Seven Things I Learned about Sustainability in 2009

By Dennis Salazar

Another year has come and almost gone but it has been an exciting and interesting one, especially in our area of packaging sustainability. In spite of many consumer and alarmists’ claims, packaging is a relatively small portion of our overall environmental problem but it tends to make good headlines. So, especially in a year end review, I try to remove those narrow blinders of our packaging industry and look at sustainability from a much broader perspective.

Here are a few thoughts you might consider and possibly agree with:

Today green initiatives must deliver a quick or immediate ROI
If there was ever any doubt before, the current economic down turn makes it an absolute. Gone are the days of green premiums and allowances; today being a sustainable green business begins with being a sustainable economic business.

Education is job one and it’s endless
It is easy to get to a point where we start believing that everyone knows what sustainability is. Thank goodness new converts–or at least the mildly curious–are added every day, so education remains one of the most important things we do and it will be for the foreseeable future.

Don’t assume everyone in a green company is a believer
Sad but true, especially in older, and bigger green companies. Whether they are your customer or vendor, and your business is conservation or construction, there are multiple levels and shades of green within any organization.

The bar is set higher for companies who talk the green talk
The green community scrutinizes everything and communicates better than probably any market in history. Do right by them and they will tell everyone quickly. Do them wrong and they will react negatively even faster.

Buy green but watch out for green scams
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear from a company who is offering a new green certification I “have to have” or a green minded PR firm that says it will get me on Oprah, CNN, or Fox News. Of course, these service are always provided for a small fee. Green companies can indeed be victimized, even by other green companies.

Compromise is not a dirty word
When we’re not talking about integrity and we are considering a partial step forward into a middle ground, compromise can be a very good thing. Our environmental problems are huge and not turning off the less passionate is an important step in the overall process.

Last but definitely not least:
Real and substantial progress is being made

It is easy to become discouraged at times but we need to stay focused on the small and significant gains that are being made in so many areas.

I should be embarrassed to admit that I still use a paper calendar in addition to my Outlook calendar. Being a creature of habit, I started transferring my important dates from my 2009 calendar to my new 2010 appointment book. I noticed two significant changes over last year’s version.

The first change was on page one where the manufacturer talked about sustainability including the fact that my product was now printed with vegetable based inks on 100% recycled paper with 30% post-consumer waste. The second thing I noticed was that for the first time, Earth Day was now noted on the April 22nd page.

These may appear to be insignificant changes or meaningless green marketing gestures to some, but I prefer to think of them as progress.


With more than 30 years of industry experience, Dennis Salazar is founder and president of Salazar Packaging, Inc. He is a prolific writer and popular speaker on the topic of sustainable packaging. His blog, Inside Sustainable Packaging, has been acclaimed by both the green and packaging communities.

Dennis offers custom eco friendly packaging solutions at Salazar Packaging, Inc. and in-stock green packaging products at Globe Guard – the first internet store featuring all eco friendly packaging supplies.

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