Some aspects of sustainable packaging are required by regulators while others are decisions made by each packager. The criteria for ranking and comparing packaging based on sustainability is an active area of development. General guidance, metrics, checklists, and scorecards are being published by several groups, but in general it has become apparent and agreed upon by industry that true sustainable packaging involves the use of life cycle thinking and life cycle assessment (LCA) to help guide the design.
LCA helps packaging designers to evaluate the environmental impacts of their design decisions and clearly depict where and what changes could be made. For some this may bring focus to durability and re-use and for others lightweighting or biodegradeability. EarthShift Global has developed a simplified LCA software, PackageSmart, that speaks the language of Packaging Designers and allows them to easily compare design as well as material decisions during the conception phase when the cost of change is still low.
Unlike any other packaging impact assessment application, PackageSmart combines user friendliness with over 8000 internationally verified datasets. It’s easy to bring robust LCA capabilities to bear on the unique challenges that your team faces — package designers, engineers and managers can quickly get informed perspective on materials choices, manufacturing processes, and design options. And because PackageSmart is cloud-based, the datasets, methods, and the application itself are continually updated, ensuring the most up-to-date capabilities and accurate analyses.
That’s the opinion of longtime user and packaging plant manager Dan Robinette, who had his first experience with PackageSmart while serving as director of sustainability for a full-service producer of flexible film and paper packaging. When Dan began using PackageSmart he told us, "I was not experienced in LCAs, yet I was creating full cradle-to-grave models in the first week." Ease of use is a priority for EarthShift Global, because we don’t just want to sell software. Our personal values and aspirations motivate us to help you and your colleagues develop outstanding packaging with the lowest possible environmental impact. Why? Because in this particular area, self-interest, business interests, and societal interests quickly become indistinguishable.
When EarthShift Global set out to create a packaging LCA application, we had a single goal: make LCA capabilities easily accessible to design professionals, in a format that fits the creative process and speaks the designer’s language.
We wanted to make it easy to analyze packaging options early in the process, when design freedom is high and cost of change is low.
Organizations have benefitted from the use of PackageSmart
The big challenge is simplification without compromising accuracy and depth – and that’s why we’re so proud of PackageSmart’s user interface. Using a convenient Web-based application, a designer can build a Packaging System that includes primary, secondary and tertiary packaging elements, as well as transportation considerations for materials and distribution.
Working with packaging engineers at Colgate-Palmolive and other top-tier enterprises, we customized PackageSmart with terminology and data understandable to packaging engineers. We then collaborated on testing with professors Rafael Auras and Susan Selke at Michigan State University’s outstanding School of Packaging, optimizing PackageSmart based on feedback from them and packaging engineering students.
Built-in parametric modeling allows evaluation of different scenarios and assumptions, and comparison of as-built designs to new iterations, to isolate areas of environmental impact improvement.
For a taste of how this works, take a look at our collection of online tutorials and videos – they’re designed to help designers get up to speed in packaging LCA pronto, and to give advanced users even more analytical options. And for even more perspective, we offer an online professional education course, Sustainability in Package Design, co-developed with Rafael Auras (www.packaging.msu.edu/faculty/dr).
We understand that winning buy-in from co-workers, managers and suppliers — and the trust of your customers — are critical steps in the packaging LCA process. So we built in an integrated reporting engine that simplifies that sharing of results. You can export tables into Excel and save charts or create custom reports with the powerful Report Writer, which allows creation of your own custom templates for consistency across projects. Best of all, you can be confident that your analyses will withstand rigorous scrutiny, because PackageSmart utilizes Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data from over 8,000 processes in the ecoinvent and USLCI databases — internationally accepted sources. You can also import LCI data from your own facilities and suppliers, to get even higher levels of accuracy.