Green Materials, Packaging And Transportation
Green Materials, Packaging And Transportation
Spencer T. Brown (Founder And Inventor) gives expert video advice on: What are 'sustainable raw materials'?; How difficult is it to find sustainable raw materials for my business?; What are the 'three pillars of sustainability'? and more...
What are 'sustainable raw materials'?
A sustainable raw material is a material that is once used can be replenished, quickly, without mitigating environmental and ecological impacts. A sustainable, a perfect example of a sustainable product is a bamboo. As fast as you can cut it down and reprocess it and make it into yet a product, you have another blade of bamboo. It's fabulous. Hemp is the same process. What's not a sustainable product? Oil. You have a finite, it's not infinite, it's finite. That's not sustainable. It has to be able to be self-generating. At the same time, there needs to be stewardship. You need to not only cut down the bamboo, but you have to make sure that when the new bamboo is being developed that it has the right nutrients and balance and so you also have to be a participant. So, sustainable raw materials is part like, example bamboo, but is also a subcontext as you have to have stewardship of that sustainability because, if left unchecked, you cut down the bamboo, the next bamboo blade might come out and might not be as strong and in depredated. So, you have to have stewardship with sustainable raw materials.
What are the 'three pillars of sustainability'?
The three he's basically: Environmentalism, and then you have Ecology and then you also have Economy. With sustainability, when you talk about these three pillars, you have to understand that in designing products, you really have to balance the raw materials, and you also have to balance the needs of the consumer, and you have to make a profit. So when you are talking about sustainable design, and you start talking about these three different categories, you really need to assess how your product fits within these three categories in order for it to be sustainable.
What are the 'four R's of the environmental cycle'?
Right now the industry talks about the "four R's," which is reduce, reuse, recycle, replenish. So, in a nutshell, reduce. How can we reduce our packaging? Can we buy a product that we can reuse multiple times? That's so important. Should we use it once, like a cardboard box is used one time. It's very environmentally destructive. With the Reco Pack, you can use it 400 times. So you want to reduce the amount that you consume, or the packaging that's wrapping your product. You want to reuse that product, and if you can't use it any longer, don't throw it away. Put it on Craig's List, put it on Free Recycle, put it on GeGoIt. And give it to someone else to reuse that product and extend the life of it before entering the landfill. Recycling. Recycling is if we do have to throw it away - newsprint, glass, aluminium cans, bleach bottles - why can't we recycle it. Let's recycle by taking a used product and bringing it back into industry, preventing us from using more finite raw materials. Slowing down the rate of finite consumption. And then, replenish. Replenishing is that if you're - similar to taking a tree out, you need to replenish what you've taken.
What is 'zero-waste packaging'?
Zero-waste is packaging that breaks down in the landfills or produces no waste. An example of zero-waste packaging is going into a store and buying a product that isn't heavily packaged. So, what you'll find is many retailers, even Toys-R-Us, are actually bringing in the toys without the cardboard, without the fancy items, and they're put in very special bins. You'll go inside and say " I'd like to have that toy", you buy it and it doesn't have any packaging; it's zero-waste. They're just testing this now so it would be like going to buy an action figure you don't have a fifteen page brochure, you don't have a back card, you don't have a clam shell to put this little guy in. You can actually go and buy that loose action figure, and they're just testing this out now. Zero-waste packaging is also when you are going to buy a product that the packaged item produces no waste, so you are seeing a lot of corn-based polymer wraps in consumer products so you can actually take this wrapping and put it in the organic waste and it will breakdown in the landfill.
What can I do to make my packaging more reusable?
