Happy Monday Funday! I hope everyone had a nice weekend and one full of relaxation!

As most industry-folk know, the Global Packaging Project released its “A Global Language for Packaging and Sustainability: A framework and a measurement system for our industry” a week ago-ish, which discusses, as the title implies, a global metric for assessing the sustainability of a given package or packaging system. Pack World’s/Greenerpackage.com’s Anne Marie Mohan provides a good summary of the project here with the report(s) available for download: http://www.greenerpackage.com/metrics_standards_and_lca/gpp_releases_global_framework_measurement_system_sustainability.

As Mohan explains, the GPP looks to create a GLOBAL metric for quantifying the “sustainability” of a package/packaging system. While the Walmart Scorecard and the SPC’s Metrics for Sustainable Packaging exist in isolation, this project looks to be the over-arching governance on sustainable packaging metrics, absorbing the work of both the SPC and Walmart. From what I believe, if a new metric wishes to be added to the Walmart Scorecard, it must first be presented to the GPP for consideration and validation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of “sustainable packaging metrics,” a “metric” can be understood as an “attribute” that a given package or packaging system has in the context of the environment from a life cycle approach. For instance, packaging weight could be a metric taken into consideration when trying to quantify the environmental profile of a given package, as is the case with the SPC’s COMPASS packaging life cycle assessment modeling software and the Walmart Scorecard (packaging weight informs the energy required to transport the product/package throughout the supply chain and consequentially impacts GHG emissions, fossil fuel consumption, etc.)

Unlike the Scorecard and COMPASS, however, this global set of metrics takes into account social and economic indicators, in addition to the environmental ones; in my opinion, this integration makes the GPP’s approach to assessing packaging sustainability a much more holistic and therefore efficient tool than those currently in use.  

Taken together, the GPP proposes 52 metrics that need to be recognized in the discussion around issues pertaining to packaging and sustainability. 52, isn’t that wonderful!!!

And here are some of my favorites:

Environmental—chain of custody: This questions if the production/cultivation of the feedstock (cellulous vs. fossil fuel) is done so “sustainably.” Think Forest Stewardship Council…AWSOME!

Environmental—water used from stressed sources: This metric questions where the water comes from that facilitates the production/cultivation of the packaging feedstock. Check out the Global Water Tool, based on several independent sources, which provides a global water scarcity mapping function for the identification of production activities occurring in stressed or scarce watersheds:

http://www.wbcsd.org/templates/TemplateWBCSD5/layout.asp?type=p&MenuId=MTUxNQ&doOpen=1&ClickMenu=LeftMenu=LeftMenu

There’s this, too:

http://www.ifu.ethz.ch/staff/stpfiste/index_EN

Economic—packaged product wastage: this metric questions the value of packaged product lost due to packaging failure. I like this one because it is so simple; it reaffirms the number one function of packaging, which is, to protect the product. In a time when “smaller product to package ratio”, “material reduction” and “downgauging” has become, for the most part, our industries’ approach to “sustainability,” it is nice to be reminded of the necessity for excess…

Social—community investment: This metric questions the role a corporation plays in its community. Because Corporate Social Responsibility reports are so in vogue, it’s nice to see that such efforts will be quantified with this assessment, hopefully influencing purchasing decisions.

For the other 49 metrics, check out the report here:

http://globalpackaging.mycgforum.com/allfiles/TCGF_Packaging_Sustainability_Indicators__Metrics_Framework_1.0.pdf

Ok folks, that’s all I got for today. I am researching how to perform a waste audit so we can determine what type of composter would be the most appropriate for Dordan’s food and yard waste generation. Details to come!

Greetings and Happy Friday!

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday; Thursdays’ post was just so super big I thought I would give it two days to resonate. Anywhoooooooooo, while I have been working on the PET thermoform recycling initiative, the subject of today’s post is life cycle analysis. I will bring you all up to speed with what I have learned about recycling PET thermoforms on Monday; get excited!

Most industry folk are knowledgeable of LCA—it is a technique for assessing the environmental aspects associated with a product over its life cycle. A relatively young technique, LCA became popular in the early nineties. In recent years, LCA thinking has become a key focus of policy making; it has also aided the private sphere in communicating the sustainability aspects of their operations.

Dordan engineers subscribe to COMPASS, which is the SPC’s life-cycle based environmental packaging modeling software. This software allows Dordan to compare the environmental ramifications of different packaging materials and concepts in the design-phase. Check out our COMPASS case studies at: http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_compass_case_studies.shtml 

The Walmart Scorecard is similar, but different. It can be interpreted as a LCA based tool, but more appropriately, attempts to quantify and convey the metrics associated with a “sustainable package.” Therefore it focuses primarily on package weight, as this informs the environmental performance of the package throughout the supply chain, cube utilization, distance traveled, etc.

