On packaging and environmental consciousness

April 24, 2018

On packaging and environmental consciousness

We ship our proximity kitchensystem® products in re-useable, heavy-built wooden crates.  These crates are returned to us by the same shipper who takes them outbound from us. 

The client who receives her product in one of our crates also receives return shipping paperwork.  She merely has to paste it, in the provided sticky-backed envelope, over the outbound one, call the shipper, and the crate comes home again.

There are a couple of reasons we do things this way, most of them related to environmental concerns: 

  • The crates are virtually indestructible, and therefore are used 20-50 times. The fact of their continued re-use means there is maximal use of the material and labor that goes into their construction. 
  • The trucks that carry the crates (in our case, FedEx trucks) are, in the main, powered by fossil fuels, which we do not like. However, until Mr. Musk gets a fleet of electric over-the-road trucks up and running, the fossil-fueled trucks are an ugly fact of life. 
  • Once the truck is rolling, however, the fuel is expended, regardless of whether our goods are aboard or not. Therefore, we concentrate on that which we can control, as opposed to anything we cannot.  Thus, our crates.

We got to this place taking a somewhat unusual approach, which was two-fold: 

  • One, we wanted to be able to guarantee both our clients and ourselves ZERO freight damage to the goods we shipped.
  • Two, we wanted to be able to guarantee zero land-fill impact resulting from any part of our shipping efforts.

The second problem became immediately obvious when we began to ship outside our local area – since we were going to be shipping (as opposed to delivering locally), we’d have to protect the goods while they moved from production to the clients’ jobsites.  The conventional thinking was “heavy corrugated cardboard”, which, as far as I could tell, would ultimately wind up in the jobsite dumpster, with less-than-optimal control relative to the recycling stream.

In addition to the problem created by the packaging, the packaging itself was suspect – given the fact that packages shipped in cardboard tended to be tossed around like beach balls, or dropped, or perhaps run into (or over) by forklifts, we were not at all confident in the ability of cardboard, no matter how heavy, to keep our products safe.

To make a long story a little shorter, the solution was re-useable crates:

  • They are VERY durable.
  • They are repairable/maintainable
  • They allow for interior configuration to protect the contents in ways cardboard simply cannot
  • Given they will be returned with the crate, the packing materials used inside the crates can be re-useable as well, which means all packaging is kept clear of the landfill
  • The overall approach ensures that the entirety of the cost of shipping, both material and environmental, can be captured within the sale of the product to its end-user.

That last point is a very important one:  the vast majority of products are manufactured with a view toward pushing the cost of their manufacture off onto anyone not the manufacturer.  This is done in the name of “business”, as if that were the most, as opposed to the least, important aspect of the process of getting things made and into the hands of the people who need them. 

We believe this approach to manufacturing is fundamentally irresponsible, if not the moral equivalent of dumping your trash on your neighbor’s front lawn.

To the degree we as inhabitants of this limited ecosystem we call Earth fail to become more efficient in our use of the raw materials in it, fail to use them in ways that produce less or no waste, in short, fail to aspire to more intelligent living, we are doomed to transform a perfectly good planet into one uninhabitable by our descendants.

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