Hey!

Today we are going to pick up on the old’ integrating a sustainability management program at Dordan discussion. As those of you who follow my blog know, I have begun investigating how to implement a program for optimizing Dordan’s production efficiency—be it by working towards zero waste to landfill or reducing energy consumption—ever since the SPC’s call for “collective reporting” among its member companies. However, we all know you can’t manage what you can’t measure, which lead me to consider conducting an LCA of Dordan’s thermoforming process; this would allow us to compare our performance to the industry average, establishing a baseline off which progress can be gauged. That assumption directed me to the book “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to LCA,” an insanely intimidating treatment about life cycle assessment methodology and application. I contacted my friend—a practitioner of LCA—inquiring into the value of performing a blank slate LCA (SimaPro, Gabi) for Dordan’s manufacturing process. Here it was articulated that one should only invest in such an analysis if one believes that their process is more “sustainable” than the industry average and needs to document it for business development goals. Obviously there are many benefits to performing a company-specific LCA from the internal management perspective, but in the context of bottom line performance, such an investment for a medium sized manufacturer like Dordan can only be warranted in the anticipation of transparent data that communicates optimized performance.

“Okkk…but how do I know if Dordan has optimized performance when compared with the industry average, thereby warranting a blank slate LCA,” I asked my friend?

“You perform an inventory analysis” he explained, “in which data is collected pertaining to some key performances metrics, like energy and water consumption as per monthly bills, and compare THAT to the average consumption for your specific industry. This simple assessment can be performed via an Excel spreadsheet and will quickly illustrate how your process compares to the average.”

Cool, I thought to myself. I began the inventory analysis process, during which I was introduced to the Chicago Waste to Profit Network where I was offered a free trial of their transparent data-management tool, Cirrus; this platform allows participating companies to discover “by-product” synergies i.e. one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. By imputing data pertaining to materials going to landfill (and looking for a home) and needed materials, companies are granted insight into “the industrial food chain;” this facilitates the recovery and reuse of a lot of materials otherwise being landfilled.

Dordan announced the goal of zero waste to landfill some time ago, after which I performed a waste audit, segregating the “low hanging fruit” like corrugated for “recycling.” The problem was it cost more for Dordan to “recycle” the corrugated material than landfill it. This discovery quickly killed the mojo of the initiative, which I later revisited after attending The Green Manufacturer Network’s zero waste conference at Burts Bees. This is where I learned about the “milk man” concept; that is, if one company doesn’t generate enough of one type of material destined for landfill to warrant the cost of recycling, companies could collaborate, using one truck to pickup the material from each location, after which, the participating companies split the material rebates.

One more random story and then I will tie all these loose ends together.

Remember some time ago I published “How to Assess Sustainable Packaging: An Overview of the Tools and Resources Available” (click here to download)? This, as the name would imply, describes the differences between a blank slate LCA, a streamlined LCA tool, and a company specific LCA tool. Anyway, this Report, which derived most of its content from a presentation given at Sustainability in Packaging by Dr. Karli Verghese, caught the attention of a representative of EarthShift; this is a soon to be commercialized software, created by the people who brought us PackageSmart. Like PackageSmart, this is a simplified LCA tool that allows manufacturers, like ME, to quantify their environmental footprint without going through the meticulous implementation of a blank slate approach. SWEET. Problem is, its expensive.

Ok, so here I am, wanting to perform an environmental assessment of Dordan’s thermoforming process in order to implement an Environmental Management program (establish baseline off which progress can be measured). The best way to do the former is by conducting a blank-slate LCA, which I don’t know is warranted because I don’t know how Dordan’s production process compares to the industry average as I have yet to complete the suggested “inventory analysis”…and even if it were, I doubt Upper Management would be super thrilled about such a hefty investment. EarthShift is an awesome option, but again expensive, and it only pulls industry data while one builds out their process flow chart in order to provide a streamlined approach…this will provide no competitive angle to Dordan vs. its competitors’ environmental performance; consequently, I would have a hard time “selling” Dordan Upper Management on the initial investment. We now have access to Cirrus, which shows us what materials are available at other facilities, but I don’t have upper management support to work cross-functionally i.e. production & purchasing. Today I input some of the materials Dordan is currently sending to landfill based on the waste audit but quickly discovered that again, our quantities don’t warrant the shipping necessary to cement the by-product synergy. AHHHH what is a Sustainability Coordinator supposed to do????

Solutions are just around the corner; stay tuned!

Hey guys!

Today we are going to pick up where we left off on June 22nd’s post, “How the Waste-to-Profit Network Facilitates Synergies: Introducing Cirrus.”

