Thursday, December 11, 2008

Organic Product Packaging Blues

I've ordered some of my holiday gifts online -- including hard-to-find organic products. One new company I tried with organic hair products sent me my order. I opened the box and found it was wrapped (beautifully, mind you) in metallic tissue paper with a gold-embossed sticker holding a lovely smelling, dried lavender cutting. Inside that was a load of styrofoam peanuts. Inside that was a ball of paper packing material that encased my hair products.

Now, the hair products were in glass containers, so that's how come I suspect there was so much care put into the packaging material.

But, this is just one of many examples that I've seen where you have companies who make more earth friendly products yet they miss the point on the packaging. At least this company understood that glass was better than plastic.

I wrote to the company via e-mail to point out that although the packaging was beautiful it needed improvement -- especially since the company claims it is earth friendly. I pointed out that it would be better to have 1) no metallic paper, 2) no styrofoam, and 3) less packaging overall.

Within minutes -- this is a small company -- I got a phone call (which I let run to voice mail) and an e-mail explaining how they use used styrofoam pellets and a longer explanation about how they try to keep the shipping costs down by using the flat rate priority mail box, which they then have to stuff (more or less, depending on how much product you buy) to keep the glass containers from breaking.

Again, I wrote back and explained my points -- since I wasn't really interested in all the excuses. And I said that although it was great they were reusing used styrofoam, on the consumer's end they are most likely going to the landfill. I suggested maybe 100% biodegradable packing peanuts or paper packing peanuts or just plain newspaper. Even plastic bubble wrap would be an option -- at least I can throw it in my recycling container.

I got a shorter return e-mail stating that suddenly 'yes' they did have biodegradable packing peanuts and that in the future, if I order from them again, I should request they use those peanuts instead of the reused styrofoam ones. Hmmm. This all sounds fishy to me. And no mention of the problem with the metallic tissue paper.

It's hard for companies to get well-founded comments like mine that call attention to practices that need changing. The best companies promptly honestly and promptly thank the customer for the recommendation and quickly make the change. If the company can't make a change on an excellent suggestion right away, they will at least make sure the tip gets into the development chain for ASAP.

But these packaging issues can be remedied rather quickly. To find such resistance, and what strikes me as a placating answer rather than a company-wide dedication to earth friendly practices, in a company that is small enough to make easy changes quickly prompts me to not order from them again. Too bad.

1 comment:

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Hi Terra. I'm looking forward to chatting with you tomorrow and just having a look at your web site to get a feel for what you write about. I'm happy that you have a Plastic category on the site!

This post reminds me of several experiences I've had with packaging, but I thought I would share with you one of the great outcomes. Small companies CAN change very fast... if they want to. Here's the link:

http://fakeplasticfish.com/2009/04/big-plastic-free-soapnuts-giveaway-from/

Beth