the design will require more chipboard than a board-shrink film combination. It will almost certainly require a coating making it less recyclable. It will offer less eye appeal, gloss, and sparkle than film would provide. It will do little, really, beyond fulfilling the prophecy of the “one material myth”.

Why Multiple Materials Multiply Benefits

Needs and objectives often conflict, but the fact is that in many if not most situations, two different materials working together, each bringing different characteristics and benefits to the packaging application, may be the best alternative. Many may not want to hear it, but shrinkable, forming plastic may be part of the solution from a performance AND from an environmental perspective. If they are easily separated and sorted, a combination of materials can help us reduce packaging by volume and by weight so that the people who chose not to recycle are doing as little damage as possible to the environment.         

Far from being an apologist for the plastics industry, I admit manufacturers and package design people can do a lot more than we currently are to minimize waste, but what we each decide to do at curbside on waste collection day is the ultimate unknown and one of the most important pieces of the sustainable packaging dilemma and solution. Why don’t more people recycle? That is a great question and the subject of my next article.

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:

Clorox to Buy Burt's Bees

Bbcolorxsisg Oakland-based Clorox announced last week it will acquire North Carolina-based natural products company Burt's Bees for nearly a billion dollars.

Clorox produces a number of household cleaning products including its name branded bleach and Brita water filters.

Burt's Bees, which makes lip balm, lotions, hair products and other grooming items, is expected to have sales of about $170 million this year. The company was founded in 1984 in Maine, and is now based in Durham, N.C.

In addition to Burt's Bees focus on providing consumers natural products they have also been leaders in using eco-friendly packaging.  Most of their packaging contains high levels of post-consumer recycled plastic.  In its line of hair care products the packaging is made from #2 HDPE plastic containing 80% post-consumer content.  The labeling on many of the company's products contains the statement, "We take care of the environment in the choice of our packaging."

It is not known what impact, if any, Clorox's acquisition of Burt's Bees will have on their packaging.

Sara Lee to Source More Sustainable Coffee

Senseosisg Sara Lee announced it plans to double the amount of sustainable coffee used in its brands to 20,000 tons, a move the company says will make it the market leader in this area.

Sara Lee's coffee brands include the popular Senseo single serve coffee pods.  According to published reports Sara Lee' focus on sustainable coffee sourcing, will account for five percent of its total worldwide coffee procurement. 

A driving force behind the move is the increased demand for certified sustainable products in markets like Denmark and the Netherlands.  A Sara Lee spokesman estimated 25-30 percent of their coffee sold in those two markets is from sustainable sources.

Northern European markets in particular had a much stronger demand for Sara Lee's sustainable coffee brands.  The United States has a much larger and more diverse coffee market and as a result did not have as strong a demand for Sara re Lee sustainable coffee products.

Sara Lee coffee brands include Douwe Egberts (Senseo), Merrild, Maison du Cafe and Marcilla.

Sara Lee coffee and tea CEO, Frank van Oers said his company's move is vital in safeguarding sustainable supply chains for his company and the coffee industry as a whole.

The company has been working through the UTZ global coffee certification program and says its purchases of coffee through the program have increased eight times since 2004 when it bought 2,500 tons of UTZ certified coffee.  UTZ is a certification used by Wal-Mart as well as other major retailers.

UTZ insures strict social and environmental criteria are being met by participating coffee farms and co-ops.  In return the program provides coffee growers with knowledge of improved agricultural techniques and the global marketplace insuring they get better prices for their coffee.Sara Lee announced it plans to double the amount of sustainable coffee used in its brands to 20,000 tons, a move the company says will make it the market leader in this area.

Sustainable Packaging - It’s All About Harmony



Beyond its musical implications and definitions, according to the dictionary, harmony is defined as - agreement in feeling, action, ideas, interests, etc.; peaceable or friendly relations. Harmony is also the name of the beautiful eight-month-old baby girl who due to some unusual and unforeseen circumstances became a resident in our adult household two months ago. Having a baby in our home again, after many drool free and very neat/orderly years, the impact this young lady has had on our lives has been quite profound and dramatic.

Harmony In addition to my faith, my wife and family, my love and life has been packaging. Packaging in general, and specifically and more recently, sustainable packaging, has had my almost full attention. My focus has been on creating a harmonious relationship between our client’s needs and their customers’ requests for less packaging and more earth friendly content. I spend much of my time working with manufacturers who sell product through retailers to consumers like you and me.

Harmonizing productivity objectives, budget requirements, and environmental considerations, have kept a guy like me, with an incredibly short attention span, fascinated by the packaging industry for well over thirty years.

What Will Our Environmental Legacy Be?

Having baby Harmony in our house has only intensified my interest in sustainable packaging, especially in the packaging of baby products. My worries about carbon footprints and little fingerprints are running parallel these days. “Renewable energy” is usually what happens after Harmony takes her afternoon nap. The term “long term impact” now extends beyond my own anticipated life expectancy of another twenty to twenty five years. Suddenly what winds up in our landfills is of greater importance because I now know who is going to inherit the mess we leave behind. Harmony will likely never experience or enjoy anything like the great technology driven economic boom of the 90’s but is almost certain to have to deal with the large national debt we are generating and leaving behind for her. She is also guaranteed to live with the waste we create and that she unknowingly contributes to on a daily basis.

My basic conclusion after 60 days of extremely unscientific observation and almost grandfatherly analysis - baby products create a lot of packaging and waste! No, we are not even going down the path of further discussion on disposable diapers because volumes have been written on that serious and huge problem. I am glad to see the major diaper manufacturers working to minimize the environmental impact of the products they sell. It’s a good start, but only a start. I firmly believe every manufacturer of product should be held accountable for the resources they pull out and the waste they put back into this earth.

Continue reading "Sustainable Packaging - It’s All About Harmony" »

Wal-Mart Reusable Shopping Bag


Wal-Mart Rolls out Reusable Shopping Bag

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott announced last week his company was introducing their own reusable shopping bag.  The announcement came at a sustainability summit held near Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

The new Wal-Mart shopping bags are made from a fabric containing rPET.  The bags are made from 85% recycled content and hold more than twice the amount of an average plastic bag.  The bags will sell for $1 and be located near checkout aisles in Wal-Mart stores.  Wal-Mart will also take the bags back at the end of their life-span for recycling.

The bags are black in color and feature the slogan "Paper or Plastic? Neither."

The new bags will appear first on the West Coast this weekend and roll eastward across the country throughout the month of October.

Netherlands to Launch carbon-based packaging tax


A decision by the Netherlands to put a carbon-based tax on packaging could have far reaching consequences across the EU for processors.

According the published reports, the tax is the first of its kind in Europe and will not only mean higher costs for processors but could be the start of an EU-wide move to force companies to add CO2 emissions to the list of criteria they use when choosing their packaging

The packaging tax is due to be implemented in January, being brought in under and agreement between the country's environment ministry local authorities and industry

The European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (Europen) said the new tax will be based on a calculation of CO2 emissions from the production of each kilogram of packaging material put into the Netherlands market and presumably, the embedded carbon content of the packaging.

Some companies like Tetra Pak are looking at taking proactive steps to assess their own carbon impact in preparations for anticipated carbon labeling and other government imposed measures.

These latest developments and their impact on the EU will be interesting to track.  A similar carbon-based packaging tax in the US is hard to even contemplate given the current state of affairs regarding the environment.

Companies who are smart like Tetra Pak will begin to assess their operations and take proactive steps behind the scenes in the coming years.  Carbon impact labeling and other lesser measures are much more likely in the US down the road than a flat out packaging tax. 

Am I Re-Trainable for Sustainable?


Okay, I admit it. I am confused and perhaps even a tad nervous. After more than thirty years as a packaging professional, focused on flexible--dare I say—plastic packaging, this new movement people are calling “sustainable” packaging has me seriously concerned.

During the ‘70’s, I recall being a young sales rep in the plastic packaging industry and feverishly updating my resume when I was told the world of packaging as we knew it would soon come crashing to an apocalyptic end. “The Great PVC Scare” was upon us and the only real choice and decision I had to make was whether to look for a new job, or check in at a clinic to determine how much damage had been done to my body and mind during my years as a purveyor of that PVC packaging poison. I sincerely feared my career and perhaps even my life were going to be cut short, before I was even able to reach my flexible packaging sales, prime!

The scare came to an abrupt end when it was determined that shrink packaging in PVC films, while unpleasant to the nose and eyes, did not cause cancer and represented no serious threat to the people using it, and thank God, the people selling it. The film manufacturer’s developed new, smoke free, seal systems and the PVC scare passed much the same way my entire collection of leisure suits did, a momentary fad that was now unfashionable and even a bit silly.

The ‘80’s and ‘90’s were my own personal age of enlightenment and profit. Thanks to a new perspective and focus on the environment, tree huggers became legends and anyone like me, trained on how to replace corrugated and chipboard with plastic films, achieved almost super hero status. There was Superman, Batman and me--Plastic Man! Sure, Superman could fly, Batman had all of those terrific weapons and crime fighting tools but only Plastic Man was able to save acres of forest with the sale of one shrink wrapping system to any customer using corrugated RSC style cases.

My customers who saved space and money loved me. The retailers who minimized the volume of corrugated waste in their stock rooms adored me. The solutions and material cost reductions I offered were in high demand and the opportunities and profits soared well into the new, twenty-first century. To think I almost stayed in life insurance sales! My business continued to grow and my relatives were no longer screening my phone calls. Life was beautiful.

Then sometime last year, a black cloud first appeared, looming overhead and my future in packaging was once again at risk. Packaging, environmental and retail “experts” started using a new term called sustainable packaging. I am certain the paranoid people at the Fox network will conclude that there are way too many people and organizations involved in promoting it for it to not be a liberal, left wing conspiracy of some type.

I realized I better find out more about this new threat to my livelihood and learned sustainable packaging was defined as “Packaging that does not deplete natural resources or pollute the environment”. Interesting and of course who can argue with a concept like that? It’s like asking who is in favor of babies, puppies and NASCAR. Okay, the last one was a stretch. 

The problem is that the more research I did, the more I realized that everyone I read and heard was saying something different. The glass people think it is great news for them. The paper, corrugated and chipboard people think it’s a second coming for them as well.  Even my cohorts in the plastics industry think it all leads to source reduction, which results in less packaging in the waste stream. That has to be good for them too. If it is good for everyone, and good for the environment, then who is it bad for?

I guess the only person it is bad for is someone like me who is trying to understand it. I continued reading and found out about the Seven R’s:
1.    Renew(able) – use materials of renewable resources
2.    Reuse – use materials over and over when economically feasible
3.    Recycle (able) – use materials with the highest recycle content
4.    Remove – eliminate unnecessary or redundant packaging
5.    Reduce – minimize packaging materials and optimize material strength
6.    Revenue – achieve above principles at equal or lower cost
7.    Read – educate ourselves and our customers

I really hate to date myself but when I was in school, people only spoke of there being three R’s and they were reading, writing and arithmetic. (Obviously, spelling was not all that important back then.) It is however apparent someone changed two out of three and then snuck in four more R’s when I wasn’t paying attention!

What about us as consumers, who always are more concerned with quality, flavor and value than we are about the environmental impact of packaging? Packaging is good when it keeps our products fresher, or extends shelf life. We expect it to prevent tampering or pilferage. We have even come to accept it when packaging helps to sell us a product that are not as good as the material or design that was used to make it jump off the shelf and catch our eye. This is all much too confusing.

