Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Road to a Greener Business...

At heart I am a skeptic.  When a business claims to be "Green", my mind immediately goes to the details. "What's your carpet made out of?" "What kind of ink do you use?"  "Do you compost?"  When I hear about a business claiming to be green, these questions flash through my mind in such a blur that I hardly see the products that they offer.

A recent seed order from a "green" seed company came in a standard bubble pack - which I will reuse to ship some sample Food Forest cards.  But part of me felt a little let down - and at the same time enlightened.  Now I knew what I wasn't going to do when it came time to ship my own items.

So I went searching for recycled and compostable mailer envelopes.  I got online and quickly found a great little company called EcoEnclose.  Even their website comes in a brown wrapper (ha ha)!

EcoEnclose is a great, recycled packaging company

As I sat down to write this blog post I was feeling rather proud of myself.  I had jumped one more hurdle on my way to becoming a "green business".  But there are still so many environmental costs involved with buying envelopes for each and every item that I intend to ship.

I don't want to be a downer at all.  I love these compostable envelopes.  But any time you produce a product, even from recycled materials, there is a cost - and not just a price-tag cost but, also, an environmental cost, including what we call a "carbon footprint".  EcoEnclose has tackled several issues by using recycled, compostable materials.  No trees are being cut down to make their packaging - and that is great! It appears that they use solar electricity to produce at least some of their products; they are probably great to their employees; and their products are somewhat less likely to find their way into the landfill. Win-win-win-win!  But there is still a carbon footprint, and if you can reduce it you should.

Here are the issues as I see them:
  1. Manufacturing footprint: repurposing all of those recycled materials into a new product has an environmental cost.
  2. Shipping footprint: the envelopes would need to be shipped at least two ways: from EcoEnclose to me and then from me to my customers.  And the cardboard and newsprint has to be collected and delivered to their manufacturing facility - which is perhaps a necessary evil until we can figure out how to eliminate packaging altogether.
  3. Product price: as much as I really want to support great companies like this, I have to watch my own budget.  It costs money to buy these envelopes, and making money usually creates a bigger footprint.
So I had this green guilt "problem" and, to paraphrase Bill Mollison, perhaps the problem was the solution. My product is small enough, and sturdy enough, and pretty much all the same shape.  I began thinking of all the cardboard boxes I see in the liquor and grocery stores in my neighborhood.  All of this cardboard is completely free for the taking, and reusing it is cutting out the manufacturing middle-man, thus saving energy and money.  

So I got out my industrial, manual paper-cutter and started measuring some cardboard boxes.  It was not long before I realized that, with a little tape, I could quickly fashion a wrap-around package for my playing cards that was almost precisely the same dimensions as the packaging I was considering buying.  I don't like the packing tape part, but EcoEnclose has a product that will soon solve this dilemma for me: Water Activated Kraft Paper Tape.  When I place my next order with them, I'm going to give this a test!

So I will be sending out my samples in my own upcycled envelopes and asking for feedback.  If you are a reviewer and receive this makeshift package, please let me know what you think.  And please excuse the plastic packing tape.  Hopefully that's only a temporary solution.

Upcycling may not be practical on a large scale.  I have already ordered EcoEnclose packaging and expect to be ordering more.  But when I have the time to upcycle my cardboard, I'll definitely be doing that, too!

Warmest wishes,

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