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Moving Beyond the Easy Wins – Integrating Sustainability Into Our Core Business Strategies

Nina Goodrich

As a follow up to our recent SPC Spring Conference, I’d like to share some thoughts on the big picture trends I see happening in the sustainability industry today.

The focus on sustainability within companies is shifting. Sustainability has matured and is being embedded in new ways. In the past, sustainable packaging was often considered the gateway to sustainability; the first focus of many sustainability initiatives. While sustainable packaging still plays a role in a company’s larger corporate responsibility initiatives, there is a difference in the “job” of sustainable packaging versus the larger “job” of sustainability in organizations. Continue reading

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SPC Spring Conference Recap

Katherine O'Dea

GreenBlue staff recently returned from our 2014 SPC Spring Conference. Having Seattle as our host city set the stage for one of our most,successful conferences to-date. With its  progressive sustainability initiatives , Seattle provided the perfect venue to allow us to develop an agenda full of tours and sessions that explored some of the most innovative sustainability projects in the country. Over 300 sustainability professionals representing all aspects of the packaging supply chain attended the Conference. The breakdown of participating organizations included brand owners, retailers, material manufacturers, converters, government organizations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and consultants.

The conference kicked off with a number of tours that demonstrated the city’s sustainability leadership, especially when it comes to managing waste. Tours included visits to the University of Washington Food Service Expo and Cedar Grove’s Everett composting facility, one of the country’s most advanced industrial composting facilities; Microsoft’s Envisioning Center and Smart Buildings, where attendees were introduced to energy savings technologies and Microsoft’s future environments; Waste Management’s Cascade Recycling Center for a look at a local  material recovery facility (MRF); and Safeco Field for an overview on how the Mariners operation has taken on event waste management and reduction. safeco_field_waste_management.jpg

The tours were outstanding, providing attendees with concrete  examples of how organizations are effectively tackling sustainability issues  – models that  can be used to help inform sustainability efforts in their own companies and organizations.

With Joel Makower as keynote, sessions opened with a look at the general state of corporate sustainability. According to GreenBiz’s annual State of Green Business, more companies are taking on bigger and bigger sustainability challenges, yet the overall reduction in negative global impacts from these efforts seems to have plateaued. As companies move from sustainability walkers to talkers many are stalled in the transition, continuing to conduct “random acts of greenness,” as opposed to strategic, more effective actions. Makower also discussed the increasing need for collaboration and partnerships, a clear theme of the conference,  echoed by several of the speakers.joel_makower_keynote.jpg

The conference featured discussion panels with some of the SPC’s core Seattle companies, Microsoft, REI and Starbucks, exploring their enterprise sustainability agendas and how those translate into packaging sustainability goals. With the Pacific Northwest leading in resource recovery in so many ways, local city and state waste management authorities were also featured prominently. Other topics ranged from how to leverage consumer insights to developing science-based solutions to marine debris. One of the more popular sessions was a discussion cafe on solving the big, hairy sustainability challenges that keep packaging people up at night. The attendee engagement and interaction offered many creative solutions which table leaders shared in a follow-up, report-out session.

In addition to the Tuesday tours, attendees were able to explore the city  through a pub-crawl, dinner and dialogue sessions, and a wine tasting trip out to Vessel Wines in Washington’s Woodinville wine country. By all accounts (including the conference evaluation forms) the Seattle event was one of the SPC’s best ever.

Planning for the Fall Meeting in Minneapolis, September 9 – 11, 2014 is well underway. Minnesota-based members, NatureWorks, Target, General Mills, and 3M are already collaborating with staff to create another can’t-miss event, full of actionable sustainability lessons. Keep an eye out for registration to open soon.

To keep the conversation going, please share the post and let us know what you think on Twitter  @KatherineODea or @greenblueorg.

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Seattle: A City with an Encouraging Plan for Climate Change

Eric DesRoberts

Growing up on the coast of southern Maine, Seattle was about the furthest point in the contiguous US that I could travel. This is probably one of the reasons I never made it out there. While the SPC Conference (#SPC2014) will not necessarily be a vacation, it is an opportunity to be in an amazing new place while pursuing my interests and learning from packaging and sustainability professionals.

Looking into the city (mostly food and must see tourist attractions) in anticipation of my post-conference stay, I got carried away with clicks and found myself looking at Seattle’s Sustainability Initiatives. Continue reading

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SPC Member Spotlight: Johnson & Johnson’s Project Phoenix

Kelly Lahvic

“Member Spotlight” is the newest addition to our GreenBlue blog where we will regularly highlight the sustainability achievements and initiatives of a Sustainable Packaging Coalition member company.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has a long history of inspiring projects and initiatives ranging from environmental campaigns like their Care to Recycle campaign, to global healthcare work with Operation Smile. A recent Johnson & Johnson initiative that caught our attention is Project Phoenix, a program established in 2009 that helps recycling cooperatives in Brazil improve their operational processes, document their policies and develop a stronger social infrastructure. Continue reading

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Walking the Walk with our Sustainable Conferences

Elizabeth Shoch

At GreenBlue, we all do our best to “walk the sustainability walk” in our daily lives at home and at the office. In the past we have even had intra-staff challenges that involved sustainability actions like bringing our own containers to coffee shops and lunch spots for take-out food, eating more fruits and vegetables, collecting compostable waste in the office, and spending more time outside on a daily basis.