I think I have once again talked myself in, off of the ledge by realizing that we all want to do what is right for the environment and every one of our customers and clients have a different objective in mind when they call on us for help. If corrugated reduction or elimination is the goal, we know plastics as well as anyone and have the films to accomplish it. If the objective is to minimize plastic, we certainly have the film technology to reduce gauge or convert to a more environmentally friendly formulation.

Although paper and plastic fall in and out of fashion, what never changes is our customers’ need to reduce cost and improve productivity.  If we stay focused on the customer, and if we continue to be true to the application, then everything else has a way of working out. After some thought I realize I have been promoting sustainable packaging for over thirty years, I just never called it that. I wonder how that would fit on my business card? Thank goodness it appears no re-training is going to be necessary. 

Dennis Salazar Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise.   

To contact Dennis, please visit his web site: www.salazarpackaging.com

To read more articles by Dennis Salazar click here

Wal-Mart to Only Sell Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent by 2008


Wal-Mart, in a major announcement said by May 2008 it would only sell concentrated liquid laundry detergent in its US Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores.  The announcement from Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores will also cover Wal-Mart Canada.

"People expect businesses to step up and work together to help solve the big challenges facing the world," said Scott. "What we have done is work with suppliers to take water—one of our most precious natural resources—out of the liquid laundry detergent on our shelves. We simply don't want our customers to have to choose between a product they can afford and an environmentally friendly product."

The announcement will have major implications for the packaging industry.  As Sustainable is Good reported earlier this month, the laundry detergent industry has seen massive change in the last two years in the area of packaging and reformulation of product.  Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Dial and many others have all come out with concentrated versions of their most popular detergents.

The concentrated detergent trend in the mainstream consumer market was really started in this country by San Francisco-based Method several years ago. 

In the announcement Wal-Mart said it expects to sell only concentrated detergent in all of its U.S. stores by early May 2008.  The company said the transition will occur in waves beginning in the Southern region next month, extending to the North and Midwest by February and finishing in the East coast states in April 2008.

Wal-Mart's move will have ripple effects down through the industry and other stores who also carry the brands Wal-Mart carries.  We should expect concentrated laundry detergents to be the norm in the U.S. by the time line Wal-Mart has introduced.

Given the packaging and formulation considerations we would expect many brands to shift to concentrated versions exclusively.

Webextra_2 See our earlier story on the growing trend of concentrated laundry detergents in the US market - the piece provides an excellent historical overview.

Scotts and TerraCycle Settle Lawsuit

Scottsvterracycle The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and TerraCycle have reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by Scotts.

Scott's spokeswoman Su Lok contacted Sustainable is Good with the news of the settlement late Friday.  Interestingly there has been no communication on the settlement from TerraCycle who has been quite vocal and very actively engaged with the media throughout the suit.

According to Lok, "TerraCycle has agreed that it no longer will make advertising claims of product superiority to Miracle-Gro products to ensure accuracy in its advertising. More specifically, TerraCycle has agreed that it will not claim that its products are better than, or more effective than, or as good as Miracle-Gro products. In addition, TerraCycle may not claim that any independent tests or university studies were conducted to support any such claims."

"TerraCycle has also agreed to change its packaging so it will not use a green and yellow color combination, for which Miracle-Gro owns a trademark registration. This change will be made to avoid any possible confusion with Miracle-Gro’s trade dress," Said Lok.

Interestingly Lok also said, "The court order and the settlement agreement will be posted on TerraCycle’s www.suedbyscotts.com Web page. TerraCycle also agreed to phase out this site after three months."

Webextra See our earlier coverage of the Scotts/TerraCycle lawsuit

Wal-Mart National Ad Focuses on Reducing Packaging Waste

Wal-Mart's current national advertising circular distributed in Sunday newspapers across the country this week features a 3/4 page focus on green products with a strong message on reducing packaging.

The circular has a large photo of Tide's new Pure Essentials concentrated laundry detergent as well as door mats made from recycled Wal-Mart tires and a package of GE CFL bulbs.

The top of the page reads " Now you can save the planet while you save money."  The new ad is a first for Wal-Mart and is very similar to an ad Target ran in May in their national circular.

Linking saving money with saving the planet is a key component to Wal-Mart's green marketing strategy and a major hurdle for the greener products market in general whose costs are generally higher then their conventional counterparts, preventing many consumers from buying them.

The ad's main focus is laundry detergent and draws attention to a growing trend in the industry of offering concentrated laundry detergent in smaller packaging.  The ad says, "If every Wal-Mart customer bought just one compact laundry detergent, we'd reduce packaging waste by over 50 million pounds."

Another interesting feature in the ad are the new Wal-Mart Ecomat doormats.  There isn't much information available on the doormats other than they are a "one time offer" and are made from 100% recycled Wal-Mart car tires.  According to Wal-Mart if every customer bought one Ecomat it would keep 60 million passenger tires from becoming waste.

This Wal-Mart ad is of great interest.  The mere fact it mentions "packaging waste" in a national mainstream ad is amazing.  Even a year ago such a mention would have been unheard of for a company like Wal-Mart to acknowledge let alone mention such an issue in a national advertising circular.

Snickers, Mars Bars Suitable for Vegetarians

Masterfoods a division of Mars Incorporated announced a change to its candy bar packaging.  The company will add a new labeling scheme for its UK products that will feature the wording "Suitable for Vegetarians" on the back of the packaging for brands including Mars, Snickers, Galaxy and Malteser candy bars.   

The company says it is using the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidelines on vegetarian labeling as a benchmark for the process according to Food & Drink Europe.

The Vegetarian Society, one of two that helped form the FSA's guidelines is withholding use of its "seedling" logo recognized by vegetarian consumers as signifying suitable foods, since Mars bars are made with battery-farmed eggs.

Managing director of Masterfoods' UK snack foods business said: "As a company, we believe in clear, transparent labeling and we are introducing this initiative because we want to communicate the suitability of our products to vegetarians."

Recycline Makers of Preserve Products Advance in Forbes "Boost Your Business" Contest

Tgtpostcard1 Massachusetts-based Recycline makers of the popular Preserve line of recycled toothbrushes, razors and tableware is one of twenty small businesses left in the Forbes.com "Boost Your Business" contest.

The company made it through the initial stages of the contest and is now hoping to become one of five semi-finalists vying for the $100,000 prize.

For this round of the competition, Forbes.com is asking readers to vote for the best small business plan of the companies remaining.  Readers can vote online at Forbes.com

Recycline makes Preserve products which are made out of 100% recycled materials and are, in turn, recyclable. The company's partnership with Stonyfield Farm transforms their yogurt cups into Preserve toothbrushes and razors.  Recycline then offers its consumers the option of sending back its products so they can be recycled into plastic lumber. 

WebextraSee our interview on Recycline
and our story on Recycline and Wal-Mart 

Target Stores New Mirel Bioplastic Gift Card

TargetbioTarget stores have introduced a new gift card made from a bioplastic called Mirel.  The gift card is biodegradable and made from natural sources. 

The new biobased gift cards are available at 129 Target stores across the country.

Mirel is a new family of biobased plastics made from corn that provides an alternative to traditional, petroleum-based plastics. Unlike conventional plastics, Mirel biodegrades in a variety of environments including soil, home compost, wetlands, rivers and oceans   

The biobased plastic is made by Telles, a company formed between Cambridge Massachusetts, Metabolix and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).  Telles is a 50-50 joint venture between the two companies.   

Telles is currently working with more than 50 prospects on more than 70 applications, including consumer products, packaging, single-use disposables, and products used in agriculture and erosion control.

Aquafina Changes Label to Identify Water Source

Aquafina Aquafina announced it is changing its labels to spell out that the water comes from the same source as tap water. 

PepsiCo who owns Aquafina made the announcement after studying the issue and being pressured by the group Corporate Accountability International and their Think Outside the Bottle campaign.

Aquafina is the single biggest bottled water brand, and its bottles are now labeled "P.W.S." The new labels will spell out "public water source."

"If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do," PepsiCo spokeswoman Michelle Naughton said Friday.

As part of the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, thousands of people across the US have been urging Pepsi to make changes in the Aquafina label, which includes an image of snow-capped mountains and states “pure water, perfect taste”. Though the image implies that the source of Aquafina is mountain spring water, it actually uses tap water as its source. In fact, up to 40% of bottled water uses tap water as its source.

Wal-Mart Canada to Implement Sustainable Supply Chain Practices for All 290 Stores

Canada_walmart Wal-Mart Canada announced last week it will roll out its first Supply Chain Sustainability Scorecard this fall for all of its 290 Canadian stores.

The new guidelines are intended to fuel collaboration among its suppliers and will help Wal-Mart Canada and the larger corporation measure and reduce the environmental footprint of its product shipping process

In July 2006, Wal-Mart Canada and shipping supplier SCM changed the mode of transporting goods destined for 10 stores, located in Nova Scotia and PEI, from road to rail. This change has reduced carbon emissions by 2,600 tonnes.

For necessary road delivery, the companies converted 20 truck generators to electric power, saving 40,000 litres of fuel. Combined, these two measures are expected to deliver annual cost savings of more than $2 million.

By changing some shipping crates from cardboard to plastic, allowing boxes to be used approximately 60 times instead of once, Wal-Mart Canada has saved $4.5 million in costs, with expected waste reduction of more than 1,400 tonnes and carbon emissions reductions of 10,000 tonnes, due to the elimination of cardboard production. This Canadian initiative has become a best practice for other global Wal-Mart operations.

In evaluating its suppliers, Wal-Mart Canada will assess their practices on four categories: equipment, operations, facilities and corporate environmental commitment. The company will rate these suppliers on their use of sustainable alternatives for sourcing, packaging and delivery, green or energy-efficient buildings, and the company's overall culture of sustainability.

Method Launches "Detox Your Home" Marketing Campaign


San Francisco-based Method Products makers of a popular line of greener cleaning and personal care products has launched its first major advertising campaign.

The campaign named Detox Your Home was created in conjunction with the firm TBWA/Chiat/Day.  It will include print ads, online banners and a search-engine marketing component. Method Products is also planning events around the country to promote its message in local markets. 

Visitors to Method's web site will find it redesigned featuring the theme of its new marketing campaign.

Until now, the seven-year-old company’s products have been marketed largely through word of mouth, prominent product placement at stores like Target and the appeal of the packaging.

Earlier this year Method announced a redesign of the packaging for its Omop floor cleaning products, using an innovative new PET container designed by Amcor.
The New York Times reported according to Kline & Company, a market research firm, Method Products had sales of $85 million last year. The private company was the fastest-growing cleaning products concern of the 18 that Kline profiled, posting a 140 percent increase in sales in 2006. Kline also estimated that the green category of the household cleaning products industry represents $300 million in sales, or 2 percent of the total market.

Estee Lauder Builds Natural Brands Portfolio with Acquistion of Hair Care Company Ojon

Ojon1 Estee Lauder acquires Canadian natural hair care company, Ojon.  Buying into the brand taps into the fast-growing market for premium hair care products containing exotic natural ingredients. Ojon products benefit from ingredients collected by the Tawira, an indigenous people from the Central American rainforests, mainly inhabitants of Honduras.