For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you may have noticed a theme emerging…

Starting with the SPC’s suggestion for “collective reporting” among its member companies (company-specific analysis of environmental inputs and outputs), and deepened with Dordan’s Score on the “Green Strategy Index” (see May 30th’s post), the theme of “operational environmental optimization” continues to come up in conversations pertaining to taking sustainability at Dordan to the next level. While Dordan has developed many tools that aid our clients in developing sustainable packaging systems and prides itself on being a lean manufacturer as a critical component to being a successful medium-sized custom thermoformer, we have yet to quantify our environmental “performance;” that is, how Dordan’s operations compare to the industry average and/or how our “lean” manufacturing practices equate to environmental savings, in the form of carbon emissions, waste to landfill, etc.

At first I considered conducting a full-blown LCIA of Dordan’s conversion process per some type of functional unit i.e. 100,000 packages produced and/or per 6th months of production. After starting “The Hitchhikers Guide to LCA,” however, it became apparent that performing a blank-slate LCIA via SimaPro or Gabi required an extremely intensive investment, including that necessary for a third-party reviewing process, where the outcome dictates the validity of the entire study: its methodologies, assumptions, parameters, metrics, and findings. In order to try and quantify the value of conducting such a sophisticated analysis of Dordan’s production process I reached out to a friend in the LCA and packaging world; here it was communicated to me that one should only make the investment in a blank-slate LCIA platform IF one assumes that ones production process is more sustainable than the industry average and/or if said production process is completely innovative and new, in which case, no LCIA data exists.

Ok, so how do I know how Dordan’s operational environmental performance compares with the industry in order to determine if a full-fledged LCIA is warranted? Research but of course! My LCA-practitioner friend indicated I conduct an “inventory analysis” of Dordan in which all expenditures pertaining to environmental requirements i.e. electricity, water, waste, etc. are collected and reviewed. This information will indicate Dordan’s main environmental requirements, providing a metric i.e. water consumption, to compare with publically available LCI data via the US Life Cycle Inventory Database or Ecoinvent. Neato!

While walking down this prim rose path of data mining and compilation, I met with representatives from the Chicago Waste-to-Profit Network, which as per June 12th’s and 22nd’s posts, is a regional working group where manufacturers share environmental input and output requirements with the Network, discovering “by-product” synergies. Examples include using one company’s waste as feedstock for another company’s production i.e. recycling in its most pure form, piping one firm’s off gasses to another as power for another production process, etc. Perhaps Dordan could discover by-product synergies via Network companies in regards to its waste to landfill, aiding us in working towards zero-waste; an initiative that has all but lost its steam due to the realities of waste management in which quantity necessitates the economic feasibility of commercial recycling. Moreover, perhaps the Network could provide the tools for Dordan to better execute its operational environmental performance LCIA-prep work? An energy audit? Quantifying operational environmental performance in a functional, easy-to-comprehend metric, like GHG emissions per package produced x packages produced per 6th months? Am I operating in stream of conscience mode?!? I think so!

Obviously I got quite excited about the potential of the WTP Network and approached my father and Dordan CEO to test the waters around this new sustainability direction at Dordan. I proposed I be allowed to investigate the potential of operational environmental optimization at Dordan via inventory analysis compared with industry average coupled with application to the WTP Network to serve as a support team for this ambitious project. I explained how I believed I could save Dordan money in purchasing via WTP Network by-product synergies AND reduce the waste to landfill; also, develop an operational environmental performance benchmark that would allow us to gauge optimization progress.

To my total and utter surprise my father wasn’t super gong-ho about this proposition. He explained how Dordan already operates extremely efficiently and any savings incurred would pale in comparison to the cost of my time (aw, shucks!). Furthermore, while Dordan’s sustainability efforts have branded us a thought leader and generated a ton of media interest, few opportunities generated via sustainability services have facilitated sales.

Like marketing, how to you quantify the ROI of sustainability investment, he inquired?

Goodness gracious we are back to business again! Since my employment at Dordan I have discovered that at times, the academic challenge embedded in the investigation, like the clamshell recycling initiative, overshadows and distorts the primary goal; that is, to increase profit. While I believe conducting the initiatives described above would be super awesome and demonstrate Dordan’s unwavering commitment to sustainability, how is it going to help us sell more thermoformed packaging?

GAAAAA, frustrated, I returned to my cubicle.

I emailed the WTP Network that Dordan would not be able to sign on, and tucked my “Dordan Operational Environmental Optimization” folder deep into my filing cabinet. I know I am being dramatic but that is just because I am trying to set the stage for THIS:

Several days later I received an email from the WTP Network, explain how they understand how hard it is to “sell” the membership to companies for the inability to understand its value at the point of application. Consequently, they are offering a FREE TRIAL to qualifying companies, which allows said companies access to the transparent data management software Cirrus AND registration to several working shop meetings, where synergies are investigated and illuminated. NO WAY.

How can my boss object to a FREE trial in order to determine if any of my assumptions outlined above are even feasible?!?!

He didn’t. 🙂

Stay tuned!

Hey guys!

Today I am going to pick up where I left off in my last post re: Dordan LCA.

