Cradle to Cradle Design

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Designing for eco-efficiency in the package goods industry. For more white papers and webinars, go to Or visit us at

Text of Cradle to Cradle Design

  • white paper | June 2007Cradle to Cradle Designdesigning for eco-efficiency in thepackage goods industry
  • white paper | June 2007 | Cradle to Cradle Design | 1The Ripple Effect of SustainabilityThe alarming recent decline in bee populations across the UnitedStates and Europe represents a potential environmentalcatastrophe that could collapse the food chain and eventually wipeout humanity. Many dont realize how vital the bee is in maintaininga balanced eco-system. In fact, according to experts, if bees were tobecome extinct, humanity would perish in just four short years.The plight of the bees is just one example of the negative impactthat humans are having on the environment. Another one isconsumer-packaging waste.We would like to share with you some very preliminary ideas andprocesses that can assist your organization in establishing asustainable advantage in the marketplace, ensuring, among otherthings, that bee populations continue to strive.This information has been gathered from a wide range of resourcesand organizations that have led and embraced sustainable businesspractices and environmentally driven change. Also included isinformation to help you sell the idea of developing a sustainableplatform within your organization. In the Process section, we haveoutlined a series of steps to help your organization evaluate itssustainability opportunities. We will provide further insights as ourfirm conducts an international study on sustainable packaging."If the beedisappeared off thesurface of theglobe, then manwould only havefour years of lifeleft. No more bees,no more pollination,no more plants, nomore animals, nomore man."Albert Einstein
  • white paper | June 2007 | Cradle to Cradle Design | 2Sustainability: The New Competitive, Meaningful AdvantageThe 21st-century packaging industry will be characterized byincreasing globalization, revolutions in information technology,rapid process and product innovations, and a skeptical, hard-to-target consumer base. There are also population and social factorsthat are profoundly changing the marketplace. But the marketplacecannot survive for long on a planet already reaching ecologicallimits with ozone depletion, loss of bio-diversity, poor water qualityand management, and climate change. These changes are forcingthe consumer packaged goods industry to rethink businessstrategies and develop materials, products and industrial processesand services that are more eco-efficient.Environmental concerns are evident in the increasinglyenvironmentally conscious marketplace, and are being felt in thepackaged goods and manufacturing sectors, driven by retailersneed to meet consumers demands. Over the years, a growingpercentage of consumers have become aware of the impact of theirpurchasing habits on the environment. They now evaluate theenvironmental efficiency of a package as part of their buyingdecision, considering factors such as over-packaging,biodegradability, and environmentally friendly manufacturingprocesses. Perhaps the strongest sign of the growing importance ofsustainable packaging and products is consumers willingness to paya premium for environmentally friendly products.In Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough and Michael Braungartargue that the conflict between industry and the environment isnot an indictment of commerce, but an outgrowth of purelyopportunistic design. The design of products and manufacturingsystems growing out of the Industrial Revolution reflected the spiritof the dayand yielded a host of unintended, yet tragicconsequences.Today, with our growing knowledge of the living earth, packagedesign can reflect a new spirit of sustainability.
  • white paper | June 2007 | Cradle to Cradle Design | 3Packaging Waste: a Growing Concern for the EnvironmentBecause of its large volume, packaging waste tends to be veryvisible. Approximately 70% of primary packaging is used for foodand drink. Once the product is used, the packaging is oftendiscarded, covered in residues of the original contents.A recent UK study identified that an estimated 9.3 million tons ofwaste packaging was generated in 2001. Of this, 5.1 million tonscame from households, and the remaining 4.2 million tons fromcommercial and industrial sources.Waste has clearly become a problem in the developed countries.Landfill capacities are decreasing, and the average consumerproduces between 250 and 620 kilograms of household waste peryear. About 25 to 30% of this is packaging waste. Although theEuropean community has initiated stringent targets, consumers aregenerating significantly higher levels of waste; so much so thatrecycling alone will not eliminate current environmental issues.Packaging