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2016 Story of the Year: Industry Associations Launch Nature’s Packaging Education and Marketing Initiative
Pallet Enterprise staff selects the new Nature’s Packaging program as the story of the year for the industry. It is something the wood pallet and packaging sector has needed for a long time. But the key to its success will be how much people in the industry use it.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 1/1/2017
Good News for Wood Pallet and Packaging Sector
Pallet Enterprise staff selects the new Nature? Packaging program as the story of the year for the industry. It is something the wood pallet and packaging sector has needed for a long time.
Seeking to clear the air and present factual information about the environmental record of wood pallets, the Nature’s Packaging initiative launched in March 2016. Receiving significant support across the North American
pallet sector, its focus has been to provide information and tools that can help pallet companies spread the positive message that wood is good for the environment. Due to the importance of public perception about the industry, the launching of Nature’s Packaging has been selected as the Story of the Year by Pallet Enterprise magazine. This recognition points to the importance of industry collaboration to get across the message that wood is indeed good for the environment and the supply chain.
The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), its Canadian counterpart the Canadian Wooden Pallet & Container Association (CWPCA), and the Western Pallet Association (WPA), with help from the Pallet Foundation, spearheaded and funded the effort. The Nature’s Packaging website (www.naturespackaging.org) includes primarily educational materials aimed at pallet users and customers, packaging sourcing departments of Fortune 500 companies, college professors who teach courses related to packaging, and their students. The website has articles, videos and one-page brochures explaining the environmental benefits of wood packaging.
The Need for the New Outreach Initiative
The purpose of the initiative is to proudly proclaim why wood wins, according to NWPCA president and CEO Brent McClendon.
“We are not attacking other groups or products,” he explained via email, “but celebrating the fantastic sustainability message of wood pallets. Should any group attack wood pallets, Nature’s Packaging will provide documented research, delivering scientific facts on the benefits of wood use in containers and pallets.”
The goal of the initiative is to promote the use of wood pallets and packaging and to educate the target audience about their environmental benefits – that wood as a material is a renewable and sustainable resource, a responsible choice and an economical one.
The Nature’s Packaging’ educational materials emphasizes that trees removed from forests to produce lumber and other products are being replenished, and that forests indeed are being renewed and sustained. In addition, the use of wood components for pallets and packaging helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which mitigates global warming, and the wood material used in pallets and packaging is recycled.
Lindsey Shean, sales manager and national accounts manager for Valley Pallet, which operates in California and Arizona, served as chairman of the marketing task force. The intent of the initiative is to send a “positive message” about the environmental benefits of using wood, she said in a brief interview.
The initiative emphasizes in part that “wood is a more sustainable alternative than plastic,” she said, but the campaign is not viewed as a public relations battle with the plastic pallet industry. “I don’t think we necessarily want to fight that battle,” commented Shean. Shean added, “That’s really what this whole program is about, that we’re environmentally sustainable. We’re the greatest champions of the sustainability movement.”
Shean explained the campaign was needed because there is a great deal of misinformation in the public domain that the forest products industry is not friendly to the environment.
Shean said her sales staff has received “a lot more” inquiries and concerns from customers and potential customers in the past 12-18 months, raising questions about whether using wood pallets is bad for the environment. One frequent misconception is that the industry is cutting down so many trees and not managing forests responsibly. “That’s a big one we get all the time.” Another common concern is that many scrap pallets end up as solid waste that must be buried in a landfill. But in reality, less than 1% of pallets end up in landfills, and with the popularity of the upcycling movement, that number is sure to drop.
Unique Resources on the Website
One of the best resources on the Nature’s Packaging website is a new carbon calculator. It provides client data based on real world numbers. The calculator can figure out the CO2 emissions saved per month (in metric tons), based on either the number of pallets reused, recycled or saved from landfills or the weight of the wood in pounds. It also tells the user how CO2 savings equate to taking a certain number of cars off the road. The analysis is based on models/standards provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.
For example, if you enter 800 in the calculator’s “Number of pallets” field indicating that you reuse, recycle or save that many pallets from the landfill each month, when you hit the “Calculate” button, the calculator shows that you save 22.50 metric tons of CO2 emissions per month, which is the equivalent to taking 77 automobiles off the road.
The Wood Waste Calculator can be found at http://naturespackaging.org/tools/carbon-calculators/, or simply go to the Nature’s Packaging website and then click on the “Carbon Calculators” option in the “Tools” drop-down on the main menu at the top of the page.
The educational materials are being developed by a consulting marketing firm. The initiative will cost $180,000 over five years. It is being paid for by contributions from the WPA, the CWPCA, and the Pallet Foundation, with staffing and in-kind support from the NWPCA. About 20 volunteers from the three industry associations served on task forces for the initiative to oversee development of the research, marketing information and website.
Although the materials and resources are well done and are a great first step, the Nature’s Packaging initiative will only be successful if pallet and lumber companies champion the cause. The resources need to be used, forwarded and dispatched far and wide to get out the message. What will truly make this more than just a short-term story? To truly create a movement the action of individual companies is needed. Are you game to be part of the wood pallet revolution?
For more information on Nature’s Packaging initiative, visit www.naturespackaging.org.