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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

By: Sara Mason
Posted: September 3, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“When developing a new package, key considerations are reducing the size, weight and energy used to produce our packaging, while fulfilling the design concept,” said Maune. Aveda has a Material Use Manual that defines the company’s mission and policy on material use as well as strategic priorities. The manual outlines preferred materials and prohibited materials, such as PVC. “Materials are chosen that have minimal environmental impact and the highest possible level of PCR content,” he explained. Lush has taken this philosophy to the extreme, offering 55% of its products with no packaging at all. The company has designed unpackaged, unpreserved deodorant, bath bombs, bubble bars, massage bars, body butters, sugar scrubs and many other innovative “naked” products. The brand’s 55g shampoo bar is the equivalent to three shampoo bottles, so it lasts longer, too. The most recent introduction is a range of new sugar scrubs that, unlike scrubs that come heavily packaged in a kilner glass jar, are molded in the factory and displayed with no packaging in the shop. The brand also has just launched 13 Soap–Unlucky for Dirt, an unpackaged soap designed by managers in the U.K. In conjunction with the Naked Campaign last year, Lush also switched all plastic bottles for liquids and creams to 100% postconsumer waste bottles. “Customers are more aware of items that are over-packaged, and hopefully will put pressure on more companies to make their packaging greener,” said Ruth Andrade, environmental officer, Lush.

Designing to eliminate excess packaging or making packaging lighter and easier to recycle should be at the forefront of packaging design, according to Andrade. She would like to see more compostable materials and plant-based polymers used. “Hopefully, we will be able to use more returnable containers, encouraging customers to bring their own packaging as well,” she explained.

Reuse

For many brands available on mass retail shelves, going “naked” isn’t an option. Refillable packaging is one alternative. But the idea has hurdles to overcome, as it has, in large part, gone the way of the milkman. In a movement that progresses “back” to those good old days, reusable and refillable primary packages are hitting the shelves in greater numbers, even after some failed attempts. Loyal do-gooders aren’t giving up.

Garden Girl’s Kristin Miller, founder/owner, is always on the lookout to improve but considers herself on the cutting-edge in terms of eco-friendly packaging. The brand uses recyclable packaging, biodegradable labels and wraps in compostable cellophane bags. When products are shipped, all packing materials received from supply shipments are reused. “We do this because we believe that it is vital for everyone to do their part to reduce their impact on this earth,” said Miller. “It’s the right thing to do. And the best part is you save money.”

Garden Girl is a small, personal natural brand available online, and is able to build a bond with customers when both take an active part in the reuse of containers. Miller encourages recycling, and established a “refill” program for some of the top-selling treatment products. “This not only saves the customer money, but it reduces waste,” she explained. Customers purchase the standard jar the first time, then subsequent purchases can be of refills at a reduced price with minimal packaging. They come in small bags that can be emptied back into the original jar—once it has been sterilized. “Our focus on packaging starts with making sure it is appealing, functional and protective,” said Miller. “But because we are committed to reducing waste and our impact on this earth as a whole, we layer on the requirement that our packaging is as eco-friendly as possible.” The brand also uses recyclable PET plastic and glass.