Conference Recap


Jennifer Park - Industrial Design Director
Jennifer Park, Industrial Design Director
March 30, 2018
This month, our Kaleidoscope team had the privilege of attending the Sustainable Packaging Coalition in Chicago, Illinois. A conference of individuals, companies, and brands that are passionate about making a difference in their efforts as it pertains to sustainability in packaging. This year, the conference featured speakers from packing supply chain operations, research and development, leaders of big brands in the industry and individuals who represent programs in cities that help make sustainable packaging a commercial reality. The attendees of this conference do not shy away from their beliefs and are passionate about the subject, and this year was no exception. It was a place to share ideas, be aspirational and set goals for everyone – designers, creatives, researchers, manufacturers, engineers and consumers.

1. The Power of Product Lifecycle

This year, several speakers and brands spoke on looking beyond the primary package and investing more time and effort in the full product life cycle. As we shift the thinking to a holistic and broader perspective of what it means to be sustainable, more opportunities arise that are realistic and can make an impact. While discussing the different aspects of the product life cycle like package optimization, food reduction, carbon reduction, and post-consumer recovery, Susan Robinson reminded to us to “Prioritize the efforts on where we can make the biggest impact.”

SustPack 2018

2. The Food Revolution 

In a world of packaged foods, brands often invest their sustainability efforts only through graphics and/or materials of the package. However, what is more powerful is offering consumers food that is also healthy and sourced in the most environmentally friendly way. When you have brands that are transparent and invest more time in the actual food through efficient supply chains, organic crops, and naturally sourced ingredients, you’re telling a bigger story that consumers care about and naturally bridge the gap from “me” and “environment.”

SustPack 2018

3. Compostable Materials

One the biggest trends we see in sustainable packaging for 2018 is bio-based/compostable material. From entrepreneurial to Fortune 500 brands, there are many efforts in offering consumers a simplier way to be environmentally friendly. PepsiCo partnered with Danimer Scientific in 2017 to develop a PHA, a food safe biodegradable film. This film has properties that are not noticeably different to the original package and has the same sound, texture and protection, and by 10-24 weeks after use, it is completely biodegraded. Their plans are to continue their efforts with the PHA film and by 2025 have it rolled out into their brands and into consumers’ hands.

4. It Starts With You – Waste Management

“Our limits are not the technology, but the consumer behavior.” One of the biggest barriers in sustainability in the US is the lack of education that consumers have and the efforts to regulate it. It is evident that there are several states that are making tremendous movements and changes within their communities to establish programs such as Seattle, Washington and Colorado, but the problem still relies on the fact that success is also dependent on the behavior of the consumer. No matter the efforts that go into progressing technology, utilizing recycled material, simplifying packaging for easier recyclability, and investing in recycling facilities, if consumers are still throwing away their packages in the garbage (and thus in a landfill), we are still losing half the battle. The question comes down to how can we make recycling matter in the hearts of consumers?


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