Sustainable Packaging
Apr25

Sustainable Packaging

It may harken to a more Victorian past, but I can't help thinking of Mondays as laundry days. Modern-day laundry-doers - whether they do the chore on Monday or not - have at least two opportunities to decide how sustainably they want to clean their clothes. First is the choice of laundry detergent - there are options including super-duper-concentrated, made with bio-based/renewable materials, free of dyes or fragrance, and cold water compatable. It's important to realize, however, that the real sustainability choice comes later when and if consumers flip the wash dial to cold water. But back to the suds. Seventh Generation has upped the ante in sustainable detergent with a new packaging scheme. Along with all of the above features, this detergent has a jug where the rigidity comes from a formed cardboard-like "fiber bottle" which can be recycled with paper or composted. The liquid is inside a #4 recyclable plastic pouch. The lid? Like most plastic bottle lids, in many areas it is just trash. The package claims to be made with 66% less plastic than a comparable product, however, the comparison is to a 100 oz bottle and not the 50 oz super concentrated Seventh Generation size.  According to Gwynne Rogers of the Natural Marketing Institute (a market research firm) sustainable packaging does win over consumers. In a recent article, she points out that "more than three-quarters [of consumers] think products are over-packaged, and for some, that changes behavior. More than one-quarter says that when they see something over-packaged, they look for something else to buy. ...In the U.S., the importance of recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable packaging has risen significantly (5-9% annually) since 2007." Another important signal that packaging sends is when it carries labels promoting the sustainability of the contents. For Earth Day, Cereplast, a maker of bio-based plastics, unveiled a design for a symbol that denotes products made from bio-based materials. Laura Howard, a design student from the University of Louisville in Kentucky, won the firm's design contest (and $25,000) with her winning entry. Keep an eye out for this symbol when you shop - products that carry it also likely contain some interesting...

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Profile: Molecular Jewelry Design
Jul02

Profile: Molecular Jewelry Design

Our profile subject this time around is perhaps a bit unusual, even for the alternative career crowd. She’s designer and artist Raven Hanna, owner of Made With Molecules, an online shop that sells chemically decorated jewelry and clothing. Now, for those of you getting your knickers all kinds of Gordian knotted because you think jewelry design isn’t a viable career path, hang on a minute. It's true that being a molecular jewelry designer isn't something you can just plug yourself into and go. Regardless, I’m using Hanna as an example of someone who got a PhD in biochemistry, decided the lab wasn’t for her, then thought creatively about what she wanted to do instead. Then she did it. She carved out a niche for herself. Now people pay her to do something she really loves. And if that’s not a good example of a success story, then feel free to feed me a spatula full of trimethyltin chloride, okay? Okay. Moving on. Hanna says she thinks of herself more of a creative science educator, but “my main gig is making jewelry based on the shape of favorite molecules, like neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine) and from favorite foods (caffeine, theobromine, capsaicin).” For anyone who’s ever stared at a Chem Draw of a molecule and thought “pretty!”, this is quite easy to understand. There is a delicate beauty to molecular structures. Hanna really brings it out by casting them in sterling silver. Just look at this endorphin necklace! WANT. Both her etsy shop and Made With Molecules site are complete nerdgasms. Hanna got her PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale in 2000, then went on to postdoc for Carlos Bustamante and Nacho Tinoco at UC Berkeley. In 2005, she got a certificate in science writing at UC Santa Cruz. And while she does do some writing and other projects (she’s currently working on developing a Science Tarot deck), Hanna decided that her main goal was to communicate science through art. “I wanted to find ways to share what I find so captivating about science and so awe-inspiring about nature with adults who don’t necessarily know how cool science is,” she said. But figuring out what she wanted to do was only half of it, Hanna said. (See? G.I. Joe was right.) “While I knew this is where I wanted to be, I had no idea how to get there. I needed to take a big breath and do some trail-blazing. Honestly, leaving behind the standard paths of academia and industry was a bit daunting.” Even though it was hard to leave, she didn’t feel like these typical paths for a...

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