The Tawira produce Ojon palm nut oil, an ingredient derived from the Ojon tree and one that is said to strengthen, moisturize, bring shine and reduce hair follicle breakage - forming the basis of the company's hair care range.

To source its ingredients, Ojon has partnered with the Mosquitia Pawisa Agency for the Development of the Honduras Mosquitia (MOPAWI Organization), a local non-profit group that works on behalf of indigenous communities in the region. Through its contract with the MOPAWI, Ojon purchases wild-crafted palm nut oil and other ingredients from thousands of Tawira producers, who collect the ingredients in a hand-crafted process consistent with ancestral practices.

The ingredients, largely palm oil and cacao, are then sent to Originitalia, a plant in northern Italy, where they are purified and blended into Ojon products.

"Natural and organic products are among the fastest growing areas in the beauty industry and Ojon has a compelling story that we believe should resonate with consumers globally," said Philip Shearer, Group President of The Estee Lauder Companies.

"Ojon is a terrific strategic fit in our portfolio," William P. Lauder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Estee Lauder Companies, said. "It's a socially responsible, innovative company with potential for rapid and sustained world-wide growth. We envision Ojon eventually becoming a global brand of wild-crafted, natural products made with ingredients found in indigenous communities around the world."

Ojon Ojon's range includes shampoos, conditioners and other treatments that focus on treating dry or out-of-condition, by restoring its moisture levels and in turn returning shine and texture to the hair.  It includes a restorative hair treatment, ultra-hydrating conditioner and shampoo and a shine and protection glossing mist.

"I have been in the business 18 years and have always looked at Estée Lauder as the most prestigious cosmetic company," said Ojon founder & president Denis Simioni. "Ojon is like my child that grew up too fast and now needs a great university to take it to the next stages of its life. We believe that Estée Lauder will do that for Ojon by educating us and giving us what we need to take us to the next level. It doesn't get any better than this!"

Before the Estee Lauder deal Ojon was a privately held company based in Burlington Ontario with $48 million in revenue, said Simioni, who will remain president of the company.

Currently Ojon sells its products on QVC in the US and UK and the Shopping Channel in Canada, where it ranks number one in hair care as well as Sephora and Nordstrom and about 300 hundred spas and salons.

The Ojon line is similar in many ways to another Estee Lauder brand, Aveda.  It will be interesting to see what influence if any John Delfausse, Vice President, Package Development at Estée Lauder has on future packaging design of Ojon products.  Delfausse is widely credited with transforming Aveda's packaging into one of the most sustainable in the industry.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Dubbed the Greenest Book in Publishing History

Harrypot The final installment in the Harry Potter series will be the greenest book in publishing history according to Markets Initiative, an environmental group focusing on paper.  Five years of work by Markets Initiative and the Rainforest Alliance is putting tangible environmental solutions into the hands of Harry Potter fans in 16 countries.

For the initial printing of 12 million copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the United States, publisher Scholastic has committed to making sure 65% of the 16,700 tons of paper used is FSC-certified, which means the paper comes from forestlands that are managed in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Totaling nearly 22 million pounds, this is the largest purchase of FSC-certified paper to be used in a single book printing to date. Moreover, all the paper used in the printing will contain at least 30 % post-consumer waste fiber, with much of that verified by FSC standards as well

The Rainforest Alliance worked with Scholastic to develop its plan to buy FSC-certified paper and will continue helping the company refine its responsible paper procurement policies.

Markets Initiative’s work on greening the Harry Potter series has fundamentally changed the way that book publishers use paper.  More than 300 publishers internationally now print on papers that help safeguard endangered forests. A new paper supply chain has been sparked and 35 new eco-friendly papers developed.
Market Initiative Graphic on Environmental Impact of Harry Potter Book 

Vitamin Company ProCaps Laboratories Houses Largest Private Solar Energy Installation in the World

Lasvegassolar_twc Nevada-based ProCaps Laboratories (formerly Your Vitamins) is producing its products on solar power.  The company owned by Andrew Lessman makes a variety of vitamins and supplements. 

The solar installation is located on the roof of the ProCaps facility in Henderson, Nevada.  According to ProCaps the installation is the "largest private solar energy installation in the world."

The system is made up of 75 watt AstroPower solar modules applied to the PowerLight PowerGuard roofing system and covers an area of 23,000 square feet.   

Lessman has grown his vitamin company tremendously thanks in part to an agreement with the Home Shopping Network (HSN) owned by IAC Corp.  IAC Chairman Barry Diller lured Lessman away from rival QVC and made him an "offer I couldn't refuse," Lessman said.

ProCaps doesn't market themselves as a green company per se, their focus is more on their products.  Lessman's style is to let the products shine and back them up with customer service.  We'll see if the company focuses more on its solar power as a marketing tool in the future.

New York City Marketing its Own Tap Water

Tapwater The City of New York has embarked on a $700,000 advertising campaign marketing its own tap water to city residents.

The goal of the campaign is to decrease the number of people who buy bottled water - reducing waste and saving residents hundreds of dollars annually the city says.

The marketing campaign will occur during the month of July and feature 1,400 glossy ads in subways and bus kiosks combined with radio and other ads.

According to environmental groups, four out of five plastic water bottles end up on landfill sites and the production process contributes to global warming.  As featured in the current issue of Fast Company, the distribution process of bottled water brands like Fiji involves shipping water halfway around the world.

New York City is one of five cities in the nation that has a federal waiver not to filter its water because it's so fresh and safe to drink.

Popular Diet Plan NutriSystem Far from Being Green


Its interesting to see how some segments of the marketplace come under scrutiny from consumers regarding their greenness while others get a pass.  This is certainly true for the diet plan Nutrisystem®.

Nutrisystem may serve an important role for those struggling with their weight however from a green sustainable perspective they are a disaster.

The popular diet plan provides customers a month worth of portion controlled meals and snacks all conveniently prepackaged for consumption.  All of its breakfast, lunch and dinners are individually packaged in separate packaging - hardly sustainable.  The whole system revolves around making things as easy as possible for the consumer with little concern for anything else.

Take a look at Nutrisystem's own advertising photos to get a sense of the amount of trash generated by just one customer over a one month period.  Just imagine having a microwave meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner 5 or 7 days a week plus all your snacks are individually wrapped in packaging as well. 

A typical Nutrisystem plan consists of 28 breakfasts, 28 lunches, 28 dinners, and 28 desserts.

Nutrisystem is an example of a brand and product line that may have benefits for people but has continued to develop without any real scrutiny in terms of its greenness.

It is unknown what their packaging is made from and to what degree if any it is recyclable.  Regardless of these questions the amount of packaging is wasteful and not sustainable.

Increasing Numbers of Canadians Switch to Electric and Reel Lawn Mowers

Mow_down_pollution Canadians are switching to electric and manual push reel lawn mowers at increasingly higher rates thanks in part to a partnership between the Clean Air Foundation of Canada and Home Depot Canada.

The Clean Air Foundation's Mow Down Pollution program provides rebates of up to $100 for people who turn in gas powered lawn mowers.  The 7th annual Mow Down Pollution program ran from April 19-29, 2007 across Canada and more than 5,700 mowers and trimmers were collected from consumers.  The lawn mowers and trimmers are then picked up by a network of 65 auto recyclers who remove the fluids and recover the metals from the machines.

"(Gas) lawn mowers and trimmers and small engines across Canada emit 10 percent of the greenhouse gases that are emitted every single year, and as the world is trying to emit less, this is a simple way to do it," said John DeFranco, a merchandising director for Home Depot.

He told the AP that people in health-conscious urban areas, like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, where there are smaller lawns, were returning their gas mowers and switching to push mowers

The partnership between Home Depot and the Clean Air Foundation is an interesting one.  It provides a win win situation for both the non-profit and the retail giant.  Home Depot Canada is the birthplace of another winning eco-idea that has now made its way to the US.  The Eco-Options program began in Canada and was rolled out earlier this year in U.S. stores.  It will be interesting to see if a program similar to the Canadian one addressing gas lawn mowers also comes down from the north.

Philiips Launches Interactive "A Simple Switch" Campaign

Philips has launched A Simple Switch, a consumer campaign highlighting the benefits of switching to energy efficient CFL lighting.

By partnering with The Alliance for Climate Protection and the global Live Earth concerts on July 7th 2007, Philips aims to touch more than two billion people with the campaign.

Visitors to the Live Earth concerts and the Live Earth and MSN websites will be invited to record a personal ’simple switch’ pledge either online or via instant message.

Philips will track these collective pledges to change to energy efficient lighting and calculate the resulting energy and costs savings on the asimpleswitch.com website.

Philips is one of the leading manufacturers along with GE of energy efficient CFL lighting.  Information on their energy efficient lighting is conveniently available from the Simple Switch web site. 

Way to go Philips, A Simple Switch is a very clever marketing campaign.

Shopping Malls Realizing Economic Benefits of Going Green

As product developers and local & national retailers in many areas are working to develop sustainability policies and better greener products the focus is starting to shift to the places the products are sold.

Many products sold in the U.S. are sold in shopping malls.  The malls are often owned and operated by a development/management company.  Mall developers handle the day to day operations in the facility as well as marketing and branding for their mall.  Increasingly malls are beginning to realize the social and business benefits of being greener.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story in Sunday's paper looking at how malls is the Pittsburgh area are beginning to factor ecological issues into their planning, marketing and development.

The movement in the Steel City is fueled by the non profit group Sustainable Pittsburgh who works to bring sustainable solutions to communities and businesses in the Pittsburgh region.

Historically, the retail development industry has been better known for its tendency to lay down acres of asphalt where farm fields once were than for efforts to produce sustainable projects. Meanwhile, some people questioned Sustainable Pittsburgh's decision to focus on a place where teens buy jeans rather than, say, a manufacturer churning out heavy equipment or some other product.

Robinson_mall_outsidesign Retailers sure use a lot of cardboard. Every month, the compactors at the Mall at Robinson collect 6.5 tons of recyclable cardboard that came into the shopping center carrying jeans, candles, food, shoes or other merchandise. It all used to go out with the trash and into a landfill somewhere.

"We were just throwing it all away," said Beth Edwards, general manager of the shopping center.

Not any more. The cardboard compactors are new in the last two years. As are the green cleaning products the mall's contractor has begun using and the energy management system that turns the lights off when nobody's using them.

Management even considered installing a green roof with plants to absorb sun and carbon dioxide but decided that wouldn't be a feasible option until the existing 20-year roof warranty expires.

Improving the sustainability of their facilities not only allows shopping mall developers to reduce waste and cut costs it also offering them a powerful marketing tool, one that remains largely untapped. 

Developers in Chicago have figured out the marketing benefits of a greener shopping experience.  Next year Baum Development hopes its Green Exchange will be ready to open its doors.

The Green Exchange will be an eco-mall in every sense.   The mall will occupy a four-story 250,000 square foot building that used to house the Fredrick Cooper Lamp Company factory.  The space is being converted into retail, showroom, office space with many common areas.  The conversion is based on LEED standards and will feature restaurants, retail, priority parking for hybrids, showers for bicyclists and roof grown vegetables.

Rolling Stone Magazine and "Carbon Neutral Paper"

11rolling1901 Earlier in the month, Wenner Media publishers of Rolling Stone magazine announced beginning with yesterday's June 28th issue the magazine would be printed on "carbon neutral paper."