Okkkk so way back when a sustainability coach reached out to me, requesting an interview about Dordan and sustainability. He was interested in what different sized manufacturers were doing in the green realm. Over the next 30-minutes, I explained with great enthusiasm Dordan’s approach to sustainability, which to-date, has been of an educational and customer-centric nature; developing tools and resources that aid our clients in developing sustainable packaging systems. I referenced COMPASS, our 4-Step Design for Sustainability Process and Bio Resin Show N Tell, and various research reports, as validation of our integrated and academic approach to sustainability.

It wasn’t until several months later that I heard from my interviewer—he had finished his research and assembled the findings in a white paper. Titled “Taking Manufacturing Sustainability to the Next Level,” it begins,

Over a period of six months, we interviewed 23 sustainability leaders at 20 manufacturing firms in a variety of industries.

This brief white paper summarizes why most manufacturing companies act tactically (limiting their thinking to “lean production”) rather than strategically when undertaking sustainability efforts. We then provide some ideas on how to take sustainability efforts to the next level.

Visit www.skibaconsulting.com for the white paper and additional information.

Huh I thought to myself as I skimmed the white paper. In manufacturing companies large and small alike, sustainability efforts have been for the most part internally focused, as conveyed through zero-waste and energy/water consumption reduction initiatives. The Green Manufacturers Network is an example of a collection of manufacturers who have implemented this type of approach to sustainability.

A week or two later Zbig Skiba—the sustainability coach —phoned me, asking if I would be interested in a “free coaching session;” this would help me get a better feel for how Dordan performs. Why the heck not?!? I thought to myself.

Don’t worry—there is a point to this narrative in the context of my recent investigation into performing a Dordan LCA and I am getting there…

Sooooo Zbig asked me a series of questions about Dordan’s sustainability efforts; attention was paid to upper management support and the reach of internal and external efforts. While running through the questions, I realized something I have been tiptoeing around for some time now: the reality that I have done nothing on the operations side to allow for more sustainable manufacturing. Production at Dordan is a well-oiled machine that I have very little to do with from inside my one-woman department of Sustainability/Marketing. While I have Upper Management support, as demonstrated by the sheer fact I have the titled of “Sustainability Coordinator” and have been given the freedom to investigate sustainability at Dordan how ever I see fit, my efforts have thus far been of a sales/marketing focus. That being said, it has been difficult to quantify the ROI of these efforts, which leads me to entertain the following inquiry: If operational sustainability efforts could have a direct impact on the bottom line, insofar as waste diversion and reduced energy consumption is concerned, then perhaps Dordan Upper Management would be more enthusiastic about implementing sustainability efforts internally?

I would like to note, however, that Dordan has always been a lean manufacturer as that makes economical sense: we resell/recycle internally-ground plastic scrap/aluminum, installed energy-efficient lights, compost, are trying to reach zero-waste, etc. But as my previous posts have foreshadowed, I don’t have any idea how Dordan’s conversion process i.e. thermoforming, compares to our competitors’ and/or the industry average; hence, my suggestion of performing an environmental analysis of Dordan’s production process.

Follow the link below to see the results of Dordan’s Sustainability Strategy as per Zbig’s follow-up questionnaire.

Green Strategy Index Dordan

Dordan scored well on “Breadth of Efforts”, due to our emphasis on product design and marketing, and not as well in leadership involvement and understanding of impacts. In a nut shell, Dordan has done the exact opposite of most manufactures when it comes to sustainability: we began with developing strategic tools for our CUSTOMERS, not ourselves, whereas most begin with developing strategic tools for leaning up manufacturing operations. Crazy/cool, right?!?

So this brings me BACK to the inquiry about performing a Dordan LCA in order to (1) establish a baseline off which environmental progress can be gauged, (2) see how Dordan’s conversion process compares to our competitors/industry average/other conversion industries, (3) provide updated LCI data to the various LCIA databases, (4) and, develop an understanding of LCA methodology and application. Not to mention, get an A+ on Zbig’s Green Strategy Index, ha!

I encourage you to contact Zbig at freeassessment@skibaconsulting.com if interested in a free 30-minute assessment of your sustainability efforts (using the Sustainable Strategy Index).

Just some food for thought.

Hello!

Phew, Chicago has survived NATO. For residents of Chicago, the assembly of world leaders at McCormick Place over the weekend was inconvenient but cool. The Loop essentially shut down for four days, as all were warned of the closures and delays. Some lucky ducks even had a 4-day weekend because offices closed in anticipation of the protestors. Metra passengers were not allowed to bring food or drink on the train, and all bags were screened prior to boarding. As a resident of downtown Chicago, I was totally impressed by the extensive yet organized presence of cops; they circled every compromised building and lined the protest route. While one violent squirmish did break out between police and demonstrators at Michigan and Cermak, it was provoked by only a handful of anarchist protesters (The Blak Bloc”) and was contained with minimum force soon thereafter. Check out this pic I took Friday afternoon; notice the homeland security SUVs parked as far as the eye can see?

