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Green Packaging: A Revolutionary Way to Sell, or Just Another Fad?

CCA LiveE | Sunday December 25th, 2011 | 0 Comments

The following post is part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. The rest of the posts are presented here.

By Rahim Bhimani

We have all become accustomed to the over used word “green”: green products, green cars, green companies, green foods, and etc.

How about green packaging? Is it just a fad or are companies actually interested in improving and revolutionizing the ways products are being packaged? We individually purchase hundreds of products yearly and usually the cardboard packaging is just thrown away if not recycled. Is there something we can do to reduce the amount of waste that’s being created from packaging?

I remember – most of us can –  the massive size of boxes and the amount of styrofoam that was used in the late 90s when we bought our first desktop computer. I still have the box for my first IBM computer sitting in my garage and can’t believe how much bigger the box was compared to the actual size of the computer tower.

The packaging a product comes in is the first impression it’ll make to sell itself to a customer. Why not have it appeal to the growing number of people who are dedicated to preserving the environment and living in a greener world? I’m going to mention examples of efforts made by Apple, Puma and Amazon and what they have done to improve the amount of waste with packaging.

Apple

Does anyone remember the size of the box when the earlier generations of the iPod were released? These products were only about 3.5″ by 2″, so what was all the extra real-estate for? The extra footprint these packages left was not necessary! That was 2001 – flash forward to a decade later. Not only did the packaging become more clever, their carbon footprint was drastically reduced. Lets look at packaging for the current iPod’s.

Apple was criticized quite a bit on their environmental footprint regarding the materials/packaging that was used for their products. They have made a conscious effort to pay heed to these criticisms and completely change what their products are being sold in.

If you noticed, or have purchased an apple product recently, you were probably amazed at how clever, efficient and how small the packaging was. Apple has a team that works specifically on packaging of their products to ensure it’s slim, light and protective. They mention that “efficient packaging design not only reduces materials and waste, it also helps reduce the emissions produced during transportation.” The size of the box from the original iPhone to the current iPhone 4s has been reduced by 42%, which according to them allows 80% more phones to fit onto standard shipping pallets which means more pallets fit on each boat and plane, and fewer boats and planes are used therefore resulting in fewer CO2 emissions.

Puma

I recently bought a pair of Puma shoes and posted the box online. Someone commented “it’s funny you took a picture of the box and not the actual shoe.” Fuse Project teamed up with Puma to design a more efficient way to package shoes. Shoe boxes are a huge waste of cardboard and it was their mandate to come up with a better solution than a traditional shoe box which has been used for decades and never been further improved or innovated. They came up with “the clever little bag.” It uses 65% less cardboard than a traditional shoebox.


According to them, for every tens of millions of shoes shipped in their bag, it results in reduced water, energy and diesel consumption on the manufacturing level alone by more than 60% per year. In other words: approximately 8,500 tons less paper consumed, 20 million Mega joules of electricity saved, 1 million liters less fuel oil used and 1 million liters of water conserved. During transport, 500,000 liters of diesel is saved and lastly, by replacing traditional shopping bags the difference in weight will save almost 275 tons of plastic.  Wow, that’s a big impact for something as insignificant as a shoebox. Watch the video below.

Amazon

Amazon is the worlds leading online retailer and ships hundreds to thousands of products daily, in traditional cardboard boxes that simply go straight to the trash. Have they been working on the issue of more efficient packaging?

Amazon came up with a concept called frustration free packaging, and allows companies to send their packaging to be approved for frustration free packaging. The idea is to reduce the amount of packaging that is usually displayed in stores for security issues. Amazon uses 100% recycled cardboard and makes packaging way more efficient without all the unnecessary plastics and twist ties that are traditionally included with in-store product packaging.

Apple, Puma and Amazon are a few examples of corporations that are being conscious about sustainability with packaging and are going out of their way to create innovative solutions to help our world. The packaging is the first step to an experience with a new product, so why not make it exciting for the user?

There are still thousands of companies that can be more efficient with the amount of cardboard or plastics that are used with shipping or packaging a product, hopefully these companies can take a lesson from Apple, Puma and Amazon and create not only fabulous products but also elegant, simple and sustainable packaging to create a “greener” world.

[Image Credit from: Apple.com, Fuseproject.com]

Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada now living in San Francisco pursuing an MBA in Design Strategy at CCA. He’s a young/passionate Industrial Designer with a passion for social innovation and creative problem solving.  rbhimani@cca.edu / www.rahimbhimani.com


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