The magazine will be printed on Catalyst Cooled paper made by Vancouver BC - based Catalyst paper.  Prior to the June 28th issue Rolling Stone was printed on Electracote lightweight coated paper also made by Catalyst.

A news release from Catalyst paper says Rolling Stone is the first mass-marketed magazine to print on "carbon neutral paper." 

Rolling Stone claims its new paper is "carbon neutral" because it is made through a process that they say adds no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.   The new paper is thinner than their previous paper.

The move to "carbon neutral paper" may be a step in the right direction but it appears to be an insignificant one.  Since the announcement many have questioned why the magazine didn't choose to print on recycled paper.

The New York Times asked Eric Bates, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone why the magazine hadn't just gone with recycled paper.  "We think recycled paper is great.  We're publishing some of the world's greatest photographers and artists," said Bates.  He went on to say the print quality on recycled paper just doesn't do them justice.  "What we're trying to do is what we can do.  We can't put out the magazine we put out on recycled paper"

Bates' comments to the NYT answer the question as to why the magazine didn't go with recycled paper... Basically they think they are too good.  I am reading the July issue of Inc., a magazine printed on recycled paper and the quality is excellent.  I cannot detect any difference between their issues printed on recycled paper vs. non recycled.  Frankly for what its worth, Inc.'s photography is pretty good.  I mean i'm no Paul Aresu but their images are far from junk and hold up just fine in print - oh hey and plus they have the added benefit of not having to have cut down trees to present them. 

This whole Rolling Stone "carbon neutral paper" move is mostly a PR stunt, if they really wanted to make a difference they could.  I am not sure what the magazine thinks happens to their back issues after their readers read them but newsflash... the majority of them end up in the trash (hopefully recycled) like everything else.

Webextra Read more coverage of the Rolling Stone
"carbon neutral paper" at the Paper Planet

Home Depot's Eco Options Label Creates Circus like Scene with Product Suppliers


After being in place for over two months the Home Depot's Eco Options label program is highly successful among both consumers and product suppliers.  The success of the program has created a new problem for the nation's second largest retailer.  They are inundated with environmental claims from their products suppliers all trying to have their product carry the Eco Options label.

Home Depot's Eco Options label was rolled out in the middle of April in the U.S.  The label was modeled after a successful similar program in Home Depot stores in Canada.  It is designed to help consumers identify products that are more environmentally friendly

The New York Times reported earlier in the week, Home Depot is now trying to develop a way to deal with all the environmental claims its supplier's are making about their products.

When they rolled out the program Home Depot sent a message to the suppliers of the 176,000 products they sell asking them to make a pitch to have their products included in Eco Options.  More than 60,000 products were submitted so far to only 2,500 of the products carry the Eco Options label.  Home Depot ultimately plans on having 6,000  products under the label.

Plastic-handled paint brushes were touted as nature-friendly because they were not made of wood. Wood-handled paint brushes were promoted as better for the planet because they were not made of plastic.

An electric chainsaw? Green, because it was not gas-powered. A bug zapper? Ditto, because it was not a poisonous spray. Manufacturers of paint thinners, electrical screwdrivers and interior overhead lights claimed similar bragging rights simply because their plastic or cardboard packaging was recyclable.

Since Eco Options rolled out it has underscored a problem in that there isn't any uniform standard for assessing the environmental claims of many products out on the market.   

The reaction to Eco Options runs the gamut.  Some call it progress, others say the nation's second largest retailer  is being too inclusive with the products it applies the label to.

One thing is clear product suppliers are unanimous in their feelings towards Eco Options - they all want to be included as sales of Eco Option labeled products are averaging 10% higher than those not carrying the label.

Home Depot appears to be taking the responsibility of labeling products as "Eco Options" seriously and told the New York Times being included in the label is actually an incentive for suppliers to make their products greener. 

L.L. Bean Drops Longtime Catalog Printer Verso Paper over Recycling and Sustainability Issues Signs New Deal with Quad/Graphics


L.L. Bean has dropped its longtime catalog printer Verso Paper after the company was unable to meet Bean's new guidelines for recycled content and sustainable forestry practices.  Verso Paper is a leading provider of paper for catalogs and was created when International Paper sold its coated papers business to Apollo Management.

Llbeancatalogs_2 L.L. Bean signed a multi-year, multi-million-dollar agreement with Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics.  The multifaceted printing and related services contract begins in January 2008 with the company becoming the exclusive printer and prepress provider for all  L.L. Bean catalogs.  L.L. Bean produces more than 65 catalog titles and ships 250 million catalogs annually.

Quad/Graphics has a "chain-of-custody" certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  Their clients may display the FSC trademarked "checkmark and tree" logo in their magazines, catalogs and other materials printed on FSC-certified paper.

The goals L.L. Bean set that Verso Paper was apparently unable to meet include the following; by 2008 90% of the fiber used in their catalogs must either be certified under one of the certification systems they recognize (FSC, SFI, CSA, PEFC, ATFS, MLP) or be recycled fiber.  As far as recycled content goes the company is transitioning all catalogs to 20% Post-Consumer Waste recycled content starting in 2008.   

Read more about L.L. Bean's paper policy here

Inc. and Fast Company Magazine Now Printed on 100 Percent Recycled Paper

Inc Mansueto Ventures, the publisher of Inc. and Fast Company magazines is now producing its magazines on 100 percent recycled paper.

Fast Company switched to the recycled paper with the February issue and this month's issue of Inc. will be the first on recycled paper.

The recycled paper used in the magazines is supplied by German company LEIPA Georg and is made from 85 percent post consumer waste, 10 percent waste from unsold magazines and five percent recycled printer waste.

As an Inc. subscriber, I have the June 2007 issue. which features a cover story on the collapse of the social networking site Friendster.  The quality and the feel of the magazine is not noticeably different from previous issues.  This concern was cited by Rolling Stone as the reason they won't go to recycled paper for their publication. 

Instead, Rolling Stone magazine is going "carbon neutral" with its publication printing process cited concerns over the quality of recycled paper as a reason it wasn't going to recycled paper.   The music entertainment magazine's first "carbon neutral" printed magazine hits newsstands this week.

Webextra See a list of magazines printed on recycled paper
or with responsibly sourced virgin fiber.

Inc. editor Jane Berentson announced the magazine was going to be printed on recycled paper back in November.  "Magazines aren't known for their sustainable practices (all those trees!), so to put our money where our mouth is, Inc. is now publishing on recycled paper. Did I mention that it's cost-effective, too? Which brings me back to this truism: Green practices beget greenbacks. Would you have it any other way?"

Mansueto says that research by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation has shown that each ton of recycled fiber that displaces a ton of virgin fiber used in coated groundwood paper (stock used in magazines) reduces total energy consumption by 27 percent, reduces net greenhouse gas emission by 47 percent, reduces wastewater by 33 percent, and reduces solid waste by 54 percent.

“Printing our magazines on fully recycled paper and being a leader on the environmental front is a great way to reinforce the message we send to our 1.44 million subscribers on working smarter and creating the future of business,” Mansueto Ventures CEO John Koten said in a press release. “Doing our part to amplify environmentally responsible magazine publishing and leaving the world a better place is important to the values of our company.  We encourage all publishers to do the same.”

Wal-Mart Stores Hosting CFL Recycling Event

Cf_bulb Wal-Mart teams up with Waste Management LampTracker for CFL recycling.  LampTracker, a provider of mail-back recycling for fluorescent lighting, was recently acquired by Waste Management.

The partnership will feature a CFL recycling day, Saturday June 23rd, at Wal-Mart stores, Supercenters and Sam's Clubs in several states.

The recycling events will offer consumers a free and convenient opportunity to drop-off and recycle their used compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes. The bulbs will be collected at kiosks outside stores from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury and should be recycled just like batteries, computers, cell phones, thermostats and other household products.

The recycling events will take place in Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Tulsa, Okla.

The event is a first in the industry and a move some expect will help the retailer cultivate an environmentally friendly image and perhaps drive sales.

"The secret to retailing is, 'How do you drive footsteps?'  retail consultant Howard Davidowitz told the Pioneer Press. "Any time you drive people into your stores, you win."

Other retailers have been making similar efforts "but no one as boldly and consistently" as Wal-Mart in the last year, said Joel Makower.

"This advertisement is one part of a larger effort Wal-Mart's been undertaking to show some green leadership, and they have an uncanny knack for green initiatives that really help build sales where they can really combine doing well with doing good," he said

Preserve Toothbrush Now Sold at Wal-Mart


Here is an interesting story that slipped in under the radar screen.  Recycline is selling its Preserve® toothbrush at Wal-Mart stores. 

In their summer newsletter distributed yesterday the company had a blurb mentioning the Preserve was now available at Wal-Mart.  The decision was apparently made in April and was not well publicized... perhaps intentionally?

Recycline said their decision to sell at Wal-Mart was, "not a obvious choice."  "We weighed the pros and cons of working with a retailer that has the broadest reach of any in the world but has been critiqued as having some of the least impressive environmental and social practices," said the company's Founder & President Eric Hudson.

Recycline presented their decision as one that helps engage "increasing numbers of people in taking responsibility for the health of our environment."  They went on to say, "the purchase of a Preserve toothbrush will be the beginning of a journey toward more and more actions that reduce the impact on the Earth."

Founder expresses concern for small-scale retailers; plans special promotions so their sales aren't impacted by Wal-Mart's pricing structure

In a letter posted to the company's web site, Hudson says as a result of his decision to sell at Wal-Mart steps will be taken to ensure their loyal smaller-scale retailers will not be impacted in a negative way.  "We have begun special promotions with our natural and independent retailers that offer more aggressive price discounts on our Preserve toothbrush... to minimize the impact that Wal-Mart's low price may have on their sales," said Hudson.

This story is a puzzler.  Earlier we reported on Recycline test marketing the Preserve at Target stores, which seemed to be a more natural fit for the brand.  The results of the test marketing at Target are unknown. 

Selling at Wal-Mart doesn't seem to be a natural fit for a small brand built on a strong environmental image.  The decision also hasn't been very well publicized to this point which begs the question why. 

If Recycline is comfortable with selling their Preserve at Wal-Mart and believes in the logic behind their decision to do so then they should embrace it.

Motel 6 Develops National Fluorescent Light Bulb and Battery Recycling Program


Here is an interesting green PR story from an unexpected source.  Last week, Motel 6, the largest corporately owned and operated hotel chain in North America announced what it calls the first national fluorescent light bulb and battery recycling program within the hospitality industry.

The plan is a continuation of Motel 6's parent company Accor Hotel's Earth Guest initiatives and will be rolled out regionally over the next six months.  The chain expects to complete implementation by the end of 2007. 

“We are setting an industry precedent by launching this nationwide recycling program,” said Jim Amorosia, chief operating officer for Motel 6. “Recycling is a highly effective action we can take year-round, and even with the fluorescent light bulbs’ average service life of five years we will still recycle approximately 60,000 fluorescent light bulbs per year.”

This plan is the latest in a series of steps Motel 6 has taken in improving its environmental image.  In January of 2006, the chain began its extensive retrofitting of fluorescent lighting, which consumes 75% less energy than conventional bulbs.

