“Packaging” is a sort of ho-hum word to describe the shell for treasured goods being shipped across the country, or halfway around the world. It’s also a poor descriptor for the seductive sheath that researchers pour gallons of time into and designers stay up nights agonizing over. We’ve definitely made consumer choices based on packaging alone, simply because said item looks better on our dresser.
But nearly always, the shelf life of the packaging is a lot shorter than the time it took to dream up. That’s a lot of Styrofoam/plastic/etc. in a lot of garbage cans.
This week’s edition is about genius alternatives to vessels that far outlast their cargo.
A bag that biodegrades in 60 days (pictured above).
Austin, Texas was the latest city to join in the banning of the dreaded plastic bag. It’s not that plastic bags don’t work; it’s that they work far too well, taking many years to decompose, and for a journey from the grocery store to the apartment, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Enter 60bags, made of a “flax-viscose non-woven fabric” produced from industrial waste (so no “new” resources are involved), the Polish-made carrier bags biodegrade in just 60 days.
Styrofoam (or polystyrene) has also been skewered as an environmentally unsavory offender, and for good reason. The buoyant white foam is notoriously difficult to recycle or repurpose, and isn’t especially friendly to wildlife. Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, the founders of Ecovative, might have invented the perfect alternative to Styrofoam, a material that they grow themselves in their New York facility with few inputs. By upcycling inedible agricultural detritus and binding it with mushroom roots (mycelium), the duo has created an organic, sustainable building block for a variety of purposes, from standard product protection, to use as replacement for petroleum-based car parts.
Vegetable tags for posterity.
Our favorite as far as aesthetics go, these beautifully designed vegetable tags are not only low-impact, they are embedded with plant seeds for the next crop of produce. Ben Huttly, the UK student who designed the tags, wanted to bridge the gap between environmentalism and gardening, and we think he’s done a magnificent job. The type is laser-cut, so no inks or dyes enter the ecosystem when these 100% biodegradable tags are tossed away into a fertile patch of soil. The cotton twine could always be reused as a nice hair-tie, but if that fails, it too is biodegradable (much more so than those twisty green things, we imagine).
Paper Tube Packages
A company after our own heart, Chicago Paper Tube is based right here in the second city. They produce several kinds of paper tubes that can be transformed into custom packaging to suit a company’s needs. While no one wants a biodegradable guitar case, we find that things like eyeshadows, coffees, teas and other small goods really don’t need to be bulletproof.
Know of any other cool, eco-friendly packaging? Leave it in the comments! We’re also pinning more of our favorites on our pinterest.