Every time I receive a delivery from our beloved Amazon I cringe. A huge box encases plastic bubbles wrapped around a boxed item that is 1/8th the size of the box. This behemoth company with resources abounding has not cracked the code for sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging, so how can we expect other companies to adopt packaging that will not damage our planet? Furthermore, why should they care that their packaging is preserving the earth?
Packaging production and pollution contribute to a myriad of ecological issues. The production of packaging results in byproducts such as toxic sludge and greenhouse gasses. Landfills are overflowing with packaging waste. All of these by products of packaging seriously damage our air and water quality, kill our wildlife, and produce massive amounts of waste.
Companies may not see the effects of their induvial packaging consumption, but the aggregate of packaging waste along with the affects of climate change and other ecological woes are creating a less inhabitable planet. Companies have a responsibility to lead the charge when creating, producing, and advocating for environmentally friendly packaging.
There are several benefits companies should consider when thinking of converting to environmentally friendly packaging. The first is the marketing benefit. We are a world with all eyes on climate change. Companies that embrace and innovate with ecological packaging will likely “hash tag” trend. The more creative and innovative, the more buzz to follow. Companies that use recycled, compostable, or reusable products are on the cutting edge with current generations. Companies can create entire brands around sustainability and environmental responsibility.
In addition, the second benefit is the catering to the current generations. Millennials and Gen Zer’s are significant consumers, and those generations are socially hyper aware. These generations seek out companies that are leading the planetary charge. Influencers utilize social media platforms to elevate the voices of products they can believe in, and right now there is no charge hotter than saving our planet. Companies that refuse to invest and engage in environmentally sustainable initiatives will likely receive backlash from young consumers and investors, and hell have no wrath like a Gen Zer’s scorn. The third benefit to companies is the residual cost efficiency. While upfront costs for sustainable packaging may be daunting, converting to sustainable packaging has long term cost efficiency. Reusable materials cut down on production costs, solar and wind energies save on long term energy costs, less packaging means smaller distribution loads and lighter distribution weight, and government incentives help to offset initial investments. While the time to integrate these changes may be cost prohibitive upfront, the long-term payoffs are lower energy and material costs, less waste, and lower distribution costs.
Creating and implementing sustainable packaging is a short-term inconvenience, but the consequence of avoiding these implementations can be damaging to a company’s reputation and brand, not to mention devastating to the planet in which we all live. Air quality continues to decline, wildfires are rampant and fire seasons are longer, if not year-round. Sitting in Denver on December first, we have not had measurable snow, snow that feeds into the Colorado river, a major water supplier for which means that 80% of the water supply for the western United States. So while a company may see going green as a trend that will fade, but unnecessary for current business strategy, the truth is, those companies that harm the planet without remorse, may find they have no planet in which to conduct business.
Essay by: Amber Brown
University of Phoenix