The brand’s retrofitting of fluorescent light bulbs and the Motel 6 Battery and Fluorescent Light Bulb Recycling Program complement the efforts of Motel 6’s parent company, Accor North America, to reduce energy consumption in all its properties. In late 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency honored Accor North America as an Energy Star Leader for significantly increasing energy efficiency in its economy hotel properties.

Icelandic Glacial Water Touts Better Carbon Footprint than U.S. Bottled Water Companies

500ml1ldetail Icelandic Glacial is the first U.S. distributed bottled water to receive the CarbonNeutral® Certification from the Carbon Neutral Company.

The certification means the bottled water is manufactured with a three-pronged approach to reducing its carbon footprint:  assessment, reduction and offset of emissions.  See the specifics here.

The company based in Thorlákshöfn, Iceland appears to be trying to capitalize on the recent negative press bottled water has received in the U.S.  Icelandic Glacial claims its efforts at carbon neutrality go way beyond buying offsets like many companies do. 

The company says because they already use only geothermal and hydroelectric natural energy in their manufacturing facility based in Iceland, their initial carbon footprint is much lower than conventional U.S. bottled water producers.

One key area the company falls sharply behind U.S. based water distributors is in the transportation of its water to the U.S.  Since the water must be transported either by ship or air from Iceland to the U.S. it is unclear how this issue was addressed with the CarbonNeutral® Certification. 

Transportation of water is the same issue that got delegates at the Climate Change Summit in New York this past May into debate when bottled water from Norway was served at the event.  One delegate from San Francisco refused to drink the water instead opting for city tap water because the water from Norway was completely unsustainable due to its transit by ship.

Green & Black's Organic Responds to Consumer Complaints of Excessive Packaging


Green & Black’s organic, the Cadbury-Schweppes owned organic chocolate brand, has had to defend itself against customer complaints that is it using wasteful packaging for its ice-cream sticks.  According to BrandIndex, Green & Black's organic admitted using excessive packaging to add a “luxury” twist to its products.

In response to our inquiry Green & Black's Senior Brand Manager Gemma Wookey commented on the BrandIndex story.  “As a quality food brand, our packaging needs to strike a balance between protecting the product inside, and maintaining our ethical credentials.  Some of our products are more fragile than others, and we have an obligation to our consumers to ensure that if they pay for a premium product, it will be intact when they open it.  We’re currently conducting an audit of all our packaging, and our consumers can be rest assured that we’ll continue working to find the best packaging materials available, while minimising our impact on the environment.”

According to Christina Hull of Serendipity Communications, the firm that handles Green & Black's U.S. PR, the ice cream sticks that led to consumer complaints in the UK are not available in the U.S. only the brand's pints of ice cream are sold here.

Products similar to the Green and Black's organic ice cream sticks are sold here in the U.S. by other companies.  Most notably Ben & Jerry's who sells frozen ice cream cones boxed and packaged for a single serving.  The packaging on the Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream cones appears to be similar to the Green & Black's organic ice cream sticks.  We are unaware of any consumer complaints regarding the Ben & Jerry's product.  Ben & Jerry's, while not advertising organic products does label all their products as all natural. 

Green and Black's organic is highly rated on BrandIndex, which provides a daily measure of the public perception of more than 1,100 consumer brands.  The company has received high scores for General Impression and Satisfaction. However according to their rankings there has been a slight drop in the brand’s “Buzz” score recently.  "Green and Black's success has been built on its ethical reputation and they need to be carefully not to alienate ethically-aware consumers on issues like packaging," BrandIndex reported.

Coca-Cola and Cargill Partner on Ultra Secret Sweetener

Coca-Cola filed 24 U.S. patent applications on May 24, 2007, covering the use of stevia in combination with a range of natural compounds (i.e., vitamins, minerals, glucosamine), in different delivery formats (i.e., condiments, beverages) and for several health conditions (i.e., weight management, inflammation).

The patent applications are the result of an ultra secret working group between $24 Billion soft drink giant Coca-Cola and food giant Cargill that began to filter out to the public earlier this month.  The working group was part of a joint effort by the companies to develop the "ultimate" sweetener, one they could even call "natural" unlike Splenda or Nutra-Sweet. 

The result is a product derived from Stevia tentatively named rebiana.  In addition to the 24 U.S. patent applications, Coca-Cola will have exclusive worldwide rights to the sweetener for its beverage products.  Cargill will have rights to use the "natural" sweetener in its food products.

"This has been a closely held secret for a while," Zanna McFerson, business director for Cargill Sweetness Solutions told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The Wall Street Journal reported the project began about five years ago when Cargill assigned 40 employees to scour the globe for the source of the "dream sweetener," said Marcelo Montero, president of Cargill Sweetness Solutions.

The companies plan on launching products containing the new sweetener as early as next year in countries that allow Stevia for food use including China, Japan and Brazil.  Simultaneously under the terms of the partnership Cargill is handling product development and the regulatory approval process for the sweetener here in the U.S.

In March we reported on another sweetener, Splenda and strange marketing PR campaign by its two owners, Johnson & Johnson and Tate & Lyle to buy over two hundred negative Internet domain names related to Splenda. 

Is Arc'teryx's Brand Identity Eroding as Some of its Production Goes to China and Other Countries?

High-end outdoor apparel company Arc'teryx is eroding the strength of its brand by contracting some of its manufacturing overseas and not fully embracing it.

If Arc'teryx is going to source production overseas they need to fully embrace it, just like Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) did. The company needs to tell consumers about their corporate sustainability efforts, conditions in their overseas production facilities and have audits & accountability for their contractors. 

Arc'teryx's customer base are avid outdoor people.  These people as a group tend to value social responsibility highly when making decisions on buying.  When companies don't provide this information or worse yet offer weak corporate sounding gloss over statements consumers look elsewhere.

Its not good enough any more to tell consumers 25% of the products are made in China and other countries and the remainder is made in Canada.  Eco-consumers want specifics, they as a group do more product research than any other segment of the buying population before making a decision on what to purchase.  Eco-consumers want information so they can make informed decisions.  Be open and up front and consumers will respond and the focus will shift from the country of manufacture back to the quality of the final product.


Arc'teryx Diplomat ST Gore Windstopper® Jacket made from Italian wool.  Made in China

Arc'teryx was founded in 1991 in Vancouver and made all of its gear in Canada.  It was known as a highly respected small brand with impeccable quality.   The company started making climbing harnesses and then began making innovative garments known for their construction and fit. 

In 2002 Arc'teryx was bought by Salomon, owned at the time by Adidas.  With the global presence of Salomon and the increasing popularity of Arc'teryx, the company started to out source manufacturing of some of its garments to China and other countries.

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Dell wants to Become the Greenest Technology Company on Earth

Austin-based Dell Computers wants to become the "greenest technology company on earth," according to a recent company news release.  The comment comes as Dell has rolled out its Plant a Tree for Me campaign to Europe.

European customers can now have a tree planted for them with the purchase of a new Dell for 1 GBP (1 Euro fifty) for a notebook and 3 GBP (4 Euro fifty) for a desktop system.  The Plant a Tree for Me campaign is designed to offset the carbon generated by the electricity needed to power the computers for over three years.

The campaign, along with comments by the company regarding its greenness, are part of a commitment to reduce the "carbon intensity" of their operations by 15% by 2012, and a pledge to review their suppliers to demand that they too follow green practices.

In the United States, Dell has partnered with the Conservation Fund and Carbonfund.org to administer the Plant a Tree for Me program.  It is unclear whether they too will manage the initiative in Europe.

Ecoist to Launch Line of Handbags Made from Repurposed Coca-Cola Labels

Ecoist03  Coca_cola_logo

Miami-based Ecoist, makers of unique gifts and fashion accessories made from repurposed materials announced a partnership with the Coca-Cola Company yesterday.  Ecoist is known for their handbags make from repurposed candy wrappers, food packages, billboards and soft drink labels.   

Under the partnership Ecoist will launch a new line of handbags made from repurposed Coca-Cola bottle labels.  US Newswire reports most of the labels will be sourced from Coca-Cola bottlers or label manufacturers in Peru where Ecoist has been working in a production center operated by Prosostenible S.A. a fair trade manufacturer.


As you might expect this is another great PR item for Coca-Cola and they aren't wasting any time treating it as such. 

"We are very excited to be working with Ecoist. They are the ideal partners for Coke's continuous involvement with environmental initiatives. We have made great strides in reducing our waste output from our bottling plants or label manufacturing facilities, and we are constantly seeking ways to further reduce our environmental footprint. This partnership allows us to repurpose materials. Best of all, we are helping to create greater awareness on environmentally and socially responsible consumption. We want to inspire others to act," says Kelli Sogar, Merchandise Manager, Worldwide Licensing and Retail Operations of The Coca-Cola Company.

Ecoist was founded in 2004. It is a family run business doing most of its production in facilities in Peru and Mexico.  The company prides themselves in Fair Trade practices and their products are sold across the US at natural & boutique specialty type stores. 

Coca-Cola Co. Announces Plan to Offset the 76 Billion Gallons of Water it uses Annually


Coca-Cola Co. today dropped a sustainable bombshell announcing it is funding a $20 million project to try and offset the 76 billion gallons of water it uses each year to make Coke, Sprite, Fanta and its other drinks.  Yes that is not a typo Coca-Cola uses 76 billion gallons of water annually.

According to a company press release Coca-Cola Co. will work to conserve seven major rivers worldwide and will also revamp its bottling practices to reduce pollution and water use.

The campaign was announced at the World Wildlife Foundation's (WWF) annual meeting in Beijing.  Information on the announcement and apparent Coca-Cola/WWF partnership is prominently displayed on both parties web sites. 

"Essentially the pledge is to return every, every drop we use back to nature," Coca-Cola Chief Executive E. Neville Isdell said at a news conference.

Under the project the company will explore how to eventually set targets to improve water efficiency for its water-thirsty agricultural partners, including sugar cane producers, Isdell told the Associated Press.

This is an important point because of the huge amount of water needed to grow sugar cane, said Jason Clay, a WWF researcher.  "For every liter of Coke, just the sugar in it requires between 175 and 250 liters (46 to 66 gallons) of water.  This is the big issue," he told the AP.  "They really need to get a handle on sugar."

Clay said Coca-Cola was encouraging sugar cane producers to conserve water, and was looking at sugar alternatives.

The partnership will focus on measurably conserving seven of the world's most critical freshwater river basins: China's Yangtze; Southeast Asia's Mekong; the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo of Southwest United States  and Mexico; the rivers and streams of the Southeastern United States; the water basins of the Mesoamerican Caribbean Reef; the East Africa basin of Lake Malawi; and Europe's Danube River.  How they plan on conserving the river basins remains unclear.

"The water crisis is as important as climate change," said Carter Roberts, President of WWF-US. "Thousands of people die each day from polluted water. Freshwater species are more at risk for extinction. These conditions will only get worse with climate change. The Coca-Cola Company's commitment to water neutrality is a first. We need more companies to step up and make similar commitments if we are going to reverse these current trends."

Roberts comments puzzle me, while what he says is accurate what about the 76 billion gallons of water Coca-Cola uses annually???  Isn't that a problem?

This is one of the stranger stories I've seen.  Today's announcement was clearly carefully planned and the fact it came at the WWF annual meeting is significant.


According to Coca-Cola, they have been working together with WWF for several years on a number of pilot projects to conserve water, address water efficiency in the Company's operations and protect species.   