Today we are going to talk about developments with my LCA inquiry introduced in May 11th’s post. AND, to follow, for your viewing pleasure, pictures of home compostable bioresins a year after being home composted. Oh the anticipation!

To recap, what I mean when I say “my LCA inquiry,” is I am investigating the value of conducting an LCA of Dordan’s conversion process in order to: (1) establish a baseline off which environmental progress can be gauged, (2) compare with industry average and/or other conversion processes, (3) submit to available LCIA databases in order to provide more current data on the environmental profile of thermoforming, and (4) understand the methodology and application of LCA.

This investigation was inspired by the SPC suggestion of collective reporting among its member companies in order to demonstrate to outside stakeholders the value of SPC membership; and, research into LCA as per Dr. Karli Verghese’s presentation at Sustainability in Packaging (click here to download the Report).

After reaching out to the SPC re: aiding in the development of tools to perform an environmental assessment of Dordan’s conversion process, it was suggested I propose the idea to the membership; if there was membership interest, I could start a member-led working group dedicated to creating methodologies for LCA application to manufacturing processes.

Since I last posted, I had the opportunity to speak with LCA practitioners in the SPC membership about my Dordan LCA inquiry. Here are a couple conversation takeaways:

It is in a company’s interest to perform an LCA of its processes if said processes are more efficient/innovative than the industry standard; the industry standard for thermoforming can be teased from the available LCIA databases, like EcoInvent and the U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database.

A good way to determine if your processes are more efficient than the industry average, and therefore an LCA is warranted, is to perform an inventory analysis: First, determine what your process’s main resource consumptions are i.e. water and electricity. Then, collect all information pertaining to the consumption of these resources via energy and/or water bills. Consult the industry average’s rates for these environmental indicators and see how your processes compare in the context of electricity and water consumption per some functional unit i.e. 10,000 packages produced.

If you determine that a full LCA is warranted, there are MANY ways to go about it. However, it is crucial that the results/findings of which are 3rd party-reviewed in order to validate the study. This was explained to me as being quite the process, and comes with a price tag.

Based on these insights, I am going to conduct an inventory analysis of Dordan’s energy consumption per a-yet-to-be established functional unit in order to compare with the industry average for thermoforming. Stay tuned!

My next post will discuss feedback from the last portion of the Walmart Packaging SVN meeting.

As an aside, in previous posts I alluded to an S+S Sorting pilot that looks to compare the reprocessing of thermoform vs. bottle PET flake. Remember? Anyway, my colleague at S+S has yet to get back to me with the results of this pilot. Stay tuned!

AND, do you remember way back when, at the start of Dordan’s Bio Resin Show N Tell research (click here to download Report), when we tossed some of the home compostable certified bioresins (PHA, Cellulous Acetate) into Dordan’s home compost to see if the materials biodegraded? Well, this spring I analyzed the compost pile to determine the rate of biodegradation and am sad to report that little had changed in regards to the composition of the material: while lightened in color and somewhat more brittle, both the PHA and Cellulous Acetate, certified for home-composting, remain completely intact; you can even see the Dordan logo embossed on the cavity. Please note, however, that Dordan’s compost pile has had its fair share of growing pains and the “bioplastics composting trial” may not reflect a 100% active home compost.

Pictured: PHA, formed into tray with Dordan embossed logo on sample press, home composted Spring 2011.

Pictured: Melted PHA plastic from sample press forming; demonstrates lack of biodegradation.

Pictured: Close-up of Dordan logo embossed in PHA tray cavity

Pictured: Compilation of PHA and Cellulous Acetate scrap, certified for home-composting, a year after being composted.

Pictured: Cellulous Acetate scrap, certified for home composting, a year after being home composted.

Dordan LCA?

May 11, 2012

Hey guys. In a recent post I alluded to the investigation of a new sustainability initiative, indicating details to come. Well, here are the details!

As those of you who read my blog regularly will recall, at the last SPC member’s only meeting the idea of “collective reporting” was proposed to the membership; this entails the collection and reporting of environmental performance indicators, like water consumption and/or landfilled material, per membership company. Basically, a company-specific “LCA” that demonstrates the firms’ environmental inputs and outputs, akin to, though perhaps not as detailed as, the international standards for LCA, ISO 14040-14043. Some multi-national, publically-traded firms already collect and report environmental performance data via Corporate Sustainability Reports; this communicates to stakeholders the company’s environmental commitment and actualization of said commitment via sustainability initiatives.

The SPC intended that in encouraging this type of data collection, the value of SPC membership would be more concretely communicated to non-member entities. Such efforts would demonstrate the packaging industry’s commitment to sustainability, insofar as to my knowledge, no other cross-industry NGO working group like the SPC has been able to generate such environmental data collection and reporting among its membership. Moreover, in aggregating primary, LCIA data per industry vertical i.e. thermoforming, the membership would be in a position to submit said data for review to the available life cycle inventory databases, to which, all LCA-based software platforms derive data for comparative assessments. Because the lack of accurate data/data holes/outdated data is often sited as one of LCA’s shortcomings when it comes to presenting an accurate snapshot of a product or service’s environmental footprint, being in a position to provide new and verifiable LCIA data would put the membership in a position of value for the sustainability and LCA community.

