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The Disappearing Package: From Dissolving Wrappers to Products That Package Themselves

What if packaging wasn't just reduced, but disappeared completely?

Even though sustainable design often aims to make things last longer (cell phones, we're looking at you), the ultimate goal is just to make something last as long as it's needed. In the case of packaging, that's not very long. After a package gets whatever you're buying safely to your home, it's usually not useful anymore, and so 70 million tons of packaging waste ends up in U.S. landfills every year.


What if packaging disappeared after you no longer needed it, or didn't exist at all? That's the inspiration behind package designer Aaron Mickelson's grad thesis project. A lot of designers look at reducing packaging waste, but Mickelson wondered if he could start to eliminate it completely.

In his design, a bar of soap comes in a nontoxic package that can go in the shower; when it gets wet, the package dissolves, and you're left holding only the soap. The paper wrapping can be printed and embossed just like a regular box, but the design is a little different—Mickelson wanted to make sure that people wouldn't absentmindedly tear the package open and throw it out, so he intentionally made it hard to tear.

A design for trash bag packaging brilliantly prints the brand and marketing information on the last bag in a roll, so there's no box at all. The roll of bags doubles as a dispenser.

For a set of food storage containers, Mickelson printed marketing info directly on each one, again eliminating a box or labels. The ink is designed to completely wash off in soapy water.

A group of individual tea packets was designed to hold together in the shape of an accordion, eliminating an outside box and giving the tea company a new place to tell their story in the form of a little book.

Last, for a group of laundry pods (which are already designed with a water-soluble coating), Mickelson designed a package that stitches the individual pods together. Again, no box. When you do your laundry, you just tear off a pod.

All of these ideas are conceptual, and would present some challenges for manufacturers to figure out, but Mickelson points out that they're all well within reach; the technology exists to start creatively eliminating packaging right now.

Go here to ask companies to consider using one of these sustainable design techniques to eliminate waste.

Images courtesy of Aaron Mickelson

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Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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