waste represents about 17% of municipal solid waste byweight, and 3% of total waste in Europe (EC, Dec 2001). From 1997to 2001, packaging waste increased by 7% across the EU. From2000 to 2008, EU packaging waste is expected to increase by 18%(from 65 to 77 million tons) (EEA, 2004). Similar trends are evidentin Australia and the UK.With a growth in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from thesourcing, manufacturing and distribution of packaging, recycling isno longer our primary concern. Packaging consumes resourcesduring production (raw materials), increases transportation costs(the larger the package, the fewer the units that make up ashipment) and must be disposed of (energy to dispose or recycle).It also increases solid waste.In addition to improved environmental performance, many greenproducts work as well or better than traditional products, and caneven save money. Switching to safer cleaning products, for example,can reduce incidents of allergic reactions, asthma, burns, eye
  • white paper | June 2007 | Cradle to Cradle Design | 4damage, major organ damage, and cancer connected with thehazardous chemicals used in many traditional cleaning products.Buying 100% recycled-content paper can reduce energy use by44%, decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 37%, cut solid wasteemissions in half, decrease water use by 50%, and practicallyeliminate wood use. Similarly, energy-efficient vehicles andrenewable energy cut greenhouse gas emissions and harmful airpollutants while lessening our dependence on imported oil.Organizations can benefit from similar ecological and economicadvantages by switching to environmentally friendly purchasing,processes and products. Overall, the implementation andintegration of green purchasing concepts constitutes a system-wideprocess reform that contributes to an organizations reduction inecological footprint (cumulative associated ownership to globalecological damage, stemming from a demand for natural resourcesto sustain economic and social balance).Sustainability Awareness and Action are Low Within thePackaging IndustryA 2006 study analyzed the levels of awareness and adoption ofsustainability among Packaging Digest readers.About 80% of total study participants expressed at least somefamiliarity with the topic of sustainability in the packaging industry.However, only 8% mentioned being extremely familiar with thetopic. Most respondents felt that emphasis on sustainable packaginghas increased within the last year, and about two-thirds mentionedthat they have taken at least some action related to sustainabilitywithin that same time frame. However, there was no significantpercentage of participants taking any one action towardsustainability, suggesting that there is still no real consensus in thepackaging industry when it comes to sustainability activities.
  • white paper | June 2007 | Cradle to Cradle Design | 5More respondents view sustainability as an environmental versuseconomic initiative at present. They also find it more important forsustainability activities to meet market criteria for performance andcost, more so than environmental targets.As a sign of its growing importance, sustainable design was seen asa very or somewhat important factor in packaging decisions. In fact,87% of respondents mentioned at least some percentage of theircurrent customers are asking for or requiring sustainable packaging.Of all respondents, about two-thirds have some metric in place formeasuring their success with sustainability. However, there was noreal unity among answers, as source reduction, the most commonmetric, is only used by 13% of participants.On the topic of additional resources needed to help reachsustainability goals, the most common answer reflected the needfor more information (11%). Again, this suggests a very fragmentedunderstanding of the definition of sustainability in the packagingindustry.There were no significant differences between responses frommanufacturers and end users in the study. Some noteworthyobservations emerged in a few areas. First, slightly more end usersview sustainability as an economic initiative.Secondly, manufacturers have slightly more customers who ask foror require sustainable packaging, versus customers who dont.Lastly, end users viewed manufacturers, educational institutions,and trade shows as moderately credible sources of information onsustainability.
  • white paper | June 2007 | Cradle to Cradle Design | 6Sustainability, the Evolution of RecyclingThe recent increase in public awareness of sustainability issues hasled to a shift in consumer thinking. Whereas in the past shopperssought to protect the environment through recycling, their focus isnow on choosing products with packaging sourced, manufacturedand distributed in environmentally friendly ways. Severalorganizations, such as Wal-Mart, are making a priority of goinggreen. Brands are finding