In March of 2020, “Frontline” released a documentary called, “Plastic Wars.” The video begins with heartbreak — scientists find a sea turtle in duress, a plastic straw stuck up its nose. You see them remove it with a pair of plyers as the turtle bleeds and gasps in pain. No wonder the original video went viral with over 30 million views.
Such scenes set off an outrage against plastic. The documentary is replete with images depicting whole islands and rivers of plastic refuse inhabiting waterways. The rhetoric around this material heated up to a fever pitch.
Then came Covid.
Suddenly, stories about the need for sanitation and medical protective gear outpaced the previous media storm on the environment. Plastic shields went up everywhere, face guards became essential, particularly for first responders, and retailers struggled to meet the demand for plastic containers of hand sanitizer. Supply chains were overwhelmed. Plastic, once the enemy, became the hero. You started to see stories about useful, innovative solutions that came from plastic.
When a narrative takes a 180-degree turn from negative to positive, what’s called for is not to blindly follow either trend, but to adopt a more realistic point of view — one that includes both sides of the equation. That is the beauty of what Tom Newmaster brings to the table. Tom is the founder and a partner at FORCE Packaging (FORCEpkg), a cutting-edge brand and packaging design firm.
Known by his alter ego, “Mr. Reality Check,” Tom has written extensively on the subject of sustainability over the past fraught 18 months. Here are a few of his greatest hits.Advertisement
COVID-19 put an incredible strain on supply chains, turning our assumptions about products and packaging upside down. Newmaster charts this disruption and draws important lessons from it for the packaging industry. In some cases, this pressure led to great creativity. More here.
Imagine shrimp shells turned into an eco-friendly plastic alternative. Or, swapping out plastic packaging with fungus. There are innovators using AI to solve complex sorting problems and deep learning that can isolate high-level features from raw input — minimizing the impact of waste on the environment. But, as Newmaster looks deeper, research shows that human nature is not so easy to change. In other words, the spirit is willing but the flesh is often weak. More here.
Every big name from Amazon to Apple to Target are pledging allegiance to lowering their carbon footprints. And it’s no wonder: Sustainable practices have dramatic drawing power to younger consumers. In such a crowded field, how do brands create sustainable messaging that stands out from the pack? Newmaster offers 4 key insights to help navigate this brave new world, More here.Advertisement
Tom reviews some of the innovations that have arisen over 18 difficult months and how to apply lessons learned going forward. He offers four valuable action steps such as prototyping, short-run printing and market testing new concepts before committing large dollars to a roll-out. He also takes a peek at “Made-in-the USA” as a trend, as always, separating the real from the hype. More here.
Branding with Ferocity – Thinking Like an Indie Brand
Get a better understanding on how to leverage new technologies to engage and delight shoppers, sustainability’s role in product and package design – being sustainable and premium are not mutually exclusive, plus best practices and tips for collaboration and how to launch new products and refresh existing product line-ups and brands.
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