Dennis Salazar's Big Impact on Green Packaging

Finally, he was open and transparent about what he knew, and what he didn’t, and reached out to others for help, joining groups like Green America, which publishes a National Green Pages. More companies could adopt this approach — ask you customers, your suppliers, your employees for help in solving problems. He formed a Green Packaging Group with competitors to hash out issues, publicly.

This is not only smart business but fulfilling, Dennis says. “One of the things about the green world is that you meet a lot of nice people,” he said.

There’s a fair amount of complexity to the packaging business, but some of the ways to make “green” packaging are very simple. “We sell boxes that fit,” Dennis says. How many times have you received a small item in a big package? “It’s criminal, it really is,” he says. I’ve always wondered, for example, why tubes of toothpaste come in cardboard boxes — for shipping or stacking on shelves?

Like me, Dennis is the kind of person who keeps an eye out for waste. About McDonald’s, for example, he says, "They probably use recycled content better than any corporation in America. They do an outstanding job. But they also create packaging that doesn’t need to be.” Case in point: the printed, die cut paperboard carrier box that is used to package and carry the iconic Happy Meal.

In a recent blog post, Dennis writes:

Our four-year-old granddaughter’s favorite weekend lunch is the McDonald's Play Land near our home. The routine is always the same as our little Harmony orders her Happy Meal complete with her chicken nuggets and a toy. Harmony’s degree of hunger determines whether the food or the toy becomes the immediate focus but she has NEVER taken a second look at the printed, paperboard carrier box.

…I had to ask, why? Who is this box designed for and is it really necessary?

This may sound strange and certainly unexpected coming from a career packaging guy but the truth is that in some cases the best packaging is no packaging at all.

Merely by switching from a cardboard box to a paper bag, McDonald’s could save tens of thousands of pounds of waste — and significant money — while making environmentalist as well as kids “happy.”

That’s one thing that Dennis knows for certain about packaging: Less is always more. “If we don’t learn how to green packaging in a cost-efficient way,” he says, “we’re not going to be successful.”