Sustainability Awards Encourage a Deeper Look

I enjoyed reading recent news from our friends at Environmental Leader about the 2010 Greener Package awards. The second annual competition recognized innovations in five categories that reduced environmental footprint. There were 98 entries overall (57% more than in 2009) with 8 final winners selected by the Greener Package Expert Network. “Innovator of the Year” went to Vanguard Packaging while winners in the Food Category included Coca-Cola and KFC.

Awards and competitions for sustainability products and services are increasingly common.

Since 1999, Global Green USA has awarded Sustainable Design Awards to recognize significant sustainable leadership. Green IT Magazine offers Green IT Awards to companies invested in lessening their environmental footprint. Readers and enthusiasts will soon be able to vote for the Green America People’s Choice Award for Green Business of the Year. Nominations are being counted as of press time.

The real winners in these green competitions are not the companies and innovators, but their surrounding communities and the environment as a whole. As companies are rewarded and recognized for sustainable innovation, all benefit from reduced footprints and enhanced product quality. And, ideally, consumer interest will be peaked when news of such awards is shared.

That was certainly my case as I reviewed the Greener Package Awards. KFC Green? Well frankly, I had not considered that possibility until I read about the package improvements, whereby the company introduced a new polypropylene container and lid to replace KFC’s former single-use expanded polystyrene version for side dishes. So, that got me to wondering about what else, if anything, KFC might be up to. Turns out, they have done some good work. All of their in-store napkins and paper bags are made with 100% recycled content and  30% of the famous bucket is made of recycled material. Well, it’s a start.

Not only did the news release on the Greener Package Awards make me wonder about what KFC and Coke were up to, but they also introduced me to sustainable developments by companies I have never heard of. As someone who follows corporate responsibility and has a genuine interest in supporting like-minded organizations, such news is of some value. Who knew that the folks at Vanguard Packaging were rock stars? In 2009 the company opened doors on its  underground manufacturing facility created from leftover mining caves. Now, that is some impressive re-use.  Vanguard owner and CEO Mark Mathes, coined the phrase “The power of small”, to emphasize the power of small changes to add up to make big impacts. Wal-Mart borrowed the phrase form Mathes. I think I might as well. That’s a good one.

The awards also introduced me to the likes of Ball Horticultural and their plantable, compostable plant container. I also had the pleasure of meeting Cryopak Industries and their temperature sensitive shipper/container for pharmaceuticals. Literally cool stuff!

And therein lies the point. The beauty of the Greener Package Awards and others like them lies in the spark of curiosity and the promotion of greener products, ideas and services. These little competitions, individually and as a whole, encourage innovation and demonstrate the real and lasting truth that all organizations can make an impact and can bring about positive change no matter their industry, size or location. The only limits to sustainability are apathy and a lack of imagination.

Leslie is a Sustainable MBA student at Green Mountain College. Study interests include sustainability, social responsibility and the power of corporate and non-profit partnerships to bring about positive change. Other areas of interest include social media, fundraising and public policy. She holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and is certified in the Global Reporting initiative for Sustainability Reporting. Additionally, she holds an MA in Organizational Management and a BS in Leisure Management. On the rare occasions when she is not studying, she enjoys writing, reading, running, nature walks and yoga. She hopes to use her skills, talents and education to make a positive impact with an environmentally and socially conscious organization. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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