After introducing this proposal to the membership, the SPC staff were met with a resounding NO. This may be in part to the composition of the membership itself, which includes a lot of small and medium sized firms and manufacturers that don’t have the means to collect the data requested. Moreover, while transparent CSR reports may benefit large, publically-traded firms insofar as it aids in communicating shareholder value, the same may not hold for privately-held companies; here, reporting consumption and emissions metrics may provide too much insight into the business’s internal operations.

So the suggestion pretty much died there.

Then, while attending Sustainability in Packaging I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Karli Verghese’s presentation on the available LCA tools and how different tools are designed for different functions (click here to download my report based on presentation findings): while blank-slate LCA tools like SimaPro can be used to answer any type of environmental performance question for any type of product or service, tools like LCA-based comparative packaging assessment COMPASS have already been designed with certain methodologies, parameters, and assumptions built in, thereby allowing the non-LCA expert practitioner access to this powerful environmental assessment.

This got me thinking— Dordan already uses COMPASS to assess the “sustainability” of its package designs; this tool pulls industry averages for materials manufacture i.e. PVC vs. PET, conversion i.e. thermoforming with calendaring vs. paper cutting, distribution, and end of life. COMPASS is helpful for indicating how different materials/designs/conversion processes inform a package’s environmental profile. That’s cool in all, but what about the “sustainability” of a Dordan thermoformed package vs. a competitors’ package? Because most LCA-based tools use industry averages, which are outdated and don’t reflect the implementation of lean manufacturing processes, how is Dordan supposed to understand it’s company’s “carbon footprint” in opposition to that of its competitors or the industry or other conversion industries for that matter?

I approached the SPC with this inquiry; that is, what tools and resources is the SPC willing to provide to its member companies looking to perform an environmental assessment of its process, as encouraged at the last meeting? Moreover, would the SPC be interested in developing a streamlined LCA tool like COMPASS for packaging converters looking to perform a company-specific LCA?

The SPC staff suggested I propose this idea to the membership to see if other companies were interested in this type of initiative; perhaps if other thermoformers were interested in this type of environmental assessment, we could collaborate on developing a methodology for performing a conversion-specific LCA?

The SPC staff articulated that the organization is not in a place to provide LCA consulting to its membership, and when it encouraged collective reporting, it was implying said data maintenance be performed independent of the SPC, via consultants or LCA practitioners.

A friend of mine recently conducted an LCA of his company’s innovative new packaging material, for which, no LCIA data existed; hence, no claims of environmental impact could be postulated. He used the SimaPro software and created all study parameters and methodologies. That inspired me: Just because LCIA data exists for packaging conversion via thermoforming doesn’t mean it reflects Dordan’s thermoforming environmental profile; we shouldn’t be complacent with the status quo; and, we shouldn’t talk the talk of sustainability without walking the walk. Ya dig?

I am reading The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to LCA and WOWZA is this stuff awesomely complicated; I feel like I am finally starting to understand the great debates of LCA and its application to business.

Stay tuned!

Hey guys! My presentation to Woodstock High School science students went swimmingly! The kids were totally great and I was surprised how much fun I had! And, they were SO normal—not what I remember from living the dream in High School, ha!

The teacher had already introduced them to The Story of Stuff so they were familiar with life cycles, providing a nice foundation for discussions of life cycle analysis. Also, the AP class had been researching material health laws (ROHS, CONEG, etc.); this served as a great introduction to extended producer and voluntary responsibility programs. They especially enjoyed my profiling of TerraCycle and Ecovative as two “hip” sustainable start-ups and LOVED Ecovative’s Mushroom Duck! Hopefully I wet their whistle for an appetite of sustainability. But I was totally right—the environment IS seen as “cool” by students: they seemed to completely understand the less than favorable state of environmental affairs we had inherited and the need for more sustainable systems of production and consumption, even at the cost of convenience and altered social behaviors.

The concept I really nailed home—as it is the closest thing to a sustainable philosophy I could articulate— was that there is no waste in nature; everything serves to stimulate another perpetuation of life. This idea was first communicated to me in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things (the students had heard of this book!!!!)—via the symbol of the cherry tree: its cherries feed birds, the leaves perform photosynthesis feeding the tree, the pits of the cherries grow new trees, the fallen leaves decompose and fertilize the soil, and so on and so on. The authors encourage that we model human systems off those in nature—as nature is the ultimate closed loop system. Pretty neat! While I didn’t get a picture of the kids because we spent the leftover time taking about college and life abroad and the like, I DID snap this prom invite; enjoy!

Today we are going to pick up where we left off re: feedback from Sustainability in Packaging.

The last presentation in the “GPP and Proliferation of Tools” panel was titled “Are all Lifecycle Oriented Tools to Evaluate Packaging Created Equal?” by Tony Kingsbury of the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program at UC Berkeley.