Surely a $20 million commitment is a drop in the bucket compared to the environmental impact Coca-Cola products production has on the environment.  The whole announcement/plan appears to be a PR move however I think it only draws attention to the incredible impact the company's production has on water supplies and global-warming.


QVC Battery Operated Fan: A Sustainable Marketing Nightmare

QVC Item F00208 Battery Powered LED Fan

Those of you who know me know how much I like QVC.  Seriously I am a big fan I find the home shopping channel to be informative and quite a detailed look at America's consumer base.  Their products are often well chosen and the shows and marketing are top notch.  They could make significant improvements in terms of sustainability and offering greener products but for what they do they are experts and should not overlooked or under estimated.

I was watching a show last week on outdoor products and they were presenting a battery operated LED portable fan item F00208.  The fan uses six (6) AA batteries and from the presentation you could see it barely produced a breeze. 

I watched in amazement thinking what an awful product.  First off it is incredibly wasteful using six (6) AA batteries and you know most people don't use rechargeables.  When asked by a caller how long the battery life was the presenter said "hours."  Secondly the product barely works producing only a faint breeze, you could see it hardly moved the female presenters hair when she held it right up to her face.  Finally it is made in China and surely traveled by cargo ship to the US for sale.

I just couldn't help thinking that sooner or later products like this are going to become detrimental to retailers.  They will actually have a negative impact on retailers because they simply aren't responsible products to sell.  I was very surprised QVC was even selling it as they are tops in their field and getting a product placed on the network is quite difficult.

Take a look at the comments on the QVC website for this item.  "I purchased two of these battery operated portable fans. I was totally disappointed! Fans do not produce much air at all, unless you put your face directly in front of it. Worst purchase I ever made from QVC!"

QVC does their market research so I am quite interested in how this product was chosen and placed on the network.  Their profit margin must have been very high.  I think QVC and other retailers need to wake up and not even offer products like this for sale. 

As more and more consumers place importance on environmental concerns, QVC should take the the lead, get out ahead of their consumer base.  They have an incredible opportunity to take the green/sustainable market right into consumers homes and they are not doing it.   At least not yet.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Lawsuit Against TerraCycle a Big Mistake

Scotts Miracle-Gro made a mistake when it filed a 173 page lawsuit against the small New Jersey organic plant food company, TerraCycle®.

As reported back in April, Scotts Miracle-Gro's suit alleges among other things false advertising and trade dress infringement.  They claim TerraCycle's packaging too closely resembles their Miracle-Gro® product packaging.

Scotts has a strong product line - so what is the motivation for going after a small company like TerraCycle?

It appears the lawsuit is really an attempt by Scotts Miracle-Gro to prevent TerraCycle from becoming established in the rapidly growing market for organic non-chemical based fertilizers and plant food, which coincidentally Scotts Miracle-Gro is trying to crack into with its Organic Choice® line of products.

Clearly Scotts is concerned by the fact TerraCycle is carried by Wal-Mart & Home Depot as well as numerous other large retailers and that this will some how impact their business.

They couldn't be more wrong.  Scotts has an established brand of lawncare products that millions of consumers swear by each year.  They are lawn and garden giants with over fifty percent of the related market share.  Consumers who buy Scotts products are not going to one day stop and switch to a TerraCycle type product.  Its just not going to happen. 

Many of these consumers are results based consumers.  All they care about is will my lawn be green or will my plants grow big.  They aren't thinking about the impact too much fertilizer might have on rivers or streams or whether its good to be eating vegetables grown with synthetic fertilizers.

In the wake of increased federal and state regulation of their products and a growing demand for organic/natural fertilizers by consumers Scotts is striking out at who they can - potential competitors. 

The decision to file a lawsuit was a mistake

The problem with this plan is its going to backfire.  By Scotts filing suit against TerraCycle they have legitimized the company as a serious competitor.  TerraCycle overnight went from a small fertilizer company catering to a growing niche market to a company Scotts Miracle-Gro is actually worried about.

Whats worse for Scotts is now the whole country and world knows about it.  When a company like Scotts Miracle-Gro is worried about a company like TerraCycle people notice and ask why.

Scotts Miracle-Gro's numerous brands are strong.  The company is getting poor legal/marketing/PR advice and the decision to go after TerraCycle was a bad one. 

In the end TerraCycle is going to come out stronger with a larger market share.  Inc. reported this month the company's investors weren't swayed a bit by the looming Scotts Miracle-Gro lawsuit. 

TerraCycle gets it.  Scotts doesn't.  Strong arm tactics weren't necessary in this case and by employing them (lawsuit) Scotts will only further alienate itself from the very consumer base they are trying to capture.

Scotts doesn't get it on this one.  Su Lok a company spokesperson was quoted in the June issue of Inc. as saying their actions against TerraCycle were "common sense, business 101."   That may be the case in "business" but what they are missing is the fact that consumers in the markets they are trying to get into (organic fertilizers) don't like "business 101" and strong arm bully tactics. 

Generally speaking consumers who buy organic products are often highly concerned with trade practices, are internet savvy, tend to spend more time researching products available to them and have higher education levels.  All of this is common knowledge business 101.  Scotts needs to understand their target consumer base isn't going to react well to their going after a small organic company like TerraCycle. 

Exclusive Rhode Island Golf Club Cuts Down Tree with Red Tail Hawk Nest Clearly Visible in it

Hawk nest housing two adult Red Tails and three young chicks was in a tree cut down yesterday on the grounds of the Rhode Island Country Club.  Two chicks were killed - one is alive and being tended to by the female adult under a nearby cedar tree.


A White Pine tree home to a nest of five Red Tail hawks on the grounds of the Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington, RI host of the upcoming CVS Caremark Charity Classic golf tournament was cut down yesterday, May 22 killing two of the chicks. 

I don't often cover news in my local community but there was a troubling event at a local golf club.  The Rhode Island Country Club is situated on Narragansett Bay and I pass it nearly every day.  Over the past several months myself and other bird-watchers enjoyed a rare close look at a Red Tail Hawk nest in a tree about 100 feet from a nearby road.   


Being an avid bird-watcher, I stopped yesterday morning as I often do around 7 a.m. and observed the nest from the road with my binoculars.  I was quite surprised to find the tree housing the nest had been cut down when I drove by later that evening.

The nest was home to three Red Tail chicks and two adults.  It was near the top of an ailing White Pine tree adjacent to the 15th tee.  The nest was clearly visible from the road not 100 feet away and was alive with activity yesterday morning. 


The tree the nest was in did appear to be struggling after the winter.  The needles on the tree were brown instead of green.  Growing in between two other White Pines it was now an eyesore on the otherwise immaculate grounds of the Rhode Island Country Club. 

Obviously a decision was made to cut the tree down, however the chicks in the nest were not mature enough to fly.  See photo below taken yesterday morning May 22.


The golf course superintendent said he was unaware the nest was in the tree.  He said two of the Red Tail chicks were killed when the tree was cut down and the third survived and was being tended to by its mother underneath a nearby cedar tree. 

Personally, I find it hard to believe golf course staff were unaware of the nest being in the tree.  The nest was in a dying pine tree and there was constant hawk activity in and out of the tree over the past two months.  In addition the nest was in a tree right next to the 15th tee and clearly visible from Nayatt Road as evidenced by the photos taken.  Furthermore the adult hawks were commonly seen in other trees and telephone poles etc right in the area.

I understand the White Pine tree the nest was in had become an eyesore.  I question why it was necessary to cut it down yesterday - with an active nest of hawks in it?  If the tree needed to be cut down wouldn't it make sense to wait until the hawks were mature enough and left the nest? 

Or is there pressure to make the course and grounds look flawless for the upcoming CVS Charity Golf Classic and in light of the club's recent multi-million dollar renovation project?  The answers to these questions are unknown at this point. 

Focusing on PR and marketing issues as I do on the blog, I am amazed at how even today companies and organizations have so little regard for these essential skills.

This is just another example of a poor decision and of an outcome that didn't need to occur.  At what expense, if any, these actions taken yesterday by the golf club have remains to be seen.

(ed.) 5/30

See updates on the story from the Providence Journal from 5/30 - reporting the surviving chick was returned to a platform made by the golf club in a nearby tree in hope the mother would find it again.  Golf course superintendent Peter Lund placed the hawk on the platform with rescuers and DEM on hand as well as WJAR NBC 10 and the Providence Journal.


I reported on a story WJAR NBC 10 in Providence ran on the hawks.  NBC 10 got the first comment from the golf club and showed pictures of the surviving hawk at a rehab facility in Westerly, RI

Black Google Sites Appearing on Internet Save Electricity

Black colored versions of the popular search engine saving electricity


Eco-IT consultant Mark Ontkush wrote a piece on his blog ecoIron saying a Black colored Google would save 750 Megawatt-hours a year in electricity. 

Mark cited EnergyStar statistics showing an all white web page uses about 74 watts to display while an all black page uses only 59 watts.  He computed some statistics based on the number of queries per day Google gets (200 million) and concluded there could be some significant energy savings by making a change in the screen color.

Well as now as Treehugger reported an all black Google - dubbed Blackle has emerged.  Blackle claims it has already saved over 4,400 watt hours of electricity.

While Blackle appears to be the most organized Mark points out there are several other similar sites out there including Google Black, Trek Black, Spanish Black Google and German Black Google

Australia's ANZ Bank Makes Major Environmental Improvements

Australia's 3rd Largest Bank Making Environmental Strides




Australia's third largest bank, ANZ is working on several major environmental improvement projects to reduce its footprint in Australia and New Zealand. 

The bank has set 2009-2010 as their target for becoming completely carbon neutral.  In order to accomplish this they will invest in renewable energy to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

The second part of their environmental plan is the building of a new facility in Melbourne's Docklands which will be the most sustainable commercial building in Australia.

The 10 story ANZ tower will have six wind turbines on top which will generate 10,000kW hours of electricity a year.  Other features include solar silver cells, a landscaped roof, stormwater reuse, water recycling, air conditioning with 100 percent fresh air and a tri-generation plant where natural gas will be used to simultaneously generate electricity, heat and cooling.

ANZ has created a section of their website dedicated to environmental issues.

PepsiCo to Buy One Billion Kilowatt-hours of Renewable Energy credits


PepsiCo will announce today that it will purchase 1 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy credits over the next year. 

The credits are equal to all the electricity used by PepsiCo's US facilities and are enough to power 90,000 American homes for one year.

The renewable energy will cost PepsiCo about $2 million dollars.  This amount signifies a significant investment and is huge for renewable energy.

PepsiCo's renewable energy purchase has catapulted it up the list of green energy users.  The US Environmental Protection Agency is releasing its quarterly list of the 25 greenest energy users today - and PepsiCo is now at the top.

USA Today reports the move is significant for renewable energy but also may be a solid marketing move.  95% of kids 13 to 18 recently surveyed by Weekly Reader magazine said they had heard of global warming.  One in four said they were very worried about it.

PepsiCo's renewable energy credit purchase doubles that of the previous leader Wells Fargo.

Major US Retailers Gauge Consumers Interest in Environmental Products

Nation's Largest Retailer & Home Improvement Chain Testing how interested consumers really are in the environment

Thehomedepot_2 Walmart

Some interesting developments out of last week.  It seems a bit of a who can test consumers eco-tendencies first contest has arisen. 

