Designing Sustainably to Create Responsibly
Thoughtful, clever, and sustainable solutions for responsibly made, green print and packaging design.
For The Avett Brother's last studio album, Closer Than Together, Cast Iron Design, a studio focused on sustainability, worked closely with the folk-rock icons on an ambitious (and responsible) design for their new LP jacket.
The jacket was created with Mohawk Loop Antique Vellum, a paper that is made with 100% PCW (post-consumer waste) recycled fibers, processed chlorine-free (PCF), manufactured carbon neutral (RECs certified by Green-e ®) in the USA, and FSC ® Certified (Forest Stewardship Council ™).
Specifying 100% recycled paper is one of the easiest ways to save water, energy, and cut CO₂ emissions. But, what other paths can you follow to find a more sustainable approach to print and packaging design beyond reduce, reuse, recycle?
The following tips to create more responsibly in support of our planet's health come from our friends at A Better Source's Creating Responsibly: A Practical Guide.
Create with Less
For Closer Than Together's album print production, Cast Iron Design specified a six-panel, tri-fold jacket design that utilizes a custom diecut, which is a great sustainable production technique that requires no ink or chemicals and only a small amount of energy.
Another example of creating with less is Dropps. The household detergent brand created a simple and smart mailer by merging its shipping box and product packaging together. Rather than shipping a box within a box, Dropps pods are packed inside two twin cardboard boxes designed to fold into one another. Once folded, the singular box is sealed together with a simple shipping label. Not only does this design require less material, but its compact nature is more economical for shipping and leaves customers with less waste to deal with.
Create to Nourish
This intention captures what's wonderful about compostable material. When designed to break down in the right conditions, compostable products or packaging can, in time, become nutrient-rich matter that improves and fertilizes soil.
Seed, the probiotic supplement company, understands the magic of bacteria. Partnering with Ecovative Design (located just down the road from Mohawk in Upstate NY), Seed's packaging is made with mushrooms and is 100% compostable. With the ability to break down in just 30 days, what was simply packaging will not only return to earth, but enrich it.
Ecovative Design was recently featured in Vogue in an article titled, How Mushrooms Could Help Solve the Beauty Industry's Waste Problem. Ecovative grows mycelium beauty and skin-care products, and partners with beauty, fashion, art, and technology brands to customize sustainable packaging.
Hudson Hemp (another Upstate NY neighbor) a farm and CBD company, learned about Ecovative through Seed, and decided to integrate mycelium packaging into their CBD line, Treaty. Maria Geyman rightfully cites in the Vogue article that, "this ethos of open-source sharing when it comes to sustainability is one that is inevitably moving the industry forward."
Hudson Hemp grows hemp as part of a dynamic crop rotation alongside grains that supply flour to local bakeries, livestock feed for dairy farms, and rye and hops for brewers and distillers. Part of their mission is to develop soil that relies on nutrients that come from the farm itself, and since mycelium goes hand in hand with soil health, mushrooms just made sense. Since its launch, all Treaty products have been shipped in custom-made Ecovative products.
Create for Reuse
It's a trip to see Haagen-Dazs and other household brands displayed in durable packaging. Thanks to Loop (not to be confused with Mohawk Loop), major brands like Nestlé and Unilever are re-imagining their product packaging to be reused rather than tossed.
Described as a modern "reboot of the milkman," Loop delivers everyday products to your door in durable, reusable packaging. Once you're done with the products, they'll be picked up, washed, refilled, and shipped to another customer. While this system does require a lot of shipping, it is encouraging to see large corporations expressing interest in more sustainable solutions.
Smaller companies are adopting reusable packaging too. By Humankind, sells reusable dispensers with their deodorant. When your deodorant runs out, you can hang onto the dispenser and just buy the refill.
Create to Last
Patagonia is the gold standard when it comes to environmental ethics. The company recognizes the importance of creating high-quality, made-to-last goods. But when you're out adventuring, gear can tear, break, and become damaged. Knowing many are in the habit of simply throwing things out, Patagonia encourages customers to send back goods for repair through their Worn Wear service.
By extending the life of their gear, Patagonia helps cut down on carbon, water, and waste related to manufacturing brand-new products. "Drop it in the mail, not in the landfill," they say.
Create with Waste
We're learning just how many recycling programs worldwide are flawed. But that doesn't mean there isn't value in recycling as a whole. It prevents us from drawing upon the planet's virgin resources, which is especially important when those resources are nonrenewable.
We understand the importance of this. Our Mohawk Loop line of papers features a dozen beautiful, colored papers, all made with between 50-100% post-consumer recycled fiber. By doing so, we turn "waste" back into a valuable product and reduce our reliance on virgin paper pulp from forests. Yes, trees are renewable, but there are undoubtedly benefits to taking pressure off of these important, slow-growing plants by recycling.
Beyond recycling, there's a wealth of natural plant and textile materials that are typically considered waste — but are a great source for making paper. Mohawk Renewal, our newest portfolio of papers are made with hemp, straw, and recycled cotton fiber, represents a fresh expression of what responsible papermaking with can look like.
Mohawk Renewal was born out of a desire to redefine the contours of how we source fiber and expand the existing definition of sustainable papermaking. Hemp grows rapidly, maturing in as quickly as 90 days. Turning hemp into pulp requires less chemicals, water, and energy than wood. Making paper with straw eliminates the need for "fall burns" set by farmers to clear straw from their wheat fields, creating acrid smoke and carbon emissions. Recycled Cotton paper is made from t-shirt and denim scraps diverted from millions of tons of textile waste sent to landfills every year.
By using annual crops which regenerate in a year or less, and by using scraps that would've otherwise been disposed of, Mohawk Renewal helps reduce waste and pollution while creating something beautiful.