Kingsbury began his presentation explaining how many tools have proliferated to meet the demand for sustainable packaging assessment resources; however, few understand how the resources differ. Consequently, UC Berkeley “tested” several popular packaging assessment tools by comparing the data outputs when comparing “apples-to-apples” within the different softwares; in other words, evaluating multiple product packages from the same category using different tools. Kingsbury postulated, “Are all life cycle tools created equal?”

Wow, I thought to myself. I had never heard of anyone comparing the data outputs of the different softwares when comparing the same packaging systems…I had always understood each tool as providing a different snapshot into the “sustainability” of a package/product/service…this outta be interesting…

The study compared the data outputs of popular packaging assessment tools COMPASS, GaBi, SimaPro, Sustainable Minds, and the Walmart Packaging Scorecard. The product package categories selected were cookies, milk, diapers, and 16 oz. cups; and, the scenarios considered were source reduction, recycled content, and shipping distance.

Check out the screen shots from Kingsbury’s PPT below as these demonstrate the study findings:

As per these findings, different tools treat different materials…differently.

Kingsbury then went on to draw some conclusion from the test findings, insofar as the best way to capitalize on the tools is concerned. For Kingsbury, source reduction is the best way to improve your Score, regardless of the tool used, as weight is such a dominating factor in life cycle analysis. Recycled content is good, as long as it doesn’t add weight. Shipping long distance is “always a poor choice;” and, end of life scenarios differ so distinctively between tools that this should not be a high priority.

Lastly, Kingsbury described some of the inherent inadequacies of LCA tools today, insofar as inaccurate data, data holes, and built-in assumptions and methodologies are concerned.

The final study will be available in a month; I will be sure to include a link when it goes live.

And by the way, that’s what I am talking about in this video interview at Sustainability in Packaging.

Thanks yall! Talk soon!

Hey!

Dr. Karli Verghese definitely knows a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to life cycle analysis.

She is the author of a book chapter titled “Selecting and Applying Tools,” which comes highly recommended for those investigating the various LCA packaging-specific tools available. You can find this resource via the following reference information:

Selecting and Applying Tools, Karli Verghese & Simon Lockrey, Pages 251-283, in Packaging for Sustainability, Editors: Karli Verghese, Helen Lewis, Leanne Fitzpatrick, ISBN: 978-0-85729-987-1 (Print) 978-0-85729-988-8 (Online).

Also, as explained during her presentation at Sustainability in Packaging, she authored the book “Packaging for Sustainability,” to be published in April 2012 and available at http://www.springer.com.

Ok so I am trying to do the best job describing the insights outlined in Verghese’s presentation BUT please note that she spoke quickly and my fingers can only type notes so fast!

Verghese began explaining how the conversation about packaging sustainability has evolved from a materials focus (material A vs. B) to a systems focus, where the interaction between the product and packaging in a supply chain system becomes paramount. She qualified this statement with reference to several examples, the first of which, an Australian study that investigated the environmental impact of corn chips. Verghese inquired “Is it the corn chips or the bag (400 gram packets of corn chops, aluminum foil retail bag, corrugated box)”?

The study determined that the environmental impacts in CO2 equivalents are as follows:

Life cycle stage 1, pre-farm= 6%
Life cycle stage 2, on-farm= 36%
Life cycle stage 3, post-farm= 58%

Within this analysis, packaging accounts for 21% of overall systems environmental impacts; supply chain transport accounts for 9%.

Verghese’s next example inquired, “Is it the wine or the bottle?” By reference to another LCA-base study, Verghese demonstrated that the environmental “hot spot” was during the production of grapes for the wine i.e. viniculture.

These types of analysis supported Verghese’s assumption that a systems approach to packaging sustainability is favorable to the previous materials-focus i.e. paper vs. plastic.

Verghese then moved onto a discussion about how to select the “right” packaging assessment tool, based on a variety of considerations stemming from one’s business and sustainability strategy(s) and packaging sustainability policy.

Because the insights to follow via Verghese’s presentation were SO valuable, I decided to compile them—- in addition to those previously discussed in the panel session—- into a Report that should aid interested parties in understanding the available tools for assessing packaging sustainability; and, provide guidance for how to select the “right” tool based on one’s specific business question. Click the following link to download the Report; please consult the footnotes for proper reference of information sources.

How to Assess Sustainable Packaging

My next post will discuss a recent UC Berkely study that compares the data out puts of the various LCA packaging specific tools.

Hey! 

The second session of day one at Sustainability in Packaging was titled “Global Packaging Project and the Proliferation of Tools: How to Quantify the Data and Choose the Tools that Work,” including presentations from Procter & Gamble, RMIT University, UC Berkely, and PepsiCo.

First up was Alan Blake of Procter & Gamble, to present on “Practical Applications of the Global Packaging Project.”

