Package Design - March 2012 - (Page 16)
by Wendy Jedlicka, cPP
Seeing Mother Nature as mentor and measure.
nspiration comes when you allow your mind the space to wander. Little did college students Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre know that a trek though the woods would lead them to develop a game-changing packaging material. During this hike, Bayer and McIntyre observed how mycelia (branching, vegetative fungal networks from which mushrooms fruit) strongly bonded wood chips together. They realized that mycelia could be used to bond agriculture by-products into a completely new packaging material. Encouraged by their faculty mentor to take their idea to the market, Bayer and McIntyre founded Ecovative Design (Green Island, NY).
Biobased egg cartons protect fragile eggs in a circular package that mimics the shape of a bird’s nest.
Ecovative Design is taking a different approach to void-fill packaging than thermoformed or even heat-molded, biobased plastics. Its EcoCradle product is made using cold molds filled with loweconomic-value agricultural waste and mycelia. The mycelia grow around and digest the waste until they fill the mold. The mycelia and the agriculture waste are then heat-treated to stop fungal growth and ensure that the finished material doesn’t produce spores or other allergens. When first introduced, Ecovative’s MycoBond system consumed one-tenth the energy used to manufacture comparable foam void-fill packaging. Bayer and McIntyre have since improved the process and expect to lower MycoBond’s energy needs down to a staggering one-fortieth of traditional foam’s energy needs.
Not all products can lend themselves to a literal use of natural materials. But many products find themselves in the happy place of being able to accommodate, or even revel in, a certain level of earthiness while taking advantage of a natural substrate’s willingness to be tamed a bit. Like Ecovative’s EcoCradle, Rondeel’s (Eersel, The Netherlands) egg packaging boasts a lower carbon footprint compared to a conventional paper carton. The round egg carton generates 20% less carbon dioxide thanks to a low-energy manufacturing process, the natural state of the raw materials, and the proximity to the egg production site. Made from potato starch, the lightweight cartons are also fully biodegradable. Sometimes, nature inspires new packaging forms and materials. Looking back at Puma’s (Herzogenaurach, Germany) shoebox-in-bag system, I can’t help but see the parallels between the Clever Little Bag and the coconut. The Clever Little Bag was designed by Yves Béhar to replace the cardboard shoebox with a reusable shoe bag and an open-top, corrugated tray. The resulting two layers of product protection remind me of how a soft outer covering over a hard shell protects the meat of a coconut. Like the coconut, the Clever Little Bag is an efficient package. One year of manufacturing this packaging system versus a traditional shoebox package was estimated to save Puma 20 million megajoules of electricity, more than 250,000 gallons of fuel oil and more than 250,000 gallons of water. Package designers and engineers can be greatly rewarded when they ask Mother Nature for inspiration. Why not ask her to lend a hand? Her answers may surprise us. PD For articles on similar topics, visit the Sustainability channel on PackageDesignMag.com.
Wendy Jedlicka, CPP, is principal of Jedlicka Design Ltd. (www.jedlicka.com), a founding faculty member of Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s Sustainable Design Program (www.mcad.edu/sustainable), and contributing editor of the book Packaging Sustainability (PackagingSustainability.info).
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Package Design - March 2012
Package Design - March 2012
The Charms of Color
Beyond the Morning After
Look, Listen, Create
Product Focus: Flexible Packaging
On Packagedesign mag.com
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Package Design - March 2012