Monday, October 15, 2007

A better life — right now

I found out that today is Blog Action Day while reading through my feeds this morning — I've clearly been sleeping. So my small contribution for today is to try to amplify a simple and important message.

For a while I had been struggling with the whole message of global warming and climate change. The main reason was that the story was weak (in my opinion at least). Now what I mean by weak is that it was not changing enough lives — not creating enough action. I think Seth Godin managed to express the problem best.

The next step was figuring out the solution, which proved to be difficult. Thankfully I came across what I consider to be the best environmental blog I know of, No Impact Man, and in particular, this post.

"My point is that a big boost to the environmental cause might come with spending a little less time making people scared of a worse life and a little more time inspiring them towards a better one"
Let us each start working towards a better life right now. We need to realise that the impact of our lifestyle is an event which is taking place now. We have real and immediate problems that need to be addressed, from children suffering from asthma due to exhaust fumes, to the depletion of fish stocks off the West coast of South Africa.

Take action to make a better world for yourself — right now.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's fill packaging, just better

Geami packaging paper
I recently received some samples from Texas Instruments and was pleasantly surprised — actually blown away — by their fill packaging. Blown away by fill packaging? Let me explain...

Most of the fill packaging I have seen before normally involved polystyrene "chips" — basically plastic. What happens to those polystyrene chips normally? Well, expanded polystyrene is considered uneconomical to recycle[1] (in South Africa at least[2]) and ends up in landfills (or strewn around the countryside, waterways, etc.)

So I take out my samples and they are wrapped in paper — not just any paper, but a special expanded paper. Lucky for me, the manufacturer was smart enough to put their website onto the packaging: www.geami.com.

TI samples in Geami packagin paperGo check it out. It is paper with little slits cut into it. The slits cause the paper to expand when removed from the roll. This is a really great way to avoid bubble wrap, polystyrene chips, and other plastic packaging. They have some videos and cost comparisons that are worth checking out. If TI is using them for the free samples they ship all over the world (and most likely everything that they ship), then that alone must imply that this packaging is a good and viable option.

Other than the direct advantages of the Geami packaging, it can also be transported in its unexpanded form, which reduces the toll that transportation has on the environment.

The beauty of this product is that it is a simple and elegant packaging solution that is easily recyclable and improves not just the environmental friendliness of the packaging, but ALSO reduces the cost. A great example of engineering simplicity.



There are some other alternatives to polystyrene which are similar, but made from biodegradable compounds. It is hard to compare these with polystyrene because I do not know enough about them, but there are a couple of questions that come to mind (if anyone can answer these for me, please do):
  • How do these products compare on cost?
  • What is the impact of bioplastics on food prices? (I believe this is a big issue with biofuels and bioplastics)
  • How recyclable are they? (recycling is generally better than allowing them to degrade in landfills)
To me there is just no way that these bioplastics can compete with the Geami packaging in terms of environmental friendliness.



[1]From The Plastics Federation of South Africa (scroll to the part about "The Plastics Recyling Sequence" and find polystyrene),
"The polystyrene mostly seen is the white, very light, friable, expanded or foamed polystyrene (PS-E). Although this material is recyclable it has such a large volume to mass ratio that it is completely uneconomical to transport and recycle at present."
Also see polystyrene recycling on Isolite's website.

[2]Notice how expanded polystyrene products are absent from the list of recyclables for Cape Town, and on the non–recyclable side for Johannesburg.

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