Two major US retailers are trying to gauge just how interested consumers are in the environment and whether that interest will translate into dollars.

Last week Home Depot announced it was expanding its Eco Options label program from its Canadian stores into the US.  Eco Options is a label to help consumers easily identify what Home Depot considers environmentally friendly products in its stores.

Shortly after Home Depot's announcement the largest US retailer Wal-Mart launched a national advertising campaign highlighting its environmentally friendly products. 

Wal-Mart's 30 second television ads on national broadcast and cable stations that will be aired on such programs as the "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America", each feature a woman urging Wal-Mart shoppers to help the environment by buying low-energy light bulbs, organic cotton clothes or concentrated laundry detergent, which they say reduces packaging. (AP)

Print ads from the campaign appeared in Friday and Sunday editions of USA Today and The New York Times as well as other Sunday papers.

The environmentally friendly product ads are the first of their kind for Wal-Mart.

Home Depot concluded its Eco Options launch week by giving away 1 million CFL light bulbs at stores on Earth Day (April 22nd).  The company also unveiled its Eco Options website.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Sues TerraCycle

Small Organic Fertilizer company whose products are made from earthworm droppings is being sued by industry giant Scotts




TerraCycle a small New Jersey-based organic plant-food company is being sued by industry giant Scotts Miracle-Gro.

TerraCycle® plant and lawn fertilizers are based on a formula made from earthworm droppings and are packaged and sold in recycled soda bottles collected from all over the country.  The company boasts its entire product is made from waste. 

Scotts Miracle-Gro (who we mentioned recently for taking enviro babysteps in its industry) claims TerraCycle's packaging infringes on the "distinctive and famous trade dress" of Miracle-Gro®.

Continue reading "Scotts Miracle-Gro Sues TerraCycle" »

Home Depot Eco Options

Home Depot Introduces Eco Options Label in US Stores Today

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Home Depot is formally introducing the Eco Options label today in its US stores.  The new label is for products like fluorescent light bulbs that conserve electricity and natural insect killers, that promote energy conservation, sustainable forestry and clean water.  The new label will identify products at Home Depot as environmentally friendly.

The company has identified more than 2500 Eco Option products (many of which are already on store shelves) such as all-natural insect repellents, cellulose insulation, front-load washing machines, organic plant food and vegetables in biodegradable pots, compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The label will make it easier for consumers to make eco-friendly choices related to their home improvement products.  The Eco Options label in the US is an expansion of the program which the company rolled out in Canada.

Scotts Takes Green Steps

Lawn care Giant Taking Green Steps but Could it be doing more?



For a while now we’ve seen bits and pieces of evidence the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (Scotts, Miracle-Gro, Osmocote, Ortho, Roundup, Scott’s Lawnservice, Smith & Hawken, Miracle-Gro Nursery Select, Scotts Canada, Miracle-Gro Canada, Hyponex and Earthgro) is considering ways to make their products more environmentally friendly. 

  • 2003 – Organic Choice line introduced
  • 2006 - Scotts announced it would reduce the phosphorus in Turf Builder lawn fertlizier by 50% by then end of 2008
  • 2007 – Scotts natural lawn fertilizer expected to be released

The Marysville, Ohio lawn care giant with $2.7 billion in annual net sales, makes the most popular lawn fertilizer in the U.S. (Scotts Turf Builder & LawnPro).  Despite its strong sales the company is in a position where it’s continued growth and dominance may rely on it being seen as more responsible and sensitive to environmental issues related to its products.

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FreshDirect Becomes First Online Retailer to Carry Certified Sustainable Fish

Online Retailer Offers Six types of Fish Certified Sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council



FreshDirect has become the first U.S. online retailer to offer six varieties of fish certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Progressive Grocer reports that by employing the MSC's extensive criteria, third-party auditors verified that FreshDirect's business practices guarantee sustainable seafood authenticity.

"Seafood lovers and industry leaders are increasingly aware of how important sustainable fishing practices are to ensuring the future of ocean ecosystems," said FreshDirect president and c.e.o. Steve Michaelson. "Recognizing and supporting well-managed, responsible fisheries provides global benefits, and we believe that FreshDirect's relationship with the MSC helps to ensure robust seafood populations."

The retailer's lineup of certified sustainable fish includes Pacific halibut, several types of Alaska salmon, and Pacific sablefish, with additional varieties slated to roll out in the near future.

Founded in 1997, the MSC is an independent global nonprofit organization that worked for two years to develop its Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing, which provides environmental and production standards for sustainable, well-managed fisheries.

"Responsible and sustainable fishing is gaining awareness among consumers," said MSC commercial director Philip Fitzpatrick. "With more and more consumers asking about the sustainability of their seafood, FreshDirect is helping to ensure a stable future for our fish supplies, the fishing industry, and the oceans."

FreshDirect, which currently serves most of Manhattan and locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as parts of New Jersey, Westchester, and Nassau County, has over 250,000 customers and has fulfilled almost 5 million orders since opening for business in September 2002

FreshDirect has become the first U.S. online retailer to offer six varieties of fish certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Milwaukee Businesses Band Together to Buy Local

Group of Local Businesses Develop Strategies to Encourage Consumers to "buy local"

Image © Kevin Eisenhut

Local businesses in Milwaukee become the latest group to band together and organize a push to encourage people to buy local.  Among the businesses are the well-known Schwartz Books, Outpost Natural Foods, Alterra Coffee and Laacke & Joys

Fueled by increased competition from larger companies a group of diverse group of local businesses joined together to form what they call My Milwaukee.  The group recently joined the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), a San Francisco-based networking organization for small private businesses.  BALLE members have launched similar "buy local" campaigns in Seattle, Portland, OR, western Michigan, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City San Francisco, Ann Arbor, Baltimore and Chicago.

Honda Named Greenest Automaker by Union of Concerned Scientists

Honda Earns Fourth Consecutive Title due to focus on fuel efficiency an other technologies; DaimlerChrysler rated worst



Honda was named America's "2007 Greenest Automaker" by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) for the fourth consecutive time.  The biennial award is given to the company with the lowest overall production of smog-forming emissions and global warming emissions (primarily CO2) in its US automobile fleet.

"Honda remains the greenest US automaker.  The company installs clean technology across its entire fleet of cars and trucks and that consistency makes it a top environmental performer.  Honda is one of only two automakers (Toyota is the other) to have better-than-average global warming scores in every class of vehicles it sold in MY 2005," said Don MacKenzie, a vehicles engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists.  "In addition, Honda continues to have the best smog score in four out of five classes."

In its report, UCS analyzed the performance of 10 classes of vehicles made by eight of the world's largest automakers. The companies Honda, Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler -- produced 96 percent of the U.S. car and light-duty truck market in model year 2005, the most recent year for which federal data are available.

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Warmer Winters Cause Problems for Canada's Forest Industry


Image © rider thompson


Interesting story from yesterday's Montreal Gazette.  Governments and all industry sectors in Canada must quickly "retool" to deal with climate change, says the Forest Products Association of Canada, which is witnessing a manifestation of climate change - a mountain pine beetle epidemic -destroy massive tracts of valuable forest.

Yesterday's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "is an
important wake- up call to all," said Avrim Lazar president of FPAC, an association that represents most of the key players in the $40-billion forestry industry.

"Climate change is not just a future problem, it is here today and it is having a very real impact on Canada," he said.

One graphic example of that is the mountain pine beetle epidemic that has already destroyed a forest area in British Columbia that is about the size of New Brunswick, he said.

Continue reading "Warmer Winters Cause Problems for Canada's Forest Industry" »

Is Wal-Mart Sustainable?

Is Wal-Mart Sustainable?  No, At Least Not Yet

Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office

Wal-Mart continues to promote its sustainability push. Andrew Ruben Wal-Mart’s vice president for strategy and sustainability spoke during last weeks Green Week at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. The topic of his talk was “Is Wal-Mart Sustainable?” His answer, “no,” at least not yet.

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Something a Little Too Wild at Wild Oats

Mouse droppings found all around Wild Oats Store


An interesting story on a problem at a Wild Oats store in the Kansas City area. A local news Investigation got quick results after a viewer tip led us to something grotesque in the baby food aisle at a popular health food store.

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Pet Food Recall FDA Blocks Wheat-gluten imports

FDA Blocks Wheat-gluten Imports in Pet Food Recall



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is blocking imports of wheat gluten from the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co.in Wangdien, China.  The wheat gluten used as a filler in pet food was chemically contaminated with melamine which has led to kidney failure in an unknown number of animals in the U.S. & Canada.

This Pet Food recall continues to be a developing story one we will follow here.

Our previous stories

Pet Food Recall Expands Purina Announces its Own Recall of Wet Dog Food   April 2, 2007

Pet Food recall story continues to develop exposes industry's "little secret"   March 27, 2007

Pet Food Recall Expands

Pet Food Recall Expands Purina Announces its Own Recall of Wet Dog Food

Nestle Purina Petcare Company (Purina) announced their own voluntary recall of ALPO® Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with specific date codes.  This food was not made by Menu Foods subject of the largest pet food recall in the country's history.  The recall comes as Purina revealed that wheat gluten (from China) containing melamine, a substance not approved for use in food, was provided to Purina by the same company that also supplied Menu Foods. The contamination occurred in a limited production quantity at only one of Purina's 17 pet food manufacturing facilities.

Continue reading "Pet Food Recall Expands" »

alchemy goods

An Interview with Alchemy Goods founder Eli Reich


image © www.sustainableisgood.com


For Alchemy Goods founder Eli Reich, having to move his two and half year old business out of the bottom floor of his house to a new location is a good thing.  The 29 year old Reich recently settled into his new digs in warehouse space in Seattle’s SoDo district.  His company needs the space to continue its growth.  In a recent phone interview, he talked about his new location and how his company has grown so rapidly.  Reich described Sodo (South of Downtown) as a “charming old industrial part of town.”   The new space allows Reich & his staff of four employees much needed room to store materials and work in less cramped surroundings.   “We were on top of each other in the old space,” said Reich.

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menu foods pet food recall

Pet Food recall story continues to develop exposes industry's "little secret"

image courtesy LAist


The story on tainted pet food produced by Menu Foods Income Fund keeps developing.  Like Lloyd I am fascinated by this story, not only because I am a pet owner but because it has provided such an interesting look into the pet food industry here in North America - a look industry insiders aren't happy about.  Its amazing one company controls so much of the wet pet food production in the United States and Canada.  Make no mistake this is a serious issue with Petconnection reporting as of yesterday 1,700 decreased pets reported to its online database.  The Globe & Mail reports class action suits are forming and bills already are in the millions.  Menu Foods website indicates they will take responsibility for vet costs associated to this recall.

What most of us didn't know

A couple of key points most of us didn’t realize prior to this story developing about pet food production warrant further exploration.  The first is Menu Foods before this story broke and possibly still essentially controls the market in North America relating to canned pet food for both dogs and cats.  Menu is basically the only show in town for companies who want to contract wet pet food production if they don’t have the ability to produce it themselves. 

