Eco-Products, Inc. (www.ecoproducts.com), a small company based in Boulder, CO, is a leader in the environmental foodservice packaging industry. Ninety-nine percent of the company’s products are made from either renewable or post-consumer recycled-content materials, and the single remaining product made from virgin plastic will be entirely phased out this summer. The brand promises a more sustainable option for single-use foodservice products, which are traditionally made from polystyrene and other virgin materials.
Eco-Products’ fundamental mission is to bring increasingly sustainable foodservice products to market in an industry that is inherently linked to today’s culture of fast-paced consumption and waste creation. As the foodservice industry continues to grow, claims surrounding “environmentally friendly” products are also growing. In addition to combating the myriad of confusing claims in the market already, Eco-Products is committed to understanding the environmental impacts of all of its products and to communicating their environmental features, benefits, and impacts.
With this vision and objective in mind, last year Eco-Products developed a parameterized Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool to facilitate the streamlined assessment of its 200+ products, as well as to conduct an overall assessment of its entire supply chain. The tool helped them to develop communications such as product impact summaries for individual items. This information not only bolsters the brand identity, but it also advances the dialogue around product sustainability and highlights the difference between industry norms and the direction in which Eco-Products is heading.
The tool is an innovative combination of a complex LCA model and a user-friendly interface that makes it more accessible to practitioners, regardless of their prior knowledge of LCA methodology. The model is a process-based “cradle-to-grave” LCA of foodservice items, from which key environmental indicators are calculated. The assessment captures the impacts of the raw materials production, transportation, manufacturing, packaging, and end-of-life. The model is fully parameterized, so that the user can vary the most relevant parameters for each scenario of product design and supply chain, making it easy to streamline LCAs for a large number of products or individual items.
This tool supports Eco-Products’ strategy towards transparency and shows the industry that they are prepared to be a different type of company. The LCA results will be used to engage internal staff to build awareness and understanding of life-cycle issues and improvement opportunities. The company is also developing information for its Web site about the total carbon impact of the products evaluated in the LCA.