How ZeroPackaging reduced the carbon footprint of Vodafone’s packaging by 48%

Almost everything we buy is packed or wrapped in some kind of packaging. The amount of necessary plastics, paper, glues, paint, etc. is significant. But how can packaging design make a difference? Packaging solutions provider ZeroPackaging has the answer: by using environmental data to guide your design. This is how they do it.
ZeroPackaging_Mobius

From design to delivery

ZeroPackaging – an initiative by Paxpring, designs and delivers complete, eco-friendly packaging solutions. With a wide variety of customers like Samsung, Fairphone, Vodafone, etc – they offer tailored sustainable packaging in e-commerce, fashion, and consumer electronics.

ZeroPackaging shows the market that amazing quality & low environmental impact – go hand in hand. 

But they don’t ‘just’ want to make these environmental claims. They design sustainable solutions completely driven by environmental data. 

This is how. 

ZeroPackaging_Design Studio
Image 1. ZeroPackaging is an initiative by Paxpring – founded in 2017.

Testing environmentally sustainable designs

ZeroPackaging has great knowledge of the effects of different materials and changing processes on designs. But to make real environmentally friendly decisions – you need a credible impact methodology and solid environmental data as groundwork for your design.

They want to be able to put the environmental impact of all their possible designs to the test. 

Plastic-free solutions aren’t enough.

ZeroPackaging notices the industry mainly seeks plastic-free solutions. But with multiple environmental crises lurking around every corner, offering plastic-free solutions alone isn’t enough for them.  

ZeroPackaging wants to answer the balance between industry demand and sticking to true climate impact reduction. Giving customers transparency on the full environmental picture of their design. And enable optimal sustainable decision-making for all parties involved. 

The best way to do so? Measure the full environmental footprint of their tailored designs – using the scientific footprint method Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). 

“We believe that making true sustainability visible – contrary to just the marketing side of sustainability – is needed for the future. Resulting in new business opportunities too.” 

  • Thomas van Hemert, Designer at ZeroPackaging
Image 2. How Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) works.

Methodology: What & How

What’s a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

A Life Cycle Assessment measures the environmental impact of all the life phases of a product (from raw materials to manufacturing/production, to transport, to customer use, to the end-of-life). Revealing 15+ environmental impact outcomes: your product’s footprint results. 

Environmental data is crucial to make sustainable design decisions. As it shows you where your product’s biggest impact ‘hotspots’ lie. It’s the foundation for the design approach and equally named European Directive Ecodesign’.  Ecodesign means using LCA results in design to effectively reduce a product’s environmental impact throughout every phase of its lifecycle.  

Why Ecochain?

ZeroPackaging has sustainability integrated into its DNA. But, to fully embrace data-driven sustainable design, LCA needs to be accessible at all times. They need LCA software that’s user-friendly, credible, and easy to integrate into their design processes. 

ZeroPackaging chose Ecochain’s product footprint tool Mobius to fulfill two main goals:

  1. Integrate impact measurement into their designing process (Ecodesign): To continuously challenge and test claims, and learn about the footprint of new processes & materials. Mobius’ key features ‘scenarios’ and ‘comparison’ allow for optimal testing of design choices and comparing different designs. 
  2. Enabling customers to make sustainable decisions: Communicate tangible environmental data on their design proposals to customers. Enabling them to make sustainable decisions. Mobius’ intuitive interface and visualization make it easy to interpret and use LCA results for stakeholder communication.

What does this look like in practice?

Ecochain Mobius_ Easy LCA & Ecodesign software
Ecochain’s easy product footprint tool Mobius.

 

 

“The main functionalities of Mobius combined with how easily the tool can be tailored for packaging, makes working with Ecochain a great partnership.” 

  • Thomas van Hemert, Designer at ZeroPackaging

Vodafone’s new packaging design: Less is more

ZeroPackaging’s customer Vodafone wanted their signature package, in which they ship their products (e.g. mobile phones), to be more sustainable.

  • Vodafone’s wish: a low-impact package that still communicates its brand perfectly. In this case, ZeroPackaging was asked to focus on the LCA impact outcome ‘Carbon footprint’, expressed in kg CO2 – eq.
  • The end result: A smaller, plastic-free packaging with a 48% CO2 reduction compared to the original – that doesn’t limit Vodafone in shipping the same products. 

ZeroPackaging improved Vodafone’s packaging design through 3 phases:

Step 1: Analysis + proposal

Vodafone’s initial packaging is critically analyzed. The packaging only uses a few materials: 

  1. Cardboard – the main material used.
  2. Plastic void fill – inside the box to keep the product from moving.
  3. Ink – for the package’s visuals (red color + branding). 

ZeroPackaging’s design proposal: the carbon footprint of Vodafone’s packaging could best be reduced by:

  • Reducing the overall package size; 
  • Reducing unnecessary materials;
  • Analyzing the impact of the printing technique and looking for alternatives.

Let’s put it to the test in Mobius.

Image 3. Vodafone’s initial packaging. Source: ZeroPackaging

Step 2: Reduce size + remove the plastic

  1. Reduce cardboard: ZeroPackaging almost halved the height of the package from 80 mm to 45 mm. This reduces both the volume and the weight of the product significantly – whilst equally reducing the cardboard’s carbon impact. 
  2. Replace plastic: ZeroPackaging replaced the plastic void fill with a thin cardboard piece. Removing the harmful impact of plastic and resulting in fewer different materials used in the packaging. Using fewer different materials also makes it easier for the package to be recycled. 

Step 3: Reduce & switch to sustainable print work

After measuring both the old and new designs in Mobius, ZeroPackaging found the printing technique (paper thickness + ink) to be a relatively big impact hotspot too. So they use:

  1. Sustainable printing technique: The new packaging in combination with Vodafone’s new artwork – allowed for a new printing technique. This technique requires less thick paper and smaller amounts of ink. As a result, both paper- and ink use were drastically reduced, just as their carbon footprint. 
  2. Sustainable ink: They tested different sustainable ink types in Mobius and decided on the best option.
Image 4. The carbon footprint of Vodafone’s new packaging is reduced by 48% compared to the original.

‘Kaizen’

“Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning ‘change for the better’ or ‘continuous improvement’. It is a business philosophy that concerns the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Sustainability to us truly is a key aspect of Kaizen”

  • Thomas van Hemert, Designer at ZeroPackaging

With Ecochain Mobius, ZeroPackaging now:

  1. Always offers the carbon footprint (or any of the 15+ LCA impact outcomes) of their designs to customers. Enabling sustainable decision-making. 
  2. Continuously improves their own work and increases their knowledge on eco-friendly design choices.

We can’t wait to see what else they have in store. 

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Published

November 29, 2022

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Author

Zazala Quist

Zazala Quist

Hi, I'm Zazala - content writer and manager at Ecochain. I studied corporate communications & sustainable change management - and am glad to continue my passion for sustainability at Ecochain. My goal: make difficult sustainability concepts - understandable to all.

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Zazala Quist

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