I know there is some overlay between these different tools in regard to quantifying the environmental burden a specific packaging type has on the environment; however, I believe that they have different approaches and employ different methodologies as Walmart is looking to reduce packaging overall, while COMPASS is looking to facilitate material and design changes in the early phases of package engineering.

And enter Earthster.

Yesterday I sat in on a conference call with a representative from Earthster and SPC member companies. Here’s what I learned:

Earthster is AWSOME—super futuristic! It is, from what I understand, an open web tool that synergizes data with software in the calculation of sustainability impacts of a given product or process. By understanding the environmental impacts of the products a company buys and sells, companies can help locate “hot spots” throughout their supply chain, thereby facilitating action to alleviate said hot spots. It is important for companies to measure their “footprint” in order to establish a baseline against which to measure sustainable progress.

I know that sounds complicated; let me attempt to break it down.

I manufacture bags of potato chips (too bad Jay’s potato chips are no longer; they were my favorite!). In order to perform an LCIA (life cycle inventory analysis) of manufacturing a bag of potato chips, I must determine my inputs and outputs. My inputs would be things like: electricity, water, potatoes, etc. Using Earthster, I would select the amount of electricity consumed in the production of a bag of potato chips. I could opt for industry averages or use my own company’s energy expenditures per month and divide out the quantity of bags of potato chips produced per month. I would do the same for the water, potatoes, and any other good or service I buy for the manufacturing of a bag of potato chips. I would then enter my outputs or emissions. These can include things like air or water pollution, landfilled materials, etc. I would then use the softare to do some fancy calculations and voila, I have the basis of my LCIA for the production of a bag of potato chips.

Not so simply, but you get the idea.

Most tools currently available, COMPASS being one of them, uses industry averages. Therefore, if I am a thermoformer, when I select the material conversion process, I would be using industry average data for thermoformers. If, for whatever reason, I am a more “green” thermoformer than the industry average (use wind power, zero-waste facility, etc.), than it is in my interest to use to software to publish my own facility’s’ LCIAs. I believe that Earthster is unique in that it allows users to contribute their own LCIAs to the open database, thereby helping to “connect the dots” between data sets, which is often sited as the main problem associated with  LCAs  (lack of primary data).

I am still totally confused about this tool: we were shown a demo and all I know is that you can see where your materials come from geographically (he pulled up a profile of a laptop computer and showed where each component came from, minerals and all); you can see your product surrounded in concentric circles with the first circle representing your primary suppliers, the second circle representing secondary suppliers (perhaps packaging), and so on. Connecting the concentric circles are different lines which, depending on how thick, represent the “hot spots” i.e. methane emissions during pulp production, of your products’ supply chain. And basically anything you want, it appears to be able to show. Earthster also focuses on different environmental metrics i.e. human health (carcinogens, toxicity), ecological systems (eutrophication), global warming (GHG emissions), and others. Depending on what metric you focus on, the hot spots of your supply chain shift.

It is super cool; I don’t think I can say enough. Check out the website: http://www.earthster.org/details.php.

So this is all good and fine, but what does it mean for us as packaging providers?

I don’t know. I sent the representative from Earthster the following email, looking for some insight in regard to how we would utilize this tool:

Hello,

My name is Chandler Slavin and I am the Sustainability Coordinator at Dordan Manufacturing, which makes plastic packaging for the consumer electronics industry i.e. clamshells, blisters, trays and components.

First of all, I wanted to thank you for your demo of Earthster for SPC member companies. I found it very interesting and super duper cool! I love the graphics and the open knowledge exchange format.

That being said, I am a little unsure what our role as packaging converters is in regard to utilizing this tool. Would it be of value for us to conduct a life cycle inventory analysis of our own factory’s inputs and outputs and publish the results (i.e. LCI of thermoformer X)? It seems as though this tool will mostly be used by CPGs and retailers as it looks to gauge the “footprint” of a given selling unit, which is obviously the product and package. How does the packaging component fit into the overall metrics of the software? How shall I utilize Earthster and/or how can utilizing Earthster set us apart from our competition?

Thanks for your time.

Chandler

ANDDDDD a friend of mine is letting me read through his tutorial of SimaPro, which I guess is the most popular LCA tool available for companies to measure their own footprint. It’s a meaty piece; I will let you know if I find anything pertinent.

That’s all for now. HAPPY FRIDAY ONLY AN HOUR AND A HALF UNTIL I WILL BE OUTSIDE ENJOYING THE SUNSHINE!!!!