Under the Sun
Companies get wise to being and making green
FOURTEEN minutes, a pair of scissors and two X-Acto knife blades was all it took to remove the factory-authorized, BCI-6M/magenta printer-ink tank from the industrial-strength plastic pack it came in. I counted myself lucky to have suffered only a nick on my middle finger.
I assume the pack was designed to prevent theft. No way could anyone easily slip that bulky puppy into a pocket. No way could anyone surreptitiously open it either. Or maybe I'm underestimating the resourcefulness of pilferers, just as I've underestimated the shrewdness of commercial enterprise.
After years of railing against overpackaged goods, it is satisfying to learn that some corporations and manufacturers are cutting down on extraneous coverage. Not that they were listening to me; they are heeding the bottom line.
They are finding that making green and being green aren't exclusive, that shrinking wraps can reduce expenses as well adverse environmental effects.
I'M NOT a fan of Wal-Mart. The cookie-cutter retail Goliath has slain many a diverse David to secure its place in the global economy, and has gotten lots of heat and bad PR for it. But in needing to retool its image, it has adopted techniques that make sense for profit and conservation.
Wal-Mart has taken to throwing its considerable weight around in a good way, insisting that vendors pare excessive packaging. The company hopes that within a couple of decades, it will recycle as much material as is used in packaging of products it sells.
What's also encouraging is that environmental organizations -- often characterized as lawsuit-waving naysayers --are joining in. Instead of fielding consumer boycotts, they are providing expertise and different perspectives for responsible problem-solving.
ENVIRONMENTAL Defense, for example, designed a way to help packaging people choose less harmful materials, and is now working with Wal-Mart to calculate the amount of energy used and greenhouse gases produced in packaging.
Companies are modifying containers for improved recycling rates and reducing paper labels to cut waste and costs. Coca-Cola plans to pare beverage bottles. The maker of Crest toothpaste has rolled out stiffer tubes of its effective decay-preventive dentifrice sans cardboard box.
But even as corporations and businesses get with the program, the loop of recycling won't be connected if people don't or can't do their part. The widest gap is the absence of municipal collection, a gap Honolulu has been slow to close even with a recycling mandate on the books.
WHILE government plods, business is quick to fulfill consumer desires. As people reject paper and plastic at the checkout, design houses are peddling bags to appeal to fashionistas. Hermes touts a tote with a tony price of $960. Stella McCartney offers one for a mere $495, but its organic cotton gives it superior eco-conscious cred. Though it's unlikely that those who can afford the bags actually do their own grocery shopping, they can rest assured that the hired help will look chic while squeezing the heirloom tomatoes.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org