Friday, November 9, 2012

GlassDharma Packaging Policy


Refuse
Reduce
Reuse
Recycle

These are the 4 R’s of eco-consciousness. GlassDharma practices take the 4 R’s to heart. And they are prioritized for a reason.

Set of 4 glass straws
with cleaning brush.
Solving the plastics problem takes more than just using your “blue bin” or the “blue barrel” that gets picked up weekly. Recycling should be the last resort at all costs. Why? There is a mindset that has developed through the years. For most folks, if they use their blue barrel to recycle, they consider themselves “eco-conscious”. But if we do not look at the products we buy and how they are packaged, and make our choices accordingly, we run the risk of “feel good” recycling that has very little impact on our environment. First of all, most people do not realize that almost all plastics are not truly recyclable – they are actually down-cycled. The plastic that is “recycled” is not the same plastic that was put into the system. It is a degraded plastic and sooner or later will end up in our landfills and/or oceans. It also lulls us into thinking that all is well as long as we recycle. No thought is given to the other 3 R’s and the end result is that there is no reduction in the demand of plastic. We will still pump oil out of the ground with no end in sight to produce our plastics. There are companies that make money doing this and they will not stop until the demand decreases or is eliminated. They will not stop because it is bad for the environment.

I know of one wholesaler that ships their products with packing peanuts and bubble wrap and they put a sticker on the outside of the box that says something to the effect of “We shamelessly recycle our packaging materials” and they encourage their customers to do the same. This, in my mind, would be an acceptable step if everyone is in agreement with it AND steps are taken to mitigate the amount of packing material received (the other 3 R’s). This looked rather attractive at first and I considered changing our policy of “no plastic in our packaging”. I finally realized that for all its good intentions, it essentially passes the recycling burden to those we would be shipping to whether they wanted that responsibility or not. After talking to our suppliers and getting them to reduce or eliminate plastic in their shipping, we find local business that use these materials (as a last resort.)

The entire GlassDharma staff knows we are on the right track because of the number of emails we receive thanking us for not using plastic in our packaging. Periodically we also receive requests when folks are ordering to not use plastic when shipping to them.

Ready to ship glass straws!
We carry boxes in sizes designed to reduce the amount of filler needed (if any.) We use old newspaper and cardboard for filler when needed. We make larger and less frequent purchases of glass which has a smaller carbon footprint as well as eliminating the packing peanut issue as the glass arrives on a palette as opposed to boxes filled with peanuts. A minimal amount of stretch wrap is used with this process; however there is far less plastic involved that if we brought our glass in through UPS or FedEx.

New packaging options
for store display.
A great deal of time and effort went into our packaging designs, primarily because of the plastics issue. All of our packaging consists of 1) chipboard (100% recycled, 95% post consumer), 2) corrugated (40% recycled, 15% post consumer) cardboard, 3) our cello bags (for hemp sleeves) are wood based and 100% compostable and 4) paper-based tape. Even the glue we use is water based and non-toxic with no VOC’s. We use continuous ink systems in our inkjet printers. We use solar powered hosting for our website. We live fairly close to the shop so our commute is minimal.

I would encourage not just green business, but all business to be more mindful of what can be accomplished environmentally with periodic reviews of different areas of their business. Sometimes the solutions that present themselves also save money!

Separately purchased cleaning brushes are packaged in
 the same box along with the straw, reducing the need for additional boxes.