Green Screens

An animated GIF. Each frame depicts a screenshot of a website on a colorful background.

As consumers increasingly decide that individual efforts to reduce environmental damage are necessary but not sufficient, their expectations of companies. This has led multinationals and small direct-to-consumer startups to reconsider their supply chains and packaging decisions. Even companies doing critical work are vulnerable to accusations of wastefulness: this week, the WHO released a report chastizing healthcare organizations responding to COVID-19 for straining waste-management systems and thereby “threatening human and environmental health.”

But as companies design for sustainability, how can they know what choices are available to them? In an interview with us last year, Goods Oslo co-founder Sandro Kvernmo said of its sustainable-packaging efforts: “You can’t be an expert before you start doing the work.”

Kvernmo’s agency launched the Goods Index to “share [its] knowledge with other designers but also help our future clients make smarter choices.” Index is a useful starting point because it functions like a dictionary, offering definitions and information about materials, production, and various kinds of certification.

And once you know your terms, you’ll better understand a handful of related websites that focus on sustainbable suppliers. Waste Not lists packaging materials that are biodegradable, compostable, renewed and recyclable, and/or dissolvable. Guacamole Airplane, a design studio in California, shares its internal database of such suppliers—a resource that extends beyond boxes to include inks, labels, and raw materials. A Better Source offers similar guidance, but pairs it with a “learning center” that covers such topics as circular design, bioplastics and composting, and paper recycling. Even trade associations are getting in on the act: the Flexible Packaging Association offers a surprisingly robust collection of case studies and research reports on its website.

Each agency or business committed to reducing or eliminating environmental footprints must undertake its own journey. But as the proliferation of websites like the above suggest, the increasing availability of relevant information will make such experiments easier. It also decreases the cover organizations have for not making such progress.

For those who have made progress on sustainable-packaging commitments, in 2020 Lumi co-founder Stephan Ango launched an initiative called Slash Packaging, which encourages businesses to create a page on their website explaining their approach to packaging and—offers a directory of those that have. You can read more about the endeavor here.

This post was updated February 9, 2022 to include information about Slash Packaging. Do you know of other websites that should be added to this list? Email us and we’ll update this post.