Blake began by contextualizing the work of the Global Packaging Project, which as I have blogged about before, grew out of the Consumer Goods Forum and looks to develop a common language for packaging and sustainability. The action plan of the GPP was to begin by developing common metrics and indicators for assessing sustainable packaging; after which, test the established framework and measurement system via pilots. Consequently, pre-existing internationally recognized metrics balanced across the spectrum of sustainability were investigated, culminating in the GPP’s “dictionary of metrics;” this consists of 13 environmental attributes, 14 LCI indicators, 2 economic indicators, and 11 social indicators. After conducting 30 pilots via Walmart and P&G participation, the GPP released the Guidelines, which are intended to aid firms in answering specific business questions in the context of packaging/product environmental performance. Blake suggested visiting the GPP’s website, http://globalpackaging.mycgforum.com/ concluding, “GPP metrics should be integrated into the way you work today.” 

Next Blake moved onto a discussion of how the Guidelines are actually applied via several case studies that began with a specific business question:

Case study 1: what is the benefit of 20% less HDPE in a bottle? Bottle= 100 g –> 80 g 

GPP Common Metrics

Current

Proposed

Packaging Weight and Minimization

315 g

195 g

Case study 2: What is the benefit of 2X compacted product?

GPP Common Metrics

Current

Proposed

Packaging Weight and Minimization

315 g

195 g

Transport Packaging Cube Efficiency

75%

68%

Packaging to Product Weight Ratio

4.92g/load

3.04/g/load

Climate Change (GHG)

 

Transportation savings? 

Case study 3: What is the benefit of HDPE sourced from sugar cane? Bottle= petro –> renewable

Attributes of business question include: renewable content, material waste, chain of custody, water from stressed resources, environmental management system, energy audits.

The life cycle indicators of business question include all life cycle metrics (14); the social indicators of business question include all social metrics (11); therefore, in order to answer this business question, a total of 31 GPP metrics need to be consulted. 

Blake states, “The range of metrics depends on the business question.”In the first case study where the proposed packaging change was light-weighting, only 1 GPP metric pertained; in the second case study where the proposed change was compaction, 4 GPP metrics pertained; and, in the third case study where the proposed change was new HDPE source, 31 metrics needed investigation. Therefore, depending on your business sustainability strategy and sustainable packaging policy, different business questions re: sustainable packaging will appear more “appealing” than others due to the commitment required with data collection inherent in the different changes proposed.

Blake finishes his discussion by providing the following template for using the Guidelines of the GPP:

1. Define question

2. Determine scope

3. Select metrics

4. Gather data

5. Review data quality

6. Communicate business decision

My next post will discuss Dr. Karli Verghese’s presentation, “Developing the Corporate Strategy or Packaging Sustainability and Integrating Tools into the Product-Packaging Development Process.” Dr. Verghese is the Program Director of the Sustainable Products and Packaging Center at the Centre for Design at RMIT University. 

Update from SPC meeting, 2:3

November 22, 2011

Hello!

Wowza it’s been a long time since I posted. My only excuse is that I was bed-ridden for close to a week with the worst case of “sore throat” imaginable, which is a pretty good excuse in my opinion.

Today we are going to continuing discussing feedback from the SPC meeting I attended in Dallas.

Let’s see where did we leave off…that’s right, after a discussion of the new working group looking to assess the role of transport packaging in sustainable supply chains we moved on to updates on COMPASS, the SPC’s LCA-based comparative packaging assessment software. For those of you unfamiliar, this tool is a super easy way to quantify the environmental repercussions of different packaging in the design phase. It assesses packages on resource consumption, emissions, material health and solid waste. The only information a practitioner of COMPASS needs to perform a comparative packaging assessment is the material type and weight of each packaging component (primary or secondary depending on objective) for both the existing and proposed packaging. Then the practitioner selects the conversion process i.e. thermoforming vs. paper cutting and the data set:because each country has their own waste management system and hence packaging recovery rates, it is helpful to select the data set (US, EU, CA) where the package will be distributed and assumingly disposed of to achieve a more accurate end of life data output. The updates coming to the software include rolling out recovery data sets for China and Mexico, thereby presenting a more international model of production and consumption in the context of packaging end of life recovery. Also new to the software is RPET and RHDPE LCI data, allowing users to compare virgin to reprocessed PET and the like. This is great because we have for so long assumed using RPET is “more sustainable” then PET and now we will have the hard LCI data to prove it (though Franklin Associates confirmed this assumption last year via their LCI report the new data has yet to make it into any third-party vetted LCA-based assessment software). So that’s all really cool. And as I described vaguely in my last post, I believe COMPASS is looking to create a transport packaging feature that will allow users to quantify the LCA impacts of different transport packaging schemes, be it a reusable or disposable model.

The other two presentations going on during the COMPASS session included “tapping the potential of energy recovery” and “what does the WBCSD vision 2050 mean for packaging?”

