Happy Earth Day! Started as a “national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, Earth Day has since become a time to show respect for the planet, and recently a time to express concerns about climate change and other environmental issues. Of particular concern to today’s consumers is excess packaging and post-consumer waste.
From 2014 to 2018, “plastic waste” increased as a Google search term. Many brands are taking note of the trend and creating responses to this consumer worry. As brands adopt more earth-friendly products, packaging and solutions, they are integrating earth-friendly messaging into the company “DNA” in an authentic way that resonates with environmentally-conscious consumers. Here are several companies making moves to help the planet, connect with modern consumers and burnish their brands’ pro-environment identities.
A Small Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) Brand Aims To Reduce Waste From An Everyday Object
Bite, a small direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand which sells toothpaste pills in glass bottles via a renewable subscription, is one of many brands using DTC strategies to launch earth-friendly products. More than a billion toothpaste tubes are thrown out per year, and Bite’s goal is to reduce that preventable waste. With a mobile-friendly site and a strong consumer connection on social media, Bite is reaching younger demographics concerned about the environment. Generation Z and Millennials in particular are worried about how environmental damage, including excess packaging like toothpaste tubes, could impact the planet in their lifetimes.
Disney’s Smart Packaging Initiative Continues To Innovate Fun, Sustainable Solutions
In 2014, Disney launched their Smart Packaging Initiative (SPI) after six years of research and development into how best to reduce waste from toys — and make them easier for kids and parents to open. The aim of SPI is to reduce packaging, make more components recyclable, optimize sales performance and reduce costs for the company. Disney shared their SPI data and SPI measurement tool with toy manufacturers including Mattel, LEGO and Hasbro who have since applied some of the SPI integrations.
A popular implementation of SPI was Disney’s Moana doll. The packaging is 70% recycled paper printed with vegetable-based inks. The Moana box is created to be easily opened by kids and uses no glue or tape. Once opened, the packaging can be transformed into Moana’s boat, making it sustainable, reusable and fun.
McCormick & Company Redesigns Their Spice Jars To Create Recyclable And Reduced-Waste Options
Iconic spice manufacturer McCormick & Company aligned their 2025 corporate goals with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in an attempt to reduce their impact on the environment and promote sustainability. So far, McCormick has met several of their goals including a new container for their signature spice Old Bay, now made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a 100% recyclable plastic. This packaging change equated to a 16% reduction in “associated carbon emissions” according to Mike Okoroafor, McCormick’s Vice-President, Global Sustainability & Packaging Innovation.
McCormick implemented a 10% reduction in material for their European glass jars, with the lighter jars reducing carbon emissions from production and transport. By 2025, McCormick hopes to have an overall 25% reduction in their packaging carbon footprint, a 20% reduction in their water usage and 100% reused, recycled or repurposed packaging.
“Through this program, we are seeking to make a meaningful and measurable impact on our environment and to do what is best for the company, our consumers and our communities,” said Okoroafor.
MGA Entertainment Offers Toy Shoppers A Way To Recycle Post-Consumer Waste
MGA Entertainment, a U.S toy manufacturer, partnered with TerraCycle to offer a recycling option for L.O.L. Surprise fans. TerraCycle is an innovator in recycling and reusing pre-and-post consumer waste previously considered unrecyclable or hard to recycle. And L.O.L. Surprise toys are a part of the unboxing trend, which while full of fun surprises, leaves a lot of waste in its wake. The MGA/Terracycle partnership makes the recycling process simple for unboxers who can now simply fill up a box with their toy waste, print a label from the TerraCycle website and send it off for earth-friendly disposal. A recent study by the American Chemistry Council found an 11% uptick in recycling when stores offered in-store recycling, which indicates that consumers are eager to help when given the tools to do so.
Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment says, “Soon all of MGA products and packaging will be recyclable.” Adding, “We all must do our part to save this beautiful planet for the next generation.”
TerraCycle Creates A Subscription Business Focused on Reusable Packaging And Customer Habits
TerraCycle continues their recycling and reusability innovations with the launch of Loop.
“The key thesis statement is we can't just recycle our way out of the garbage crisis,” says Tom Szaky, TerraCycle’s CEO and co-founder. “We need foundational changes. Our version of the foundational change is: How do we solve for disposability at the root cause, while matching the benefits?” Enter Loop. A subscription service (with an eventual brick and mortar presence as well) that offers consumers the chance to go beyond recycling.
Loop, created by TerraCycle, wants to re-introduce the “milkman model,” delivery mainstay until the 1960s, in which customers would receive deliveries of milk bottles to their doors and, once all the milk had been drunk, leave the bottles by the front door again for pick up.
Loop teamed up with TerraCycle’s impressive roster of brand partners to create reusable containers ranging from ice cream tubs to toothpaste tubes. Like any online order or subscription service, subscribers place the order online. But this time the order is sent in a reusable tote, which will be returned to Terracycle with the empty used containers. The containers are then washed and reused. A recent article on Greenbiz.com explains, “The entire process is handled by TerraCycle, from sale and delivery to package return and cleaning. In effect, TerraCycle is the online retailer, buying wholesale and selling retail. The package remains the property of the brand.”
TerraCycle hopes Loop’s business model will win over consumers reluctant to be inconvenienced or change their shopping habits. The goal says Szaky is to “mimic the way consumers already buy, use and dispose of packaging.”
Consumer demand for eco-friendly solutions to the plastic and post-consumer waste problem is growing, and companies can effectively meet those demands by aligning themselves with their customers’ values and shopping behaviors. Those brands looking to make real change for the planet and genuine connection with their customers, should be willing to use all available marketing optimizations.
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