Dust to Dust

sunchipsx-largeNow isn’t that a beautiful package on the left!

When USA Today features an article about environmental initiatives for consumer product packaging on the cover of their business section, you know we may be headed in the right direction. Or at least that the issues have gotten some traction in the everyday business press.

What got my attention in the article today is that it features some of our larger companies. Frito Lay for instance is planning on introducing a compostable SunChips bag by Earth Day 2010, shown at left. A gimmick of timing perhaps, but I certainly give them credit for the effort.

It also mentions a number of weight/materials reduction efforts by brands like Aquafina and Oscar Mayer. This movement reflects a number of other green programs I have begun to see with our clients as well. When the largest brands in every category are talking about 20%, 30%, or even 40% reductions in plastics used in their packaging, as virtually all companies are trying to do, we are talking about a lot of plastic. Imagine Detroit talking seriously about that kind of increase in vehicle mileage.

The cynics out there would say that this movement is not making a real difference yet or that the pace is too slow, and they are right, but the folks in the conference rooms I visit do take this seriously.

Wal-Mart, yes Wal-Mart, is even beginning to be a major mover in this area. They have a tool, introduced almost 3 years ago, called the “Packaging Scorecard” that ranks the environmental responsiveness of every product sold in the store based on its full life cycle. Their buyers are making purchase and stocking decisions based on this scorecard.

I know I can hear people saying that walking into Wal-Mart is a far cry from walking into an Aveeda store, and again they are right. But making a small change at the world’s largest retailer will have a much bigger impact. As evidence of this initiative I recently received an invite from the Packaging Association of Canada to attend the third Wal-Mart Sustainable Packaging Conference. When they begin to insist that their suppliers change, they do.

My instinct, based on 30 years of listening to clients, suggests that we aren’t going back.  I know we are still in a transition stage, and it is probably a bit like the auto industry relying on hybrids while they figure out economical plugin electric vehicles or fuel cell solutions. But let’s get started! 

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About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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One Response to Dust to Dust

  1. Pingback: Our Top 10 List of Packaging Stories for 2009 « The Package Unseen

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