Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Consensus from Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010 conference

By Sustainable Minds on January 27, 2011

Designers see total package
Designing a package to be sustainable and making one that consumers view as sustainable aren’t necessarily the same. “Why we buy things and why we make things are often completely opposite,” said Mark Dziersk, vice president of industrial design in Chicago for global brand design firm Brandimage-Desgrippes & Laga.

“Ninety-five percent of what we work on [in design] is based on a rational process. But why consumers buy things is exactly the opposite” with emotions often accounting for 95 percent of the decision. “All that speaks to the importance of the front-end of the process,” Dziersk said at the Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010 conference in Atlanta.

Terry Swack, founder and CEO of Sustainable Minds LLC in Cambridge, Mass., agreed: “The consumer only cares about how green their lifestyle becomes by using your product — not what you are saving [environmentally] as a company.” That’s why it is critical in the design stage to address consumer perceptions as well as environmental impact. 

A broader sustainability focus sought
A different view of how to approach sustainability in packaging is emerging some five years after Wal-Mart brought packaging sustainability to the consciousness of corporate America — and to consumers.

The new consensus: it is time to look at how to improve packaging sustainability by looking at how packaging impacts the total system. What’s more, a number of plastic materials companies, processors, designers and others believe that a continued focus on the package as a separate entity — and just reducing its size and weight — could do the industry a disservice. There also is greater awareness of the need to design the package and product together to most effectively reduce total waste.

There also is an increasing concern that product safety could be compromised if reducing the size and weight of the package is the only design driver.

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