Social pressures are pushing companies to adopt packaging that is sustainable, reusable, and/or recyclable. While most would agree this is a great move, many brands that start down the eco-friendly packaging path end up reverting back to continuing what they have always been doing. We mainly see this happening for three reasons:
1. Lack of understanding about the many ways packaging can be sustainable 2. Sticker shock at the cost of the switch 3. The misconception that sustainable, reusable, and/or recyclable means bland and boring
There are many ways packaging can be eco-friendly. And, using eco-friendly materials does not have to be dull and bland. Progressivepackaging designerscan employ innovative thinking to re-design your packaging while using eco-friendly materials is one of the most necessary and popular ways to begin selling and distributing your products.
Recyclable Pulp and Papers
One way to develop sustainable packaging is by using folding cartons made from recycled materials. Paper pulp is processed by chemicals that remove all ink and unwanted printing on paper – therefore, making it an extremely popular material for eco-friendly packaging. Using molded paper pulp instead of Styrofoam for cushioning products inside outer containers benefits our environment. Styrofoam is not a recyclable material; however, it is still often used as a cushion for products in many packages. Eliminating Styrofoam as the go-to material for cushioning will successfully be the step towards sustainability the environment is in desperate need of.
Reusable Bottles and Jars
Plastic products are also a huge opportunity for sustainability in packaging design. In the past 10 years, there has been a major trend of reducing plastics in things like water/liquid bottles and plastic rings in canned 6-packs. Many informative websites such asBan the Bottlehave proven that Americans use about 50 million water bottles a year; however, our recycling rate is only about 23% – meaning that about $1 billion worth of water bottles are dumped in landfills each year. Many brands have taken the glass bottle route instead of using plastics which enables their product to be reusable by consumers. There has been a rising awareness of the effect that plastic straws have on the environment and there has been a concerted effort to combat this with innovations likemetal strawswhich are reusable. Certain glass bottles and jars lend themselves more readily to being repurposed by the consumer, so why not give your customers packaging that creatively inspires them to reuse?
There is a challenge with being “sustainable” because the high cost in packaging often scares brands away; however, consumers will pay a little more to support the environment. Using social media, advisements and packaging content itself is a direct way to communicate your dedication to the environment and justify the higher cost of the product. According to an interview CNBC did with Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, there has been a tremendous change in the thought process of the consuming youth. Millennials are on the hunt for affordable prices with the most environmentally friendly option, while 20 years ago the focus was price alone. Nestlé is not alone with this sustainability shift – Deal Design’s client, Reef sandals, has made a significant change in the manufacturing of their products to make them eco-friendly. Reef is now includingEco-One®additives in products to speed biodegradability of sandals in landfills. There is a high chance that recyclable products and packaging will soon become a world-wide norm –so get onboard now before your product is left to drown in our oceans.
The Return of The Black Turtle
Today, we’re flooded with hopeless headlines of disappearing ecosystems and endangered wildlife. Yet, along the remote and rugged coastline of Western Mexico, a population of black sea turtles has recovered from near extinction, thanks to the Black Sea Turtle Recovery Program. In fact, it’s one of the most successful wildlife conservation programs in the world — and SEE Turtles helped.
Considered by most experts as a subspecies of the globally ranging green sea turtle, the black sea turtle occurs only in the eastern tropical Pacific. The black sea turtle population is currently doing well, but that wasn’t always the case. “This turtle was close to extinction in the 1960’s and 1970’s due to the intensive harvesting of reproductive adults and nearly all of the eggs laid along the coast,” says biologist Carlos Delgado from the University of Michoacán.
By the 1970’s, it’s estimated that an average of 70,000 eggs per night were taken and harvested during the peak of the nesting, at about 20 pesos per 100 eggs. The number of nesting females went from an estimated 25,000 in the 1960s and 1970s to perhaps as few as 170 by 1988.
To save this turtle, something needed to change.
The Road to Recovery
So, in 1982, the Michoacán University, indigenous communities from Maruata and Colola, and national and international institutions started a project to recover the black turtle population of the Michoacán coastline. “Colola Beach is the most important nesting site for the black turtle in Mexico,” says Delgado. It hosts more than 75 percent of the world population of black turtles.
