Hi, I am a senior in high school and I am THAT GIRL. The friend when out to lunch will encourage others to rethink using a straw by gently identifying the damaging effects. The girl on Twitter that educates on global warming. The global citizen that wants to change mindsets and encourage people to help. The peer on Instagram that promotes sustainability in daily lives. A leader joining others to be heard on sustainability. There is something in me that will not let me live on this planet without trying to help save it. How astonishing that people underestimate the damage to our only world. With an idea for a product for every household that will reduce waste and the damaging air from its current disposal, I researched universities to help bring my product idea to fruition. I have been admitted to W.P. Carey School of Business’ entrepreneurship program with a minor in sustainability at Arizona State University. I truly believe that working towards my future business with my studies, combined with the network and support at Arizona State to realize my product, will eventually lead to my goal of a safer future for others.

As it stands, the packaging industry is one of the largest contributors to pollution. Aside from the overpackaging of products, industries employ added package waste when shipping and transporting their products. Just open a box of shoes to see all that will be tossed after the journey to the store or your front door. The bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts used in shipping products. The plastic cocoon around stacks of boxes on pallets to keep them bound together during their travels. Waste created during the shipping of products is just one area of the packaging industry that needs to be re-evaluated to make a difference in our world’s pollution problem.

The benefits of sustainable packaging are many. Not only will reducing or eliminating overpackaging decrease the harm to our precious environment, there will be major cost savings for the company. Additionally, if companies make that effort, buyers will feel good about buying from that brand, in turn creating more business. When other companies notice, there’s motivation to do their part with sustainable packaging as well. As the song goes and companies play out, “anything you can do, I can better”.

Solutions to sustainable packaging are endless. One solution is reducing the amount that a single product requires, from several parts to just one. Another alternative is going back to the good old glass system. Consumables could be filled in stylish glass containers with a reward every time the glass is returned to the store, where the distributor collects the returns to be cleaned for reuse. This method could be used for anything from snacks to where the idea originated, milk. Not only will customers love knowing they are lessening the amount of waste discarded into this world, but the overall appearance of glass is more attractive to the consumer’s eye. Plant based packaging is a huge game changer. Once the consumer has used their item, the plant based packaging can go straight to their garden or if chosen to throw away, will dissipate with no remains behind. How did disposable, plastic bottles of water actually grow into acceptance and can we all agree as consumers to save money and our planet by discontinuing their purchase, letting their plastic waste become an embarrassment of the past. There is running water everywhere and reusable containers including the forward thinking, highly profitable product we personalize with stickers. Yes, we have become a throwaway society but we need to turn that around and remember first and foremost, we are stewards of this planet and need to put its future first.

Obvious to everyone, the packaging industry is a huge factor in today’s environmental plight. Living in a society driven by money and social appearance, who is going to take the lead that other companies will follow. We need more leaders challenging their companies for sustainable packaging, priceless actions when we start to see results on our beautiful planet.

If I may add regarding the current pandemic, I hope that all of you reading this when it is posted will be able to stay healthy and safe. We will go to college in the fall with greater strength for what we overcame.

Essay by: Emma Stewart
Arizona State University

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