There is no secret that product design is very close to our heart at Humly and to my heart personally. With all that passion for design it may come as a surprise to some that our products come delivered in a boring cardboard box with a flimsy and wrinkled plastic bag.
I think the natural instinct of most product designers is to match their new creation with an equally beautiful and impressive product package to further highlight the premium of the product inside. I have done this myself in the past for other product projects.
For consumer products this makes some sense if you are at the store choosing between relatively generic products the product package may end up a deciding factor, and for some luxurious goods the whole “unboxing” experience is part of what you pay for.
Intricate boxes with plastic foam, plastic films, full colour printing - glued together to make the perfect representation of the high quality product inside. At some point the package becomes a product and not just protection from shipping damages. You need to add some additional outer shipping package to protect the product package.
We all know that with very few exceptions, all the fancy packaging just becomes waste after a minute of unpacking. Not only does the fancy packing require more resources and emissions to produce - the waste is also hard to recycle due to the mix of materials and the package is often hard to collapse to bring to a recycling station. It looks perfect - but it is not a perfect solution.
Next to product design sustainability is also close to our hearts at Humly. We have previously written about our initiatives around efficient packaging - cutting as much as 90% of Co2 emission in production and 40% of emissions in shipping, and as I wrote earlier this year, one of our commitments is to share our stories to inspire others to do the same.
So this time I would like to tell you about another improvement we have made.
For our type of product we have yet not found a good substitute for plastic to protect the device from cardboard scratching the surfaces during shipment. If we can reduce shipping damage on just one device - it compensates on its own for tens of thousands of the plastic bags we use. So the decision to keep a very limited amount of plastic made good sense from an environmental point of view.
But in our efforts to improve further we set out to replace our normal bags with bags from recycled plastic. In our search we came across something even better. Something with zero additional carbon emissions. We found that one of the casing parts for Humly Room Display comes in a protective bag that was big enough to fit the entire completed product. So instead of throwing the bag away for recycling we could reuse the plastic bag instead.
Does it look perfect? - No! You can clearly tell the difference between a new plastic bag and a used one. Ours come with wrinkles and wear from its earlier life. It is also not a perfect snug fit as it could have been.
Is it a perfect solution? - Yes! We are able to reduce our production waste, remove both the cost and emissions of brand new plastic bags.
What about the unboxing experience you may think? Will not the customers miss having that dopamine rush of unboxing a really nice product?
Well, we and many companies sell products for professional use that are not for the consumer market. Products are evaluated based on requirements and design and the person who makes the purchase decision or even the end user rarely sees the package at all.
The only unboxing experience our integrators and installers around the world need is - efficiency. If you are installing 200 room panels in one day the packing needs to be efficient. Easy to unpack, easy to separate materials for recycling and space efficient. We actually wrote about some of the work we have done in this area in this previous post.
Everyone's a winner!
Is there something similar you can do at your company?
If we all put praise in reuse and climate efficient production and packaging we will even see a rapid change in both professional and consumer brands. Remember the fancy package is only there for your appreciation - if it is clear that you prefer it to be more sustainable the producers will be fast to change as it is easier and more cost effective for them…
Love the wrinkles!
/Anders Karlsson, CEO Humly