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Eco-Packaging for Fun and Profit

Positive Consumer Perception - Leveraging Green Opportunities for renewable,
non-wood packaging as part of a sustainable consumer market.

Wendy Jedlicka / Jedlicka Design, Ltd.
Edward L. Rzepecki - University of St. Thomas

©2001 Wendy Jedlicka. All rights reserved.


What began as a simple search for additional packaging options for my clients, turned not only into a review of the packaging and paper industries, but a look into forestry practices world wide, development tactics for Third World economies, as well as a deeper look into the workings of today's consumer economy.

Having just completed a class at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) in packaging processes with Professor Edward Rzepecki, I approached Professor Rzepecki about doing a possible independent study project on the topic of tree-free fibers for packaging.

"Why would you want to do that?" was his first reaction. "Wood fibers are superior to all others, or we wouldn't use them exclusively for packaging here in the US" he went on. After reviewing my initial research though, he held quite a different view, "In my 40 odd years in packaging, I never considered a need for an alternative to wood pulp. But the annual yield/acre [of annual fiber crops] coupled with the variety of structural properties annual fiber crops offer, we as an industry would be foolish not to investigate and capitalize on a wide variety of fiber sources." As we talked about non-wood fibers, possible applications, and what to do next for my study he seemed perfectly giddy. He was very anxious to get busy on fabricating samples of corrugated made from tree-free paper, and testing the structural properties of non-wood fiber products currently on the market.

Unfortunately, Professor Rzepecki passed away before we could get rolling. And yet, his contribution to this paper has been invaluable. To win the enthusiastic support of a total dyed in the wool, mainstream packaging engineer has been the fuel that fired this study.

This paper is dedicated to the memory of a spirit that refused to stand still.

Wendy Jedlicka
Jedlicka Design, Ltd.


There are many things that affect the way we do our business in packaging. Mostly we react to the obvious stuff - tightening waste laws like the EU's Article 21 or increases in fuel prices driving reductions in shipped product weight/volume - but there are other more subtle things we seem almost resigned to simply dealing with, rather than look for innovative ways of creating new solutions.

The biggest one of these grin-and-bear-its is packaging's HUGE dependence on wood for paper. From transport packaging to primary packaging, to labels, hang tags, and user inserts, paper and paperboard packaging made from wood pulp accounts for the greatest share of all packaging dollars spent.

The paper industry is HUGE, generating about 2.5% of the world's industrial production and 2% of world trade. Given this industry's heavy reliance on slow to harvest, and expensive to renew resource (trees), developing and expanding alternative pulp resources would seem to be a simple way of supplementing pulp shortfalls quickly, or as an as-needed way of offsetting losses when wood producing areas suffer setbacks due to extended drought, fire, or mismanagement.

We haven't ALWAYS relied so heavily on wood. In fact paperboard as we use it today is a relatively new material, not really making much of an impact until pulping processes changed in the 20th century making it profitable to use trees. Before then annual crops like cotton, flax, quick growing biopulps (hemp, kenaf, rice stalks), and even field waste (agripulp) were the norm for making paper. The bigger question though is does the CONSUMER really CARE what the box is made of as long as they can feel GOOD about their choice?

An RPA-100% national survey of more than 200 primary shoppers confirmed that preference and demand for 100% recycled paperboard products has reached an extremely high level. 92% believe they are doing something for the environment when they buy it, 84% feel better about companies that use it as packaging material, and 73% are more inclined to buy products from companies that use it.

With such high consumer support for forest-free (100% recycled) packaging, the opportunities are ripe for companies looking to integrate the positive consumer perception advantages found in tree-free products. The fact that no trees were used at all, is a simple idea the consumer can easily get their arms around.

In this time of transition as markets green, with companies issuing varied and confusing eco-marketing claims, firms that find simple ways of connecting with the consumer are best positioned to profit the most.

By thinking past just getting your widget to the store, you could help area eco-foresters by making the commitment to only use sustainably harvested wood, or area farmers by using paper made from annual crops or agri-pulp. But more over, you can tap into new ways of increasing your market share by realizing money doesn't JUST grow on trees.


As much as 70% of purchase decisions
are made at the store.

This shopper prefers to shop green. Are you interested in positive consumer perception, or being part of the background noise?

How much are you willing to pay
to get his attention?

Cost per 1000 impressions (1993 figures):
Packaging (4C) $.05 - $.50
Newspaper Ad (full page) $3.10
Magazine ad (full page) $3.40
Radio (30, 30 second spots) $5.00
Television (30, 30 second spots) $15.00
Direct Mail (11x17 piece) $47.00


©2001 Jedlicka Design, All rights reserved.
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