The first step is to assess how much packaging do you need. Are you overly packaged? Do you have to include a 32 page black and white instruction information guide or can you put it on the Internet? Why can't you make a little video on showing your assembly of the product so I can go online and just watch the video and then assemble the product? Do you have to have multiple layers of packaging? Do you have to have a cardboard box and then more packing and then another type of box and then a gift box and then a gift ribbon box, all to send a picture frame? Why not go to assessing minimal packaging standards with biodegradable packaging materials? Instead of having your cardboard box and your Styrofoam and all of those bubble wrapped pack and ships why doesn't the industry go in and engineer a reusable, returnable packaging solution? When I buy the product, I'm also buying a packing container that I can continually reship with. Right now, reshipping containers are primarily cardboard which as we all know is ubiquitous in pack and shipping. Even Amazon is shipping with cardboard. When you look a how they're shipping, they're shipping with minimal packaging. They have a little flat sheet and they have a little shrink-wrapped item. They could do the right thing by converting that to 100% biodegradable packaging. It might cost them a little bit more for packing and shipping. I think consumers would want to pay that because right now we're paying anyways because we have to fill up our landfills. We have to pay waste management to pick up the trash. We also have to pay more taxes to manage these expanding landfills. At some point somebody has to pay. I don't think our environment should bear the brunt of our over-packaged consumer goods and the key is getting the manufacturers to understand the importance of redesigning their packaging to fit their product so the consumer can get it with a little amount of packaging with the elimination or reduction of the environmental impact.
What is a 'post-consumer' product?
Post consumer is a product that a consumer at one time used, in terms of packaging or the actual product itself. And then, it ends up in a municipal sort facility and goes into a recycling channel that actually reprocesses the material and re-introduces the recycled material back into a similar product. An example would be newspapers. You would read it and then recycle it. A recycler would grind up the fibers. Some of it would go back in to another newspaper. Aluminium cans are by far the best use of post consumer. Some of the statistics are as high as 98 percent of all aluminium is recycled back into a can in under six weeks. So if you drink a soda, you then put that in your recycling bin, and eventually it becomes another can. Glass bottles are by far the best example because you can drink a beer, take it back to the store and get typically a CRV value of five to seven cents for that six-pack. And then they will take those empty glass bottles, send them back to the factory, clean them, wash them and then fill them up with beer again.
What is the 'Extended Product Responsibility' concept?
That concept is when you're designing a product, you need to design in the front end of the system a responsibility of how it's able to break down and then recycle back out into industry. An example is. This concept would be best applicable to the plastic industry. They're making plastics that are so sophisticated that when used one time, it's impossible to reuse them. They're fortified. It's like there's two different groups of plastic. There's plastic that you can keep reusing and reusing; and yes, it derogates. And there is another plastic that is an epoxy, a resin base. Use one time, you can not alter the carbon chain of that molecular structure. You're stuck. Burning it is even worse than tossing it. So the question is, when they're designing that, if they can, why not design with this responsibility recycling ethos to design the product so when it gets to the landfill, we can recycle as much as possible. Make it cradle to cradle. Or zero waste. Or closing the loop of the product. And I think if product designers were to integrate this philosophy or concept into their products, we would in addition to having more recycling, we would be able to get it in the landfills, extract, process and put it back into another product. And in a shorter time frame. And that's why if you look at aluminium cans, the industry has agreed upon a coating, a graph coating. That comes off very easily in a recycling process. Same thing with litres of Pepsi and Cola. Take a look at how that becoming uniform, because there is a way if we can all agree in graphically representing our aluminium can, so that when it gets to the landfill we can clean it, process it, and close the loop of that item with zero waste by reducing the environmental impact it makes sense. So take a look at the aluminium can industry. They've been a brainchild of closing that. And it's fantastic that you can drink a can of pop and have it into another product within six weeks.
What is a 'closed-loop' design?
You have a closed-loop system where you can extract out your used product, like Reco copiers, and still continue using the parts. Take a look at big companies like Epson, they're doing a great job and having you bring back your cartridges. They've designed a cartridge that's not disposable, it's refillable. It's a novel concept and has a huge impact on our landfills. The products that we're designing, from the beginning - if you take a look at the Reco cube which is made from paper sludge - it's designed to break down in your garden and feed your trees. It's closed-loop. Take a look at the Geami paper, the replacement to bubble wrap, not only could be used multiple times, but it's a hundred percent recycled, and it's a hundred percent bio-degradable, and it's great for the land. It's a great soil additive.