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Sustainable Product Development

H2O Natural Spring Water
Sponsor: H2O Natural Spring Water

I recently attended a panel discussion from PDMA-LA and IDSA-LA titled “Best Practices in Sustainable Product Development“. The following are some rough notes & thoughts I took down while in attendance.

Heidrun Mumper-Drumm spoke about green packaging design noting that packaging equates to 75million tons and 1/3 of our waste stream by weight (~20% by volume). Some ways she noted to reduce this is the use of low impact materials like water-based adhesives in labels, recycled materials and bio-based materials. Other improvements are to make packaging smaller & use less materials. Also under recommendation are eliminating some materials completely like PVC and laminates. Two other recommendations outside of materials used were to properly & legibly give the recycling info of components and to consider packaging as multi-functional (ex: a water bottle used as a vase). A question from the audience pointed our Puma’s new show packaging and Heidrun noted that shoe packaging seems to increase with the price of the shoes with the exception of Louis Vuitton who ships by boat instead of air and cut their carbon impact by 30%. It appears as though she alludes to the supply chain as another way to cut environmental impacts. Heidrun gave a particular shout-out to Women in Green Forum as it outlines women’s impact in Environmental Industries.

Topher Paterno spoke about green materials such as bio-degradables/organics and recyclable/recycled items. A specific note was made of a project between Intel and the University of Delaware that created a circuit board from chicken feathers and soy. He also focused on materials management that allows for easy ways for consumers to return or otherwise re-use a product. After a question from the audience, Topher recommended Ecolect and MaterialsCollection as good reference sites to find green materials.

Dave Pedersen spoke about greening the supply chain and its 5 components: Plan, Buy, Make, Store & Move. The constraints in this field are Cost vs. Quality vs. Service (aka Free, Perfect & Now). He noted that “going green” introduced new constraints of carbon, waste, water & social impacts. Transportation & Facilities have a huge footprint that affects “greenness” and a way to help reduce that is a paperless work environment.

Susan Collins spoke about waste stream management and highlighted how primary packaging & refrigeration accounted for the majority of the footprint for Coke. She also noted that aluminium has the largest carbon footprint by an order of magnitude over other products and that the US goes through 200billion bottled containers per year.

H2O Natural Spring Water
Sponsor: H2O Natural Spring Water

Paul Shustak spoke about being a green product company at Kor. As if prompted by Susan, he noted that less than 20% of bottles get recycled and that the Kor One bottle attempts to create an emotional reaction to water & bottle to entice consumers to use their product over Nalgene or plastic bottles. They also have a different charity that receives a portion of their proceeds and each water bottle color corresponds to a different charity as part of their “Thirst For Giving” campaign. Of the four colors available it was notable that the orange one related to a donation to the Container Recycling Institute of which Susan is the Executive Direction, small world eh? Paul noted that in their research consumers usage responded directly to extreme convenience & incentives. He wrapped up by noting CalMAX was a materials exchange service that allows for companies to put up their excess materials for sale to others looking to purchase specific materials at a discount.

Overall, the speakers all seemed to be passionate about their place in the sustainable product development ecosystem and were aware that they were each but a small component in helping to reduce humankind’s detrimental impact on the Earth. And a final note on the sponsor, H2O Natural Spring Water, is the paper water box the new plastic water bottle?