Category Archives: Supply Chain Management

The Sustainable World of Packing Peanuts and Bubble Wrap

Here at PNS Energy we ship and receive enough packing peanuts, bubble wrap, cardboard, foam, and plastic to last a lifetime.  Shipping practices are oftentimes the most flexible part of the order processing procedure, yet it is widely known that the packaging and shipping arm of most companies are fairly unsustainable. We have all experienced the shocking feeling of opening up a package and wondering why 6 billion foam peanuts were used to ship a candle, then outraged when it is discovered that those peanuts are Styrofoam and cannot be recycled or composted.

We know first hand that the elimination of packaging all-together is highly unlikely (solar cells break very easily) but we can continually strive to become more efficient in our packing and selection of materials. We are seeing more and more companies and individuals that use recyclable or reusable material in their shipping and packing processes. With that said, I believe there is great potential and opportunity for us to come up with a widespread solution to sustainable packaging. This is something that should, and could easily be accomplished right now. Innovative people and leading companies are already developing shipping and packaging alternatives that will hopefully change how the world views product transportation. Here are just a few of those excellent ideas and companies that are taking sustainable packaging to the next level:

  1. Ecovative DesignEcocradle Mushroom Packaging is perhaps one of the most innovative products I’ve seen that involves mushrooms. This packaging material is “grown” from crop waste and is 100% renewable and biodegradable. Apparently they create the material by growing mycelium, a fungal network of threadlike cells, around crop waste like”buckwheat husks, oat hulls, or cotton burrs.” It takes 5-7 days to grow and they can make almost any shape to meet the packaging requirement so maybe someday we will be shipping our Anywhere Solar Modules in some Mushroom Packaging!

    EcoCradle vs. Styrofoam

    EcoCradle squares off vs. Styrofoam

  2. Eco.Bottle – The Eco.Bottle is distributed by Berlin Packaging and created by Ecologic Brands Inc. It is a molded fiber bottle made from “recycled corrugated cardboard and newspapers.” The shell is 100% recyclable and compostable while the inside features a recyclable inner plastic pouch system. With this design, the bottle uses up to 70% less plastic than traditional bottles. I have yet to see any Eco.Bottles in the supermarket but apparently it is being used by Seventh Generation for their Natural 4X laundry detergent and will hopefully be used for a wide variety of beverages, personal care products, paints and stains in the near future.
    Eco.Bottle and Seventh Generation

    The entire packaging system uses 66% less plastic than a typical 100 oz 2X laundry bottle. -Seventhgeneration.com

    These two products are just an example of the progress companies are making in the realm of sustainable packaging. There are many more organizations out there that are changing the packaging game for good so that in the future, all packaging will be environmentally responsible and more efficient (Here is a list of companies that offer certified compostable packaging materials).

    In closing I leave you with the vision of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition: Sustainable packaging should be “sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle, meets market criteria for performance and cost, is made entirely using renewable energy, and once used, is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations.”

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Filed under Conservation, Manufacturing, Recycle, Recycled Materials, Responsible Materials, Supply Chain Management, Sustainable Businiess

Can’t Be Recycled? Upcycle It!

We try so hard to be responsible and only buy things that come in recyclable containers and packaging.   But what do you do with the hard to recycle stuff or the things no one will take?

I found this great company, Terracycle, that is trying to eliminate the whole idea of waste.   They are signing people up to collect anything from pens to juice boxes to candy wrappers to cork to cell phones to key boards and back again.   They pay for you to ship it to them and then they “upcycle it” (turn it into a cool new product or material).

Here’s an example of a cool upcycling project.   Terracycle created the Drink Pouch Brigade.   They collected over 50 million drink pouches and turned them into upscale items like tote bags and Christmas tree skirts.  Over a million dollars from the sale of those items went to schools, charities, and nonprofits.   Not bad.

The Terracycle Tree-Skirt

In 2010 Terracycle set up what they called a “pop shop” in New York City’s Port Authority – a place where anyone could drop off hard to recycle items and buy upcycled items.  That is spreading some goodwill!

