As they say, it’s been great. I have sincerely appreciated the opportunity to contribute to PARCEL for over a year and this makes my tenth issue I have written for. I have received some interesting comments from readers and also made new friends as a result of these articles, but it is time to move on and try something different, elsewhere. 

I was a bit stumped in what I could write for my final issue and decided what might be most beneficial to readers is to recap some of the topics and things we have discussed along the way.

“Land Filler” Secondary Packaging 
A few articles that seemed to draw a lot of attention were the ones I wrote about “not so green” packaging products. I exposed a few popular ones for what they are, which is basically sustainability dead ends. The two that are prime examples are paper mailer envelopes cushioned with poly bubble lining. Both materials being used are good and recyclable but not when they are laminated together. 

Another product I criticized is packaging peanuts, especially the so-called eco-friendly ones. In my opinion, all of the peanut variations fall short of true greenness because of how expensive they are to store and ship. The carbon footprint they leave behind is enormous and the low price per cubic foot is undoubtedly designed to mislead users from the true total cost of use. It might be different if customers loved them but in nearly 40 years in the industry, I have NEVER met anyone who rejoiced when they discovered their package was filled with peanuts.

Green Products by Design and by Use 
In early issues, we also had the opportunity to discuss green from a broader sense. What is green and what is not; and more importantly why. We also reviewed how a packaging product is used and ultimately disposed may be more important than where it came from. Another very popular article was when I explained the difference between varying categories of recycled waste including 100% recycled content and 100% PCW (post-consumer waste). 

We have tried to offer application-focused solutions that at times are completely unexpected from a career packaging sales person like me when I suggest using less packaging. For example, when I proclaimed that sometimes the best box for an application is not a box at all. Mailer envelopes are frequently the lowest cost, and greenest option for soft goods and other non-fragile products. 

Products and More
In most cases when we discouraged the use of one product, we offered multiple greener alternatives. Shippers have many more options available to them than most realize. We also strived to provide enough information so readers could make an informed decision. For examples, we’ve discussed water activated tape versus plastic tape, paper versus plastic void fill solutions including a whole articled devoted to inflatable void fill products such as the new “bubble on demand” products. 

We have also tried to keep readers ahead of the newest trends with articles on reusable packaging and when they can save a company a lot of money. Reducing cost was also the purpose of an article on how packaging can help reduce oversized and overweight shipping charges. In the most recent issue we also discussed how secondary packaging (boxes, tape and void fill) can be custom printed to communicate a message as well as to reinforce a brand. Making a positive, memorable impression is easy and low cost if you do it right. 

More than anything else, we suggest an open mind and a willingness to drive or accept change within your company. Simply put, if you are still packaging the same way, with the same products you were even a short three years ago, you are most certainly out of date and not as green as you could be. There are no magic bullets or “one size fits all solutions” but with minimal effort you can usually accomplish both your sustainability and financial objectives. Good luck and thank you for your interest in green packaging.