SUPER SIZE me NOT !!!Posted: March 9, 2014
This week’s blog was inspired by the EgoLogic laundry detergent container in the image above (made of a cardboard shell that encloses a plastic bag). The packaging company’s slogan is “packaging the earth can live with”. The plastic bag is made of low-density polyethylene, identified with the #4 resin code, and can be recycled through centers that take plastic bags, such as supermarkets with bag collection bins. The bottle cap is polypropylene, #5, and though sometimes not accepted by recycling centers, though some will take it; you can also make an extra effort to leave it in “Preserve’s Gimme 5” collection bins at Whole Foods Market stores.
The cardboard shell, meanwhile, can be recycled or even composted in home and industrial settings. The shell is 100 percent recycled, made from 70 percent cardboard and 30 percent newspaper. Using paper for the bulk of the container results in Seventh Generation using 66 percent less plastic per bottle than most 100 oz HDPE laundry detergent bottles. The 4x concentrated detergent comes in a 50 oz container that will wash 66 loads, the same number of laundry loads as the company’s 100 oz size.
And this is directly relevant to our recycled materials business. We take #2 HDPE plastic containers turned in for recycling; and make panel products from these, under the name Origins (because it acknowledges the source of its existence visually) which are used for surfacing applications, countertops and restroom partitions. In the image below, if you look closely enough, you can even see some bits of labels that did not come out completely from the plastic washing procedure. You can see the colorful nature of the laundry aisle at your favorite grocery store represented in the colors below.
Now, I’m not going to claim that the debut of Seventh Generation’s 4x “Ego Logic” laundry detergent container has me worried about the imminent demise of our business. Yet, it does speak deeply to issues that concern me personally as an environmentalist. Our global economy is based on consuming resources and businesses tie their profitability to our buying more and more, and sometimes that “more” is accomplished by our consuming bigger and bigger sized units as their customers. With a global population that has grown exponentially during the last century, this “OLD” business model is NOT sustainable.
Look at the current state of toilet paper rolls, for example (and I personally ALWAYS look for a product with some recycled content). These have grown so “super sized”, that they don’t really fit in my bathroom storage bin anymore. Our nation has grown obese on fast food and quick shops offering gigantic sodas, at a lower price than a small size. For a couple of decades, since restaurant meal portions have grown so very large, my husband and I have been splitting our single entree, and having more than enough to eat; and now, we even share that 3 ways with our oldest son, adding salads or soups to make the meal stretch adequately. The humanity of this planet can not continue to make rampant over-consumption of resources, our holy grail to economic well-being. It is NOT sustainable – period.
A change in containers may ultimately affect the availability of recycled #2 HDPE plastics as a feedstock for our Origins material but I’m not too worried yet. The pace of change is not that rapid. In the “State of Green Business”, GreenBiz.com’s 7th annual assessment of corporate sustainability trends and metrics, a picture emerges that is both optimistic and highly problematic — and according to Joel Makower represents a perfect metaphor for the sector. His verdict? “For all the efforts companies are making, it’s not leading to progress.” You can read more by clicking on the link under “Information Resources” below.
I have an online friend in New Zealand, Ted Howard, who has spent decades now trying to change that basis of our collective reality (you can read his Money blog, from the link in the information resources section below). As yet, he has not been successful; but with a nod to the recent passing of International Women’s Day (March 8th) and my watching of the 2005 movie “North Country”, the night before, about women forced into aggressively male working environments, simply because that is the only way they can provide “enough” of what could even be arguably termed a “decent lifestyle” for their children – I think a vision such as Ted’s would make a difference in that dynamic.
But this is a blog about materials; and not about economics or women’s issues. Everything in life is connected somehow; and today, my perspective is focused on what this new container from Seventh Generation says to me personally, and to the nature of our business. Every time I pour a minuscule amount of the concentrated detergent into my HE washing machine (a 50 oz 4x EcoLogic bottle washes the same number of loads, as a 100 oz 2x HDPE bottle) I am encouraged that a shift is occurring in our human value systems, that has previously favored the “always low price” mentality of WalMart’s claims. I’ve noticed at WalMart (believe me, it is the price of living in remote wilderness, that one must accept WalMart as the only option to get some of the “necessaries” of life – though I personally prefer Whole Foods and the higher quality stores available to me, a hundred miles away in St Louis !!) that “getting that low price” has often involved buying a “super sized” item (sometimes that size is the ONLY choice available) that is way more than I really want.
So, don’t “super size” me !!! Just give me enough of what I REALLY need and the sustainability of our species given the resources of our planet will be more likely over the long run. I’m even willing to pay MORE to help assure that outcome.
~ Information Resources
“7th Generation Debuts 4x Laundry Detergent in Paper Bottle” by Jonathan Bardelline posted March 10, 2011 in Green Biz.com – http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2011/03/10/7th-generation-debuts-4x-laundry-detergent-paper-bottle
EgoLogic brands “Packaging the earth can live with” – http://www.ecologicbrands.com/
Ted Howard’s NZ blog – “Money” – http://tedhowardnz.wordpress.com/money/
“The State of Green Business 2014” by Joel Makower posted January 21, 2014 in Green Biz.com – http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/01/21/state-green-business-2014
Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer