Can the Right Packaging Solutions Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
Are you trying to reduce your carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment? This has become a primary focus of many companies, especially as environmental issues have become increasingly important to their customers. There are several ways that a company can do this. Some change their manufacturing methods. Others look at alternative energy sources for their factories and offices. For companies that ship products around the world, packaging can be an important part of reducing their carbon footprint.
What is a Carbon Footprint and Why is it Important?
Your company’s carbon footprint is all of the greenhouse gas emissions made in a set period of time. It is not possible to pinpoint the exact total carbon footprint because carbon dioxide is produced naturally, but a company can measure the amount of carbon dioxide and methane that they produce within a specific area. This calculation is then expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent.
Knowing your company’s carbon footprint is important because it shows how much you contribute to climate change and the greenhouse effect. The larger your footprint, the more detrimental your company’s activities are to the Earth. However, you can’t begin working on implementing changes without first knowing what your carbon footprint is and what you are doing that results in carbon dioxide emissions.
Once you have determined this, you can begin to look at different means to reduce your carbon footprint.
Understanding Carbon Footprint through the Product Life Cycle
One way of determining your carbon footprint is through life cycle analysis. This methodology looks at your company’s environmental impact through a product’s life cycle. It starts with raw materials and follows the product all the way through its end of life. It can be helpful for both reducing a product’s total environmental impact and comparing your company’s various products to see which has the highest and lowest impact.
The Life Cycle Assessment divides the life of a product into five stages:
• Raw material extraction and collection
• Production of the product
• Transportation of the product to resellers, customers, etc.
• Use of the product by consumers
• The end of the product’s life
While some of these stages have more impact on the environment than others, all of them are important.
The Value of an Environmental Analysis
There are many reasons why you may want to perform an environmental analysis on the products you make, aside from identifying your carbon footprint. In many cases, doing an environmental analysis not only identifies a product’s environmental impact, but also assists in highlighting areas where various costs could be reduced. For example, if you reduce the amount of packaging you use on a product, you not only reduce the overall waste associated with producing and using that packaging, but you also reduce your costs by buying less and by lowering your transportation costs.
There are many different ways an environmental analysis can assist you in reducing your carbon footprint during each part of the Life Cycle Assessment.
Reductions Within Each Product Life Cycle Phase
During the raw materials phase, you may be able to extract materials using different methods or equipment that consume less fossil fuels or have lower carbon emission. However, the most significant reductions in this area come from replacing synthetic materials with natural ones or vice versa. In some cases, you might completely replace a material with something very different.
In the production phase, many companies look at changing their means of manufacturing. They replace older machinery, use innovative methods focused on reducing carbon output, or switch to renewable energy sources.
When a product moves to the transportation phase, there are many different opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint. You may be able to reduce the overall size of the exterior packaging or replace the amount or type of interior packaging. In addition to using less, making a product’s overall size smaller allows more products to be transported at once, reducing the number of vehicles in use. Lighter packages also do not weigh down vehicles as much, which means they don’t have to use as much power to move. You can also consider the method itself, as each transport mode has very different characteristics.
The use phase of a product is sometimes more difficult to control, since the consumer is ultimately the one using the product. A major way to infleunce the carbon footprint in this phase is by considering the suitability of packaging to your product; the packaging can be optimized around the product and its packing, reducing unnecessary waste. Packaging solutions which can be reused can also reduce environmental impact significantly.
Finally, the end of life phase can be modified in a few ways to reduce the product’s overall carbon footprint. Products can be made out of materials that can be recycled or that biodegrade more quickly. They can be made reusable, too; some companies offer return or even buyback programs in which they offer a small incentive to customers who turn in their older products for recycling.
How Nefab Can Help Through GreenCALC and Packaging Design
We can assist you by redesigning and optimizing your packaging, making it lighter and eliminating unnecessary space
Nefab can assist you with reducing your carbon footprint during the transportation stage of a product’s lifecycle. We do this by first performing a study, according to ISO 14040 and 14044, with the help of our internally developed environmental analysis tool, GreenCALC. The study begins with our experts collecting data related to your product’s packaging and transportation. Once we have this, we can use it to calculate your product’s current environmental impact.
Next, we will meet with you and report on the analysis. We can present to you a single score which shows your product’s impact on the environment, but we can also break it down into different categories so that you can see where it has the most considerable effects.
After that, we will work with you to understand this impact and determine what can be done to reduce it. We can assist you by redesigning and optimizing your packaging, making it lighter and eliminating unnecessary space, and ultimately providing you with a more sustainable solution which reduces your carbon footprint.