We spend our professional lives thinking about sustainability, but that doesn’t stop when we walk out our office door. We do our best to host sustainable conferences, too. What does that mean? First, we look for hotels that offer their own suite of sustainable practices, such as not laundering sheets and towels daily unless requested. We prefer to locate our meetings in a city center that is available by public transportation and allows attendees to walk to restaurants, shops, and sites. Our instructions to the hotel’s catering staff might also be seen as a bit strict sometimes: we require that water is served in pitchers or coolers with reusable glassware, cream and sugar are served in bowls instead of individual packets, coffee and tea are provided in ceramic cups with spoons instead of disposable cups and stirrers, sustainable seafood choices and local products are specified wherever possible…and the list goes on.

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Speaker Interviews: What they are most looking forward to at the SPC Spring Conference

Kelly Lahvic

With the 2014 SPC Spring Conference just around the corner, March 25-27, everyone at GreenBlue is understandably busy, but nevertheless incredibly excited about what we have planned for our 10th annual event. We are thrilled to be heading to Seattle for the event, as the well-known green city will provide a perfect backdrop for an informational and productive gathering for the hundreds of packaging and sustainability professionals attending the conference.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a few of our speakers about what they’re most looking forward to at #SPC2014 in Seattle. Here are some of their thoughts:
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Top 5 Reasons to Attend #SPC2014 – Come for the MRF tour, stay for the Garbage Burrito

Eric DesRoberts

SPC’s Spring Conference agenda is teeming with thought provoking panels and outstanding presenters, and it is an event for everyone. In classic fashion, here is my top 5 list and playbook for anyone planning to attend or thinking of attending:

  1. Take a tour – they are perfect small group networking opportunities. You may also learn a thing or two (learning may not apply to the pub crawl).

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  2. Let the emails pile up – the flash talk format is going to bring the heat. Put off the latest calendar invite and carry the conversations into the networking breaks.
  3. Find out the relationship between Garbage Burritos, Mariachi Bands, and recycling rates with Sego Jackson.
  4. Wake up early and go to bed late – from early morning yoga sessions to dinner and dialogue groups, there is never a dull moment at an SPC conference. Make the most of the time we have together in Seattle.
  5. Take advantage of the amazing resources and opportunities made possible by our sponsors, Starbucks, Microsoft, REI, PepsiCo, HAVI Global Solutions, General Mills, and Dow Chemical Company, and amplified by our Seattle location.
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Social Sustainability – Collaboration Drives Change

Minal Mistry

Sustainability is fundamentally a social issue. Without people envisioning a different state of affairs, coming together, engaging, discussing, learning, and sharing, there would be very little positive change along sustainable materials management. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s annual Spring Conference on March 25-27 in Seattle, WA is loaded with activities conducive to this type of collaboration with colleagues from across the full packaging value chain.


Tours like the CHEP pallet service center tour allow time for casual discussion and networking.

On the social side of sustainability, the event provides superb networking outlets. Start the day with light networking after early morning mind-body sustainability yoga sessions. Follow that up with exclusive behind the scenes small group tours, then attend conference sessions and network over coffee breaks. The event agenda is loaded with material management topics ranging from sustainable forestry and sourcing, measurement of impacts, practical guidance from the field on communicating sustainability efforts, and wide ranging discussions on various facets of effective material recovery upon use. Round out the day with Dinner and Dialogue, a deep dive small group discussion led by GreenBlue staff or members of the SPC Executive Committee. These sessions are very popular and provide opportunities for networking in a smaller forum.

Let me extend a personal invitation to the conference and join me in events I will lead: early morning yoga, Fun and Games with Packaging Sustainability, and Dinner and Dialogue. I look forward to meeting you in Seattle.

 

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Highlighting Seattle Resource Recovery and Packaging End of Life Management

Katherine O'Dea

Resource recovery and revalorization seems to be just about the hottest topic in the packaging sustainability community these days. It’s hard to pick up any packaging publication – print or online – without some reference to the need to expand packaging recyclability, and the opportunities and challenges involved. GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition made sure to emphasize this important topic as we developed the agenda for our 2014 Spring Conference, with tours and sessions that highlight the newest developments in resource recovery and end of life management.

The Pacific Northwest region leads the country in recycling and composting. We recently talked with Conference speaker, Dick Lilly, Manager for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship at Seattle Public Utilities, about Seattle’s cutting edge sustainability efforts, specifically its composting and recycling efforts. Seattle is the first U.S. city to require that all single-use food service packaging be either compostable or recyclable, helping the city move toward its goal of a zero waste future. Lilly explained that in this shift to using all compostable or recyclable packaging, the city holds meetings with restaurants and manufacturers regularly to discuss what does and doesn’t work, and what needs to happen to make these regulations more successful. “One things that I would applaud about the restaurant industry is that they have been tremendously innovative and have made a great effort to come up with new products. The industry has changed dramatically in terms of the products made today that will help restaurants move in the direction of more compostables or reusables and less disposables,” said Lilly.
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A Story of Branded Trash

Minal Mistry

I am sure all of us at one time or another have taken a walk down a nature trail and found a bit of trash that stood out among the plants or on the path. More often than not the Budweiser_Trashitem is recognized almost instantaneously by its color scheme, shape or material combination – its branding.

We may be irritated by the unsightliness, we may not give it a second thought and meditatively and instinctively pick up the litter for proper disposal later, or we may keep walking. This time of year in a deciduous wood with only brown dried leaves on the ground, even a small item may stand out. Among more urban landscape the litter might just be part of the environs along the roadside or highway entrance. We may scarcely notice it while zipping by in our automobiles. Yet litter as a collection of transactions is quite complex and the pathways that result in the deposited item in places other than the trash bin are many. The composition of the litter too is quite diverse and context specific. Continue reading