With scientists the world stressing the need for society to become more sustainable, the environmentally-safe marketing has exploded. “Green” and “biodegradable” have become commonplace labels on many consumer items, making it difficult for these items to stand out in supermarket aisles. Consequently, companies have become hard-pressed to find better, more sustainable ways to create their products – a great example of how competition drives innovation.
O’right, a brand distributed in North America by Organic Salon Systems, has designed just such an innovation for their salon-quality shampoo. O’right has created a “Tree in a Bottle” type of eco-packaging by combining biodegradable plastics with traditional composting methods; by placing small, pre-packaged seeds within a nutrient-rich bottle, consumers are able to ‘plant’ their empty bottle and watch as a tree grows in its place. Acting as the seed’s personal compost system, it takes the bottle 8 months to degrade enough to ‘release’ the seeds from their container at the bottom of the bottle. It takes another 4 months before the seed truly begins to take root. Since the seed container can be fitted with any type of plant seed, the consumer can choose a tree that is appropriate to plant.
Individually, the technology isn’t really something new – biodegradable plastics have been in the market for years. However, the addition of pre-given seeds changes the whole outlook of the eco-packaging industry. It isn’t simply an environmentally safe bottle, one which you could either throw into your recycling or your garden depending on your mood. It is a bottle that is meant to be planted, to be brought back into the earth rather than be recycled; it imparts an active responsibility to the consumer that isn’t present in other biodegradable consumer items.
With so many consumer products being labelled eco-friendly these days, eco-activism is being boiled down to buying the greenest products and buying the most sustainable alternative. While that’s certainly more responsible than buying regular consumer items, it isn’t enough to steer us on the right track – it’s only enough to prolong the crash. If we really want to get better from here, it will only be through active participation.