Alterra Pure is committed to sustainable packaging in all that we produce. Many ask us why we use the packaging we do for our organic percale sheets. In keeping with a no-secrets / complete transparency policy, here is our approach to eco-friendly packaging.
In designing our packaging, our priorities focused on a few factors:
- ingredients that are up-cycled with no new processing
- biodegradable packaging that is eco-friendly and sustainable
- packaging that can be re-used or re-purposed by the customer
With these imperatives informing our design, we created sustainable packaging with a minimalist design and lowest environmental impact. As in Alterra Pure products, ingredients are key in the recipe.
Our quest for this packaging took us to artisans in Jaipur, India who specialize in hand-made packaging from discarded materials including scrap paper and scrap cotton.
Right away, we dedicated ourselves to this direction: hand-made packaging using scrap materials in the most sustainable processes possible.
Alterra Pure logo creation - Joya Rose @joyarose
Biodegradable Packaging and Compostability
Alterra Pure's packaging is built with hand-made papers created through a simple process of water combined with recycled paper and scrap cotton.
The package will begin to dissolve in water and degrade to original ingredients of wood pulp and cotton cellulose. While our materials are most certainly biodegradable, we plan to further certify the packaging under biodegradability testing protocols.
From the ingredients and simple water processes, we are confident our packaging will pass biodegradability test protocol OECD 301B. Upon biodegradability certification, we'll pursue certification for industrial compostability under ISO18606.
Most paper is compostable via industrial composting, according to the Sierra Club. If you want to place in the green, industrial compost bin, be sure to remove the stickers from the box - this includes the bronze color box tape and the UPC sticker.
The adhesives aren't necessarily a problem, but the paper used for these components is not as controlled as the packaging and might not be compostable.
We do not recommend home composting as paper contains higher levels of carbon and if you're seeking to use in the garden, too much paper can impact the carbon to nitrogen ratio, according to the Sierra Club.
Scrap cotton being shred in preparation for pulping.
photo: D'Source India
The Trade Off - Challenges of Hand Made Packaging
As many who create products learn, up-cycled and recycled materials are a melange of ingredients with inconsistent strength and resilience.
Using up-cycled materials meets our goals of being sustainable and biodegradable, however, the inconsistency of up-cycled material strength and resilience requires denser packaging, which means denser packaging of higher weight.
Building a lighter package would require virgin materials (recycled or otherwise). So our trade-off was to use up-cycled and scrap ingredients in a hand-made process, but at a higher weight.
Hand-made paper is processed differently than conventional paper, particularly in pulp creation. Instead of using caustic chemicals, the pulp for our papers is made with simple water. Herein lies another trade-off. Without the caustic chemistry of conventional paper, hand-made paper carries the odor of the raw ingredients of wood and cotton pulp.
You'll recognize a harmless odor when you open your package. The odor is a hallmark of a hand made paper and validation of the hand-made nature of our packaging.
We could get into the science of hand-made paper odor, or we could explain how water unlocks the Guaiacol in the cellulose which releases these odors, or how the pulping process breaks down the cellulose and lignins creating an odor similar to an old book . . . but we don't want to geek-out too much.. (Guaiacol and other cellulose components responsible for odor are innocuous, and sometimes used as flavorings in everything from whiskey to vanillin).
We take pride in the beauty and sustainability of the eco-friendly packaging we use for all of our products, but there are trade-offs to consider.
Finally, we faced the difference in packaging weight between the up-cycled/recycled approach and newly-processed, recycled or virgin materials. Our packaging does weigh more than if we used newly processed materials. Again, this is owing to lower strength and resiliency in up-cycled materials, hand-made, using a simple water based process. In shipping a set of sheets, size queen for example, the total weight is approximately 7.2lbs (3.25kg). In reviewing alternatives, we estimate that newly processed material could reduce the weight by 8-10%. However, in examining the carbon footprint, we believe that we are about equal in higher weight for shipping versus the increased carbon footprint for using newly processed materials.
So, our packaging decision opts for hand-made, artisan materials that nearly eliminated a carbon footprint. While a lighter weight, newly processed material would have an advantage in carbon footprint for shipping, conventional paper and packaging production is very carbon intensive. The greenhouse gas and carbon footprint of newly produced packaging, whether virgin or recycled materials is far more than the difference in shipping a higher weight package, even when assuming we could cut the weight in half.
But this is not the end of the story. Like most things, sustainability is a journey. We will keep challenging ourselves to find new and better solutions. We will continue to explore options to reduce package weight while using an environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging approach. Alterra Pure will continue to find ways to create the most sustainable packaging for our organic cotton bedding.
Finally, we come to the third imperative in our sustainable design. Our packaging was built in a size that; coincidently, fits magazines and catalogs perfectly. Ok, it's not a coincidence, it's part of the design. But publications are only the beginning. We've seen so many different uses for our packaging, we share some of those here.