Trends in Sustainable Packaging and
Organic Companies That Are Leading the Way
By Nate Schlachter
Driven by environmental concerns, cus- tomer feedback and potential cost sav- ings, the movement toward more
sustainable, responsible packaging is making
many companies think outside the virgin
cardboard box or fossil-fuel-derived bag or
Many organic brands are leading this
effort—from investing in new technologies
and pioneering return-and-reuse programs to
earning certifications to verify the packaging’s
eco-authenticity. Governments around the
world are also pushing businesses to take responsibility for the trash they create, and are
demanding authenticity in “green” claims.
For the past five years, the Responsible
Packaging Project has helped drive the sustainable packaging movement forward as well.
Launched in 2006 as part of Whole Foods’
Green Mission, the project’s goal is to stimulate dialogue around innovation and best
practices in packaging. The project has
hosted 12 biannual forums at the Natural
Product Expos to engage the organic and natural products industry on packaging. Previous
forums have included representatives from
Nature’s Path, Earthbound Farms, Whole
Foods Market and Preserve and Packaging
2.0. The project also includes the biannual
Responsible Packaging Awards to recognize
brands leading the way in innovative sustainable packaging. These award-winning companies will be highlighted in this article.
Over the years, the Responsible Packaging
Project has grown to include six industry partners, including National Cooperative Grocers
Association, UNFI, Organic Trade Association, Independent Natural Foods Retailer Association, Whole Foods Market and Food
Trade Sustainability Leadership Association
(FTSLA). In 2010, FTSLA assumed facilitation of the project, and together with its collaborative partners is raising the bar on the
definition, design and implementation of responsible and sustainable packaging. Using
the Responsible Packaging Forums as a
medium for dialogue and recognition of best
practices, the project is committed to continuous innovation, collaboration, open inquiry
and the pursuit of a zero-waste future.
Three primary guidelines drive the Responsible Packaging Project:
• Transparency — This covers the content
and process, showing which materials and
inputs are being used in packaging manufacturing. The project believes there are
preferred and obsolete materials for sustainable packaging. The project does not
support GMO plant-based packaging, nor
does it endorse packaging that uses virgin
or fossil-fuel-based materials.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
— This is a strategy designed to promote
the integration of environmental and social costs associated with products throughout their life cycles into the market price
of the products, and to encourage packaging producers and product manufacturers
to take an active role in financially supporting or participating in the recovery of the
packaging used for their products.
• Ecological Principles — Based upon sustainability frameworks such as the “Natural
Step” and “Cradle-to-Cradle,” the project
believes packaging should be viewed as a
material that can be used as a technical nutrient in manufacturing cycles, or compostable as a biological nutrient in nature.
This whole-systems approach is a product
of the first two Responsible Packaging