The Transport Medium Is the Message

Customers purchasing from a company with an eco-friendly marketing message were scrutinizing the packaging almost as much as the product itself.

Nashville Wraps is a gift, retail and gourmet food packaging supplier with an eco-friendly message. Gourmet food stores, bakeries, caterers and other retail outlets rely on the wholesaler’s supplies, shopping bags, food containers and other packaging items to help their own retail stores stand out for their commitment to the environment.

In 2007, the Tennessee-based company introduced a line of sustainable packaging products called Green Way. “The Green Way logo signifies products that are natural, recycled, degradable or environmentally sustainable,” says Robby Meadows, Nashville Wraps director of marketing. “Most feature a high-content of recycled material–generally 100%–plus good design. Equally important, Green Way items are available in an array of colors, transcending the muted browns and greens typically associated with eco-packaging.”

This philosophy, however, did not permeate the company’s internal operations. “When we first moved into our new facility about four years ago, we used a non-environmentally friendly packing material,” says Bill Davis, distribution center manager. “We’re shipping 2,500 packages a day on average, and using 8-inch by 8-inch air pillows made of nonrecyclable film in about 50% of them, for void fill.”

The non-recyclable film did not sit well with Nashville Wraps’ environmentally conscious customer base. In fact, customers called the company to complain, and this led Nashville Wraps to switch to airpack bags. “We needed recyclable film to go along with our company’s focus on recycled material. Because of the products we offer, it’s just common sense.”

Nashville Wraps was considering a variety of eco-films and selected biodegradable Cell-O air cushions from Redwood City, Calif.-based FP International (www. fpintl.com). When a package is returned to the 70,000-square foot distribution center, the merchandise is restocked and the air cushions are reused. According to FP International, Cell-O air cushions are recyclable and contain as much as 10% recycled content.

Selecting eco-friendly packing material is just one of many steps Nashville Wraps has taken to green its internal business. Davis switched from gas-powered to electric lift trucks used for picking and replenishment. In addition, the facility is cooled by air movement instead of air conditioning.

On its blog, the company notes that employees recycle aluminum, steel, plastic and paper every day, enabling Nashville Wraps to reduce its garbage by 416 cubic yards in 2008. Nashville Wraps also recycled nearly 1,500 cubic yards of corrugated cardboard last year. Its green focus has had a positive impact on cash flow and employee morale. Workers are proud of the firm’s efforts to give back to the community. Meadows plans to tell customers about the recent packaging change. “We’re doing our part to protect the planet and want our customers to know that, by working with Nashville Wraps they, too, are greening the planet,” he says.

Jill Miller is a public relations consultant for FP International.

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