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:
- Ecovative Design –Ecocradle 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 squares off vs. Styrofoam
- 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.
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.”
For your viewing pleasure I will combine two things I greatly enjoy: Beer and the Environment. When breweries make it a priority to reduce their impact on the environment and try to give back, only great things can happen. Here are a select few that are doing just that; enjoy, and feel free to suggest other breweries that are making a difference (I know there are many more out there).
- 1000 square feet of solar thermal collectors. The collectors produce around 2500 therms per year and Central Waters will save between $1.4 and $1.5 million over the life of the system.
Solar Thermal Collectors at Central Waters Brewery
- The brewery also uses a radiant floor heating system and more energy efficient lighting systems
- They also work with local farmers in order to recycle the grain used in the brewing process. The spent grain is taken by the farmers and used as feed for livestock, and also as a compost.
- In February 2012, Brewery Vivant was honored with the first Silver LEED certification awarded to a microbrewery in the U.S. and also published their first sustainability report. (triplepundit.com)
- The brewery offsets 100 percent of its energy usage through purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs)
- They choose to deliver their beer in aluminum cans. Cans protect the beer from light, oxygen, and other factors that could negatively affect the taste. Cans are also easier to transport and are more easily recycled (54% of aluminum cans are recycled in the US, vs 36% of glass bottles being recycled).
- Very aggressive economic, social, and environmental goals that put them on the fast track to being a leader in the microbrewery industry. Some of those goals include:
- Zero waste to landfill
- 50% of food inputs from within 250 miles and 25% of beer inputs from 250 miles
- 10% onsite renewable energy generation
- Employee profit sharing program
- They completed what is now one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the country in December of 2008. They currently have a carport array that has a potential output of 503 kW DC and they also have a rooftop array that produces an additional 1.42 Megawatts DC. They also have an array on the daycare facility that has a potential capacity of 5.18 kW DC and another array on the rail facility that can produce 14 kW DC. All-in-all, the solar systems at Sierra Nevada are capable of producing 1.94 Megawatts DC. (Sierra Nevada Environmental Stewardship)
- Sierra Nevada also produced another first when they installed hydrogen fuel cells in 2005, the first brewing operation in the United States to do so. This system consists of four 300 kW fuel cell energy units that can produce 1.2 Megawatts DC when combined. You can check out their real time power production here.
Fuel Cells at the Sierra Nevada Brewery
- Sierra Nevada implements many other energy efficiency and sustainable practices including:
- Ultra efficient lighting system and the use of daylighting
- The recycling of waste heat
- They divert 99.6% of solid waste from the landfill with a goal to reach 100%
- HotRot Composting System – providing compost for their hop field, restaurant garden, and employee garden area.
- Use homegrown ingredients in beer and restaurant.
- Transportation – They utilize a hybrid electric local route truck, constructed a rail car unloading facility near their plant to reduce the negative impact of transportation, and also utilize the spent vegetable oil from their taproom and restaurant to power their biodiesel transportation fleet.
It has been quite some time since we have made a new post so for this blog post I would like to get back into things with a short and simple post highlighting a company that I think is worth following as they try to revolutionize the grocery shopping game.
For in.gredients, the concept is pretty simple. They aim to create the country’s first package free and zero waste grocery store. However, carrying out that concept may prove to be a challenge (think of all the packaging you see at your grocery store/supermarket).
Bring clean containers from home, fill them, weigh them, and then pay.
The store is not open yet but progress is taking place and they plan on opening their microgrocery store in Austin, TX later this year. Let’s hope for the success of in.gredients so it can be a model for other stores of its kind.