Sustainability…Most people want it, but don’t know what it is.
Like most people, I had a loose concept of this term; sustainability seems to be illusive and it conjures up images of some type of recycling loop. But that may not be the answer…
I always thought that trees were sustainable. When I drive through managed pine forests in theFloridapanhandle and see trees being grown, harvested and replanted it looks sustainable to me. Maybe true sustainability is in closing the loop where the product is melded back into re-workable materials. If that is so, then the challenge is not the material so much, but the collection and delivery systems at the grass roots level. We can say our boxboard is recyclable, but where do I go to recycle it?
Our common definition of sustainability is probably broken to begin with. If you look in Webster’s the adjective “sustainable” reads: “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>”.
According to Webster, trees fit pretty well and we may already have the best system going. Other materials could also be of interest, like bamboo. Bamboo grows in a lot of places, I’ve seen recently. In fact, right now only 25 miles south of theKentuckyborder there is bamboo (cane) growing in my mom’s back yard. The grass cutter keeps mowing it down but the stuff pops right back up despite the vain attempts at getting rid of it. That may be sustainable with an A+ grade.
What is not sustainable then? Not being able to get the materials is one practical definition of a non-sustainable product. For instance, with the Green movement it is becoming harder to source 100% recycled paper. It is “green” by loose definition but not (presently) sustainable. Go ask anyone who wants to buy some if they would call it sustainable when it is not available.
This month in our new 2008 Packaging Catalog we introduced the Green Way TM line of environmentally conscious packaging which has both recycled paper and plastic bags. The plastics are much easier to recycle, collect and reuse than any paper product, and they take considerably less energy to produce. Plastic is more valuable than paper pound per pound economically; and therefore, more sustainable on the reclamation side. But ironically, plastics have this bad name today. Plastics are perceived as bad because some of them get turned into litter by a careless society and do not breakdown. That of course is solved by a degradable additive and better consumer education.
Recycled paper products require fewer trees but more water, but a lot of resources on the collection and processing side. Recycling paper does help us divert it from the land fills which is also allowing them to have longer lives (be more sustainable). Regardless, recycling will improve as more people get into it.
If Nashville Wraps makes desirable products that are relevant to our consumer and they also happen to be “green”, then that is certainly much better for all concerned. We have launched several collections of new Green Way TM products (our brand for this genre of packaging) and the ones that look great are selling, the ones that tend to be missing the marketing spot are not.
More people are asking about recycled packaging than ever before. More people are buying it than ever before. It gives our consumers what they want. There is a huge void in education that really needs to be filled with credible evidence for recycled paper vs. virgin paper. Then people can make informed decisions once the data points out the best alternative. That is one purpose of this essay.