Pop-Up Shop in NYC Port Authority

-Dan

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Environment, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Supply Chain Management, Sustainable Businiess, Upcycle

When it Comes to Solar, We Now Have Choices

Golden Brown, Tile Red, Army Green, Turkish Blue, Stone Elegance, and True Steel… are these choices for your kitchen tile remodel or the latest options you have when producing solar energy?

One of the many perks of working in the renewable energy industry is that we are exposed to all sorts of new technology, like these awesome looking colored solar cells.

Clockwise from upper left: Golden Brown, Tile Red, Army Green, and Turkish Blue

As most of you know, our main product offering is the PV Solar Shutter – an interior plantation shutter that we outfit with PV solar cells in order to produce renewable energy (if you don’t know, now you know).

We have shown our shutter to many consumers and industry professionals and out of all the questions we hear, these two stand out: “how do those shiny blue solar cells look through the window?” and “Won’t these be an eyesore to people walking by the house?”

In order to put the consumers mind at ease we started looking at the Color Solar Cell or C-Cell from Lof Solar. They offer many different color options while still maintaining a high efficiency rating. The initial cells we received were rated between 14.3% – 15.7% efficiency. Lof states that their “colorized solar cells do not hamper conversion efficiency, and its design can be combined with exterior hues of buildings and houses, to enhance color coordination.”

This is exactly what we wanted to offer as an option for our PV Solar Shutter so consumers can match the color of their Solar Shutter with the exterior colors of their building. Until now, silicon solar cells are deep blue because it boasts the highest efficiency and is the most economical, but these new C-Cells do not hurt the conversion efficiency and the price is getting very close to being competitive with similar deep blue cells.

The Tile Red cells installed in some mahogany red shutter louvers

The main thing I’ve learned is that new solar cell technology is rolled out nearly everyday…just today I found a release stating that SunPower Corporation boasts cells that can achieve efficiency of 20% or more. This sets the world record for highest efficiency for commercially available solar cells.

Anyways, let us know if you stumble upon any other cool or interesting renewable energy news and happy power production!

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Filed under Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, Renewable Energy, Solar, Supply Chain Management, Weatherization, Window Coverings

Introducing Plug ‘N Save’s Discussion Forum

Do you like to express your opinion via the internet? Do you want to be involved in conversations discussing the important issues affecting the state of renewable energy? Do you want to have a place to ask your questions? Well then it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Plug ‘N Save Discussion Forum!

Join the discussion by visiting our Home page and clicking the Forum button on the top menu bar or through the link below. We currently have two discussion topics up, one about how buying responsibly can lead to a more sustainable life and the other about the future of renewable energy industries after the end of government stimulus. Voice your thoughts or start a new topic!

http://plugnsaveenergyproducts.com/forums/forum/general-topics/

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Free Trade, Green Technology, Innovation, Philanthropy, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Supply Chain Management, Surfing, Sustainable Businiess, Tax Incentives, Uncategorized, Weatherization, Window Coverings

Responsible Materials Made or Grown in the US

We started making our shutters from bamboo because we know that bamboo is, without question, a rapidly renewable material.  It regrows into a completely harvestable form, in much less than the required 10 year time frame.

Bamboo, however, has one big pitfall that is really hard to overcome.   It is not commercially grown and harvested in the US.  That translates to long distance shipping.   Not the best scenario.

We started a quest for materials that were responsible and locally grown.

So far we found a few good US sources for poplar (also rapidly renewable) and some FSC Certified basswoods – both very suitable for making shutters.    In addition, we sourced a variety of recyclable composite materials with verifiable recycled content that might prove to be more weather resistant and will create a more “traditional” looking shutter material.

We will continue to search for those materials that best support both the Earth and the US economy as much as possible.  On our wish list:

  • A few consistent sources for reclaimed  materials – ie., barn wood, old flooring – or downcycled materials – ie., pressed pulps or aggregates.
  • A material where we can re-use or completely recycle our scrap and waste.

Next up, re-using and re-working existing shutters to make them more “power-full”.

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Filed under Environment, Recycled Materials, Responsible Materials, Supply Chain Management, Sustainable Businiess