That night we met at the Frito Lay headquarters for the SPC welcome reception. I can’t begin to explain how GLORIOUS this meet n greet was. We had top chefs from all over Dallas prepare multiple courses for us, which consisted of everything from a poached egg atop lentils smothered in a bolognaise reduction to a deconstructed wedge salad and more! After the delectable journey through taste bud heaven a couple representatives from Frito Lay presented on their company’s efforts and Holley Toledo have they done some great work! I don’t recall the details except being extremely impressed. If you would like a copy of their presentation please let me know and pending approval I will forward on.

Our next post will discuss updates on the material health project; this is pretty heavy so make sure you eat your Wheaties!

AND, check out my brother’s looking all fly at the MCEDC Annual Dinner where Dordan was awarded with it’s Business Champion Award!

Hey!

Exciting news! Dordan WON the McHenry Country Business Champion award for 2011! We got a big shinny trophy and everything! AND, a reporter from the Northwest Herald is going to write a profile on us—love me my free press!

Today I am going to discuss the SPC members-only meeting I attended in Dallas in September. I didn’t get elected to the Executive Committee, wa wa, but salute those that were nominated! Congs!

We began the meeting with a field trip to the GreenStar Recycling Center, which as per the meeting agenda is “the second largest Material Recovery Facility in Texas, housed in a 150,000 sq. ft. facility that processes over 400 tons of residential single street and commercial commingled material daily.” This place was organized chaos. They led us through the plant in the direction the material moved once dumped on the floor by the hauler. To be honest, I had a hard time hearing the tour guide explain the various sortation technologies employed, though both manual and automated systems were referenced. A lot of the material was segregated by size by falling through slits in a tumbler and more material was isolated by…I really don’t know. But somehow they were able to bale corrugate, paperboard, PET plastic bottles, HDPE milk jugs, and aluminum. Perhaps I was distracted from the tour by my silly footwear, which were high-heels; apparently I didn’t get the memo saying high-heeled shoes were not permitted inside the recycling facility—woops! To make a long story short, I suggest you go to your local waste hauler/reprocessor and see waste management in action!

After lunch, we reconvened for an update from the SPC about their Labeling for Recovery project. For those of you who missed the launch, this project’s website is now live! Check it our here. I have blogged on this project before, so fish around for a previous post in these regards. Topics discussed were the objective of this project, which is to “make recycling make sense;” it is a consumer-focused labeling scheme that will inform consumers what types of packaging is recycled (REACH data suggests that material X is “recycled” in 60% or more American communities), what packaging is of limited recyclability (REACH data suggests 30-60% of communities have access to recycling), and what packaging is currently not recycled (REACH data indicates material X is rarely recycled). The ability of a community to recycle a packaging material type is called REACH data, which is not the same of actual recycling rates. This project is now endorsed by the Keep America Beautiful campaign and is looking to partner with Earth 911 insofar as it will pull geographical information based on area code of residence so consumers know where different materials ARE collected for recycling, if of limited recyclability. A similar pricing structure to the EU’s Green Dot program is suggested, in which companies pay to license the labeling scheme. This is necessary to eliminate manipulation of the label or unintended green washing along with paying for the maintenance of the program and other administrative functions. From what I understand, the main motivation for this project is to increase recycling rates by educating consumers on how to recycle what and where. So kudos to all those involved!

Next were updates on the different member-led working groups within the SPC. Perhaps after the last SPC meeting it was surveyed that the SPC member companies wanted to be further involved with the work of the SPC, as opposed to just spectators, after which, the member-led working groups were created. I participated in the AMERIPEN EPR working group, which I will touch upon in a future post. First, representatives from the working group on Consumer Outreach and Education presented; they emphasized the desire for positive stories around the role of packaging, like how it reduces waste through product protection, extends the shelf life, etc. Basically, those who participate in this group want consumers to understand the necessity and benefits of packaging, as opposed to assuming it is a waste of resources, which seems to be the prevailing misconception. So YAY for packaging!

Next was the role of transport packaging in sustainable supply chains. This project seems really cool—it is working with COMPASS designer Minal Mistry of the SPC to create a more focused transport unit within the software, allowing users to understand the environmental repercussions of the entire packaging system. I am a bit confused as to what this group is doing that differs from the current transport feature within the software, which like the Walmart Scorecard Modeling software, quantifies the distance materials must move to be manufactured into the final selling unit. I believe that they are working towards a more holistic approach to this transport module, insofar as it is just not the supply chain movements of material manufacture, conversion and distribution but how a packaging system as a transport package, say a skid, can be used and then returned in a reusable system. AH here is what the project description says: “The Transport Packaging Working Group…[work to] develop actionable plans that will further optimize the benefits of transport packaging via increased supply chain collaboration. The team has identified many important objectives including: knowledge transfer of transport packaging data to various technology solutions such as COMPASS, review of packaging and supply chain testing standards in relation to transport packaging, and collaboration with supply chain partners to optimize transportation packaging utilization and reuse and recovery rates.” Sounds heavy!

My next post will continue discussing feedback from the SPC meeting. Tootles!