One of the more interesting themes at the Greener by Design 2009 Conference is how some companies are reducing waste by turning their product packaging into reusable products. From the manufacturer end, Hewlett-Packard is leading the charge, with unique packaging solutions for its Voodoo line of high-performance laptops and for a line of products being sold at Wal-Mart.
Voodoo, recently acquired by HP, delivers ultra-high-performance gaming machines with a slick, minimalist aesthetic reminiscent of Apple products. Hewlett-Packard Creative Director Mark Solomon explained that the company wanted to design a unique packaging solution that would reduce waste while also increasing the value of the open-box experience for their customers. They wanted a solution that was as unique as the laptops themselves.
Solomon explained that the design’s inspiration comes from women’s hat boxes of the early 20th century. The boxes themselves are eye-catching items, made to be both durable and visually interesting. Voodoo intends its new packaging to be used over and over to store various items other than the laptops themselves, and as decorating/design elements.
The effect is achieved with high-quality materials and an almost complete lack of markings on the exterior, not even a UPC symbol. The full impact was not entirely obvious to me until I actually held one in my hand: although made of cardboard, it looks and feels like painted wood. It’s the kind of thing that would not be out of place in a well-decorated room, and definitely not something that one would be inclined to throw away.
Another take on this idea of packing products within reusable materials is the the HP Pavilion DV6929 Entertainment Notebook, exclusively sold by Wal-Mart, that comes packed in the HP Protect Messenger Bag and nothing else. This new product design was the winner of Wal-Mart’s Home Entertainment Design Challenge, in which suppliers competed to design products that are environmentally innovative and use less packaging but still use attractive design.
The laptop, along with its accessories are packed inside the messenger bag at HP, which guards the notebook during shipping and is put directly on a Walmart shelf. The only additional packaging used are a clear plastic covering on the laptop itself, and a cardboard “overpack box”, which holds three of the laptop/bag combinations during shipping.
The messenger bag itself is made of 100% recycled materials. The system achieves a 97% reduction in waste discarded by the consumer and a 65% reduction in overall product packaging. It even reduces the amount of truck space necessary to transport the laptops by 25%, with a likewise reduction in C02 emissions and fuel consumption.
While I am sure that HP still has a long way to go in designing the laptops themselves to be more environmentally friendly, this approach shows what can be done with some good, innovative design.
What do you think? Do you like HP’s approach to reducing packaging waste?
Steve Puma is a sustainability and strategy consultant and technologist. He currently writes for 3p as well as on his personal blog, ThePumaBlog.com, about the intersection of sustainability, technology, innovation, and the future. Steve holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio School of Management and a BA in Computer Science from Rutgers University. You can contact Steve through email or LinkedIn, or follow him on twitter.