How many of us realized Menu was under contract to produce some of the so-called super premium brands of pet food?  I didn’t.  You can be sure they aren’t happy to have had to publish the list of the 95 brands they make on their website as a result of this recall.  Sure they had to publish the names to help deal with the recall but I can assure you the brands they contract for aren’t happy this information is out there.  Why would they be?  Now we all know the same company that makes Iams wet food also makes Ol’Roy & Special Kitty for Walmart.  Makes you wonder why you’ve been paying 2 or 3 times the price all these years for Iams or Science Diet wet foods.  Oh right the recipes are different... seriously apparently they are with the cheaper food containing more filler and the more expensive having more meat.  Hmm sounds familiar.  Anyway.   Its no wonder why some consumers are feeling duped by what Advertising Age calls the "Pet food industry's little secret."

Menu has contracts with Proctor & Gamble to produce Iams & Eukanuba brand wet food (Menu's 2004 annual report states it has a 10 year agreement with P&G to produce all its wet and pouched food) and Colgate-Palmolive Co. to produce Science Diet wet food as well as with other premium brands like Nutro.  The company that produces all these premium brands also produces canned pet food for Walmart and numerous other supermarkets & stores across the country.  Since this recall was announced I have seen numerous reports on television or in the newspaper where pet owners were amazed their “premium” brand food was part of the recall or produced by Menu – they had no idea, they thought it was "premium."

Even Purina was affected by the recall because according to their own website they don’t have the ability to independently produce wet dog food served in pouches (a packaging method preferred by some consumers).  Nestle Purina PetCare contracted with Menu to produce its Mighty Dog pouched packaged dog food.

What happens now?  How will consumers react to their "premium" brands in the future and some sound alternatives

In total the recall covered 42 brands of cat food and 53 brands of dog food.  It remains to be seen the impact of the recall on Menu’s retention of customers.  I’d be curious to see retention figures relating to the “premium” brands. 

Finally, it will be especially interesting to see the impact of the recall on independent premium pet food brands like Wysong and Castor & Pollux to see if their sales increase as a result of the recall.  Wysong prides itself in producing high quality pet food and claims to adhere to highest standards both in production and environmental impact of its products.   I’d recommend checking Wysong out their products are all made in Wisconsin.  If readers are looking for information on alternative brands look into the Only Natural Pet store in Colorado.  Check the archives here for more information.


Recycline:  Sitting on Mainstream's Doorstep

image © recycline


Recycline’s backbone product, the Preserve Toothbrush is being tested at 100 Target Stores and the company doesn’t know how long the super retailer will give them to prove mainstream consumers want their eco-friendly product.  Talk about pressure for the Waltham, MA company founded by Eric Hudson.  Hudson and his company have been making major strides in the last few years and the next step is to break into the mainstream consumer market.  Which puts us back at the product test they are in the middle of at 100 Target stores across the country.  At a time when eco-friendly products are starting to pop up at major retailers like Target and Walmart, the test marketing of the Preserve toothbrush is another indicator that more eco-friendly products are inching closer and closer to the mainstream market.

Recycline products including the Preserve Toothbrush & Razor and now a line of reusable tableware have been popular among eco-conscious consumers for several years.  The full line of Recycline products is available at Whole Foods stores across the country and their products are also carried by Trader Joes, Super Stop & Shop supermarket stores in the northeast, and a host of smaller natural food type stores.  These are big names in the retail business but with the exception of Stop & Shop, are geared towards eco-conscious consumers.  This is why Target is such a big deal.  Recycline is selling its Preserve toothbrush for $2.04 at Target – a deal by any standards – the question is will mainstream consumers bite?  This remains to be seen and Hudson knows it’s a challenge.  He was quoted in a Nov 2006 Inc. magazine piece as saying “We basically believe that maybe 15% of people won’t buy our products.”   So if we take away the 15% of consumers who probably will never buy a recycled toothbrush that leaves Hudson and other similar eco-entrepreneurs 85% of consumers as at least possible buyers.   Not too bad.

Partnership with Stonyfield Farm a model for eco-friendly businesses working together to reduce and reuse waste

The Preserve toothbrush is Recycline’s signature product.  The toothbrush is made from 100% recycled plastic up to 65% of which comes from recycled plastic donated by yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm.  The two companies have a unique partnership that Recycline’s Kathryn Lively described well in a recent interview with Sustainable is Good.  Through a cooperative partnership that began in 2000 with Stonyfield Farm (majority ownership by French company Groupe Danone), Recycline takes their waste (yogurt containers) and makes toothbrushes and the handles of their razors from them. “Our relationship with Stonyfield Farm is a great example of how businesses of the future can work.  Here we have one company (Recycline) that uses another company's waste (Stonyfield yogurt cups) to make their products (Preserve brand products).   Our partnership with Stonyfield Farm®, is regarded as a significant step towards corporate sustainability with our two companies collaborating to reduce and reuse waste,” says Lively. 

The Stonyfield partnership accounts for a significant amount of Recycline’s recycled plastic supply, which Stonyfield is quick to point out, is #5 plastic polypropylene (they state this is more efficient than HDPE #2 or other types of plastic).  A January 2005 article in Waste News reports Stonyfield sends Recycline two to three thousand pounds of #5 plastic each month in fact in early 2005 they passed the 1 million containers recycled mark (it takes about 2 containers to make 1 toothbrush). There is no question the Stonyfield partnership has been a tremendous boon for Recycline and also an effective way for the yogurt maker to dispose of excess plastic and containers.

photo © www.sustainableisgood.com

Where does Recycline get the rest of his recycled plastic from?  According to an Oct 2005 Forbes article, the rest of Recycline’s recycled plastic comes from old grocery store carts, toys and wherever else Hudson can find a good deal on the right type of plastic.  Waste News reports this plastic along with all the Stonyfield containers are then sent to a plastics processor who grinds it up and combines it with other pre-consumer recycled polypropylene.  The end result are pellets which are then used by Recycline to make their products. Hudson told Waste News the compounding process to make the pellets involves heating the plastic up to about 400°F, enough to kill any potential bacteria. The plastic is again heated during the injection molding process used to convert the pellets into consumer products, he said.

More than just recycled plastic - key to company's success

There is more to Recycline’s success than just the fact it recycles plastic.  The company also innovates with plastic both in design and production practices.  A March 12, 2007 release for an upcoming conference on plastics & sustainability at Umass Lowell, sheds some light into the production innovations the company made.  Recycline, “tapped UMass Lowell's Plastics Engineering faculty (regarded as the best in the country in this area) for technical guidance and engineering innovation when the company wanted to manufacture plastic products in an eco-friendly way,” says the Business Wire release. 

Producing their products wasn’t something that happened overnight for Recycline, eco-friendly production methods require time and innovation.  Another area the company spends a great deal of time on is product design and understanding what its consumer base wants.  For example Recyline’s Preserve razor was designed over a period of two years with graduates of MIT, Stanford and RISD schools of design & engineering working on the project. They are also regular participants in design forums with area colleges an universities like Babson College.  The design elements of their products are clearly evident when you try using one of them.  We actively use both the Preserve toothbrush and the Triple Razor.  At first glance both products appear very simple yet on closer inspection and in use they are well thought out and highly functional.  Even the Preserve toothbrush’s packaging is functional made from recycled wood-based plastic it doubles as case for travel.

Consumers should think about “how was it made, it is reusable, how will you dispose of it when the product is no longer usable?”

Buying green products and not breaking the bank is all about using your head and not consuming more than you need says Lively.  She stressed the importance of consumers envisioning the entire life-cycle of products they buy.  This vision is something Recycline takes seriously and their products show it.  You may take a look at the Preserve toothbrush and wonder why it doesn’t have all the fancy fake rubber trim many of the conventional models have on them – the answer is because adding things like that makes the toothbrush un-recyclable. Part of thinking about the life-cycle of a product includes these considerations.   Lively says consumers should ask themselves before buying a product, “how was it made, it is reusable, how will you dispose of it when the product is no longer usable?” 


photo © www.sustainableisgood.com

Disposal is something Recycline also cares about.  The company encourages customers to send back their used Preserve Toothbrushes and now Razor handles for recycling.  In order to facilitate this, the company offers pre-paid postage mailers and gives consumers the ability to print out a mailing label form their website.  Recycline will take the items and turn them into plastic based lumber.   Of course consumers can also recycle these items within their communities. 

So as Recycline continues to thrive among a growing group of eco-conscious consumers, they eagerly await the results of their sales at the 100 Target stores.  Meanwhile, they continue innovate and come up with new products to offer their consumers.  Lively said the company receives feedback from their customers all over the world.  They are coming out with a cutting board this spring and according to Lively the fall should be quite exciting. “I can't give away any secrets but I assure you we have a few tricks up our sleeve set for release in the Fall.  Folks can sign up for our e-newsletter on our website so they can stay caught up with new Preserve products.” - We will stay tuned 

dell recycling

Dell Recycling

image © rider thompson

Over ten years ago in 1996 I bought my first laptop, it was a Dell Inspiron 366mhz Pentium - by today’s standards it was a tank.  That laptop held up well let me tell you and I was able to upgrade it to Windows XP a few years back (which the chair paid for) it still worked up until the day I recycled it a couple of weeks ago.

Fortunately Dell computers has a takeback program for all of its products that does not require the purchase of a new product - they are currently the only ones in the US with such a program (Apple requires purchase of a qualifying computer or monitor).  Their program is one of the most comprehensive in the industry and the leader here in the US, they will also recycle non-Dell branded computer equipment with the purchase of a Dell product. 

In order to recycle a Dell product, consumers need to visit the Dell Recycling website enter the product information and then are prompted to print a prepaid shipping label from DHL to send the computer back to Dell for recycling, a quick visit to the DHL website and you can schedule a pickup. Dell either donates the product, giving it a second life or disposes of it properly.  Dell’s program, partially the result of an expansion of a mandated program in the EU is an important development for consumers here in the US.

The only similar programs in the US are at HP (you pay to recycle ahead of time then you get HP credit toward a purchase) and now after some resistance Apple (requires purchase).  Apple is the subject of a current Greenpeace campaign, Green my Apple, aimed at getting the computer manufacturer to produce a greener product and expand its recycling program to mirror Dell's. 

I found the Dell recycling program to be efficient, easy to use and a tremendous positive for the company.  They have recognized the need to deal with the growing problem of e-waste hopefully other manufacturers will follow in Dell’s footsteps.

Makers of Splenda buy Hundreds of Negative Domain Names

Makers of Splenda® buy Hundreds of Negative Domain Names


image © rider thompson

splendakills.com, victimsofsplenda.com, splendatoxicity.com are all domain names owned by the makers of Splenda - see below for extensive list

Image is everything today, if you don't believe that statement, just look at the lengths the companies who produce the artificial sweetener Splenda® are going to control potentially negative information on their product.  Tate & Lyle, manufacturer of Splenda®, along with its US based co-developer Johnson & Johnson have bought up potentially negative domain names by the hundreds.  The three top level .com domain names mentioned above sound like something out of a medical examiners post mortem but they are actually domain names owned by the sweeteners own makers.  Why?

Realizing how times have changed and how now a simple Google search can yield consumers a wealth of information on a particular product both good and bad it appears Tate & Lyle and Johnson & Johnson are taking steps to control potentially negative information by buying domain names that could be used to post such information.  Is it brilliant corporate strategy or a plan that could backfire tremendously down the road? Are the makers of Splenda® outwitting potential critics, or are they themselves documenting their own products’ shortcomings and risks by buying these domain names?

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