A short disclaimer. We won’t delve into the most realistic global-scale sustainable practices here, so forget recycling (momentarily).
Here we explore the ways in which the dreamers dream, the innovators innovate and the creators create. We discuss how humans push the boundaries by combining natural materials with modern technology to change the world of sustainability.
An explorer is a daring adventurer, one who embraces challenges and the unknown. They are driven by an unyielding curiosity and insatiable desire to seek each hidden mystery and treasure on Earth.
It isn’t personal ambition that drives explorers, it’s the insistent urge to simply find out, and it is through the documentation of their journeys that we have found some truly unique ways in which we can help the planet.
All that is waiting to be discovered is not always pleasant or beautiful, it can sometimes be a little unfamiliar or downright strange. Luckily for us, we have just the people who revel in that kind of thing.
Mycelium is the creeping fungi root system of mushrooms most are now aware of after watching The Last of Us, and the way this packaging is created is exceptionally interesting.
The material is grown around the product.
Parent company Evocative have created Mushroom® Packaging, a biodegradable mycelium form grown to fit around a 3D model, securing it perfectly in place. Designed as an alternative to styrofoam and other plastic inserts, it is highly protective, lightweight, and energy-efficient, growing in just 7 days.
When blended with paper, seaweed creates highly durable and distinctive packaging. Seaweed is one of the world’s most renewable and sustainable materials, not requiring land space or fresh water, and growing up to 1m per day. Notpla has tapped into this natural resource and created a plastic-free packaging alternative.
Single-use plastic is a leading cause of the world’s plastic pollution and has contributed to approximately 130 million tonnes of waste distributed worldwide. However, more than 50 species of tiny organisms have been found to have a taste for plastic, life forms that range from insects to bacteria.
The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research has discovered a bacteria which eats and digests plastic, and waxworm moth larvae find it equally irresistible - these creatures carry an enzyme capable of dissolving carrier bags. While it takes around 60 worms a week to eat through a small portion of a plastic bag, through studies scientists may be able to design the ‘perfect plastic biodegradation system’.
An innovator is a visionary who challenges the norm and revolutionises the way we live. They are problem solvers who identify unmet needs, address global issues and see risk and failure merely as another step towards success. Unconfined to a specific field, innovators can be found within technology, business, the arts or medicine. They inspire us and encourage us to think creatively and they are the catalyst for change.
Paptic® is pure sustainable innovation. This material is technically classified as paper, it’s made from renewable wood fibres, yet it does not feel like any paper you’ve experienced before. To touch it is to feel something closer to a fabric. This material is FSC-certified and promotes renewability, resource efficiency, and the application of innovative technology to create an environmentally conscious resulting product.
This is a protective packing and shipping material which dissolves under a running tap. Green Cell Foam is made from cornstarch as an eco-alternative to polystyrene. It is bio-based, compostable and can burn cleanly without fumes - but the most intriguing disposal method is to dip it in water and watch it disappear.
Innovation isn’t just about creating something new, it is also thinking differently about what already exists.
Woola is the natural alternative to bubble wrap crafted from leftover sheep wool. It is a naturally high-tec fibre, elastic, water-repellent and exceptionally soft, making it ideal for use as a cushioning packing material. Once used, it can be repurposed or returned back to the company.
Artificial intelligence is already revolutionising packaging development. It is streamlining manufacturing processes to reduce energy consumption, and optimising packaging design to maximise the minimum amount of material used.
AI is also able to analyse vast amounts of data to identify eco-friendly materials and enhance recyclability. These algorithms can drive innovation in reducing the environmental impact of our packaging for a more sustainable future, and they are already a reality in the packaging world.
Artists have a keen eye for aesthetics. These are the professionals who combine imagination with skill, talent and technical expertise, and they have a deep understanding of visual elements, composition and colour. They interpret and communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings to create something emotive that will resonate with their audience. These are the artists who have a particular passion for sustainability and communicate it through their designs.
More often used as a finish in luxury packaging such as watch cases and jewellery boxes, leather represents quality and style. Mushrooms and grapes are given a new lease of life in clothing, shoes and handbags reincarnated as ‘vegan leather’. Mycelium makes another appearance here as Mylo, a leather alternative recreating the luxury feel of leather. It is grown within two weeks at a renewable power-sourced farm. Vegea is a vegan textile crafted from leftover grapes used in wine production, utilising discarded materials to create a versatile, plant-based textile.
Bananatex® is a material crafted from banana plants coated with beeswax to enhance durability, meaning the end product is fully biodegradable.
Keeping in theme with the tropical feel, Ananas Anam is the creator of Piñatex® and Piñayarn®, natural textiles made from waste pineapple leaves. Manufacturing methods adopted here contribute towards a circular economy by repurposing agricultural waste.
Let’s skip back to the beginning where we discuss how perhaps these aren’t the most feasible sustainable solutions. What’s a potential obstacle that might prevent these ideas from becoming a mainstream reality? Durability?
Take a look at plastic, humans’ immortally durable disease flapping about in our trees, getting cosy in our seas and bobbing along in our bloodstream. Perhaps something less durable might be the right way to go. So if durability isn’t the problem, what’s really the issue here?
Of course, accessibility has a role to play, production capability and scalability - but that just comes right back around to funding. Consider the Notre Dame.
In 2019 a fire broke out threatening to destroy one of the world’s most iconic structures. Within no time, money poured in from generous contributors, alarmed at the cathedral’s potential demise and eager to see the historical landmark restored to its resplendent glory. Consequently, almost $1 billion was raised.
The Notre Dame is an exquisite example of skilled architecture whose construction began in the 11th century. Its enduring presence symbolises the spirit of the French capital, of course it deserves preservation. It has been, and it is set to reopen in 2024. Action can be taken, and the funding is available. What could possibly be more important than the protection and preservation of our home?
We’ve come full circle. Humans have been using banana leaves, hemp and other renewable materials as packaging for centuries, and we’ve sailed right back around to again celebrate these natural resources. As mentioned there’s more at play here due to the locations of these materials, the processing capability, and other such barriers - but here, that’s not the point.
We want to think of the absurd, the temporary, the ‘we can’t do it’. For example, AI has allowed paralysed people to walk just by thinking about it, and this is by the design of our human hand. Consider how far we’ve come already. The Victorians would have laughed in our faces and reached for another jar of leeches, but this beautifully insane technology is happening right now and we have the resources to do so much more.
The individuals we speak of above have one thing in common, the humility to accept that this is not a solo effort. Collaboration and adaptability are all trademarks of designers, explorers and innovators. They assemble teams from various fields. They draw insight and expertise from skilled professionals, creative talent and knowledgeable local communities, all contributing individual strengths to drive their discoveries into the mainstream and their ideas into reality.
There are 8 billion people in the world right now. Imagine the impact if even 10% of that number collectively began to adjust their lifestyle to be more sustainable.
Collaboration is key to everything we do here at FINEPACK. Internally and externally we ensure to keep communication clear, open and honest. Through that, we can source the best and most sustainably innovative products to suit our client's needs.