The first part of the program was to keep people from collecting the eggs. To do that, the University of Michoacan biologists set up hatcheries every nesting season at Colola and Maruata. Members with the project would patrol the beach at night, collect eggs and transplant them to new nests dug in a hatchery. Once the hatchlings emerged, they were collected from the pens and then released from the beach to crawl to the sea.
The next part of the effort was to involve the local community in the conservation process. For instance, for centuries the black sea turtle was an important food source for the Nahua indigenous group on the Michoacan coast. Yet, it was no longer sustainable. One of the goals of the recovery program was to help the local people find alternative sources of food, such as iguana farming and family gardens. Additionally, the adult turtles and their eggs were an important source of income. So, the project developed an ecotourism program to view the nesting turtles, with profits going back to the local community. The idea was to make living turtles worth more than dead ones.
In 1999, this project had a low of just over 500 nests. But starting in 2,000, nesting numbers began a steady climb upward due to the efforts of the community and researchers, combined with a ban on hunting turtles in Mexico in the 1980’s. The past two seasons have been the best in decades, averaging more than 30,000 nests. The average number of nesting females has increased from a low of about 500 individuals to more than 10,000 as of 2016. Their population is now considered one of the 12 healthiest sea turtle populations in the world.
SEE Turtles has played a part in that success by funding the nesting beach work, as part of the Billion Baby Turtles program. The funds go towards paying local residents to patrol important turtle nesting beaches, protecting turtles that come up to nest. In 2013, the first year we worked with Colola, we gave the project a $3,000 grant, which helped save 40,000 hatchlings. As of 2019, we’ve provided a total of $42,000 in funding which has helped to save more than 1.3 million hatchlings at this important beach! We plan to increase our support and benefit the community through offering new trips to participate in this inspiring program.
“The recuperation of the black turtle has been made possible due to the support of organizations like SEE Turtles who have committed to restore this sub-species to its historic levels,” says Delgado.
Photo credits: Carlos Delgado / University of Michoacan
Kids love sea turtles. I’ve given presentations to hundreds of kids around the US and one of my favorite parts of my job is seeing their faces when they see and learn about these animals and ask questions about them. Students are a big part of how we save hatchlings through our annual Billion Baby Turtles School Fundraising Contest. This year, more than 200 students at 9 schools helped to raise more than $3,000 to save over 15,000 endangered turtle hatchlings at important nesting beaches.
2018 was the sixth year we have run this contest and it’s impact has been huge. Roughly 1,900 students at dozens of schools have helped to raise about $25,000, resulting in the saving of an estimated 125,000 baby turtles! For their hard work, students receive prizes from our sponsors, including Endangered Species Chocolate, Nature’s Path/EnviroKidz, EcoTeach, Pura Vida Bracelets, Eartheasy, and others.
Here are a few of the inspiring efforts undertaken by classes this year to help save turtles:
· Jefferson Elementary (Missouri): The class wrote commercials promoting donating during Sea Turtle Week. The students shared facts about turtles and why they are in danger and they were recorded giving them in front of a green screen. The students also made a sea turtle fund collecting machine, which is a container made from various materials like milk jugs, wall paper from wall paper books, and cardboard that sat in the classrooms. The students would go collect it and bring the money back to class and then deliver postcards for donations. Jefferson has participated in the contest since 2014 and have won prizes every year since then.
· Middle School at Parkside: Two art classes with 47 students worked together to hold a bake sale, sell our hatchling postcards, and sell coffee to teachers to raise funds. All together, they raised $350 that will help save 1,750 hatchlings and were runners-up winners in the contest. This effort was part of a lesson called “Bringing Awareness to Endangered Species with Art” where students will display their art (some of the great examples below). This was Parkside’s first year participating in the contest.
Jefferson Elementary (California): These students gave up their lunch recess for a week to make which were hung all over the school. We spent an additional lunch recess reviewing sea turtle facts and how the project helps protect sea turtles. I had 2-3 students sign up on a calendar to help me sell post cards and stickers every morning before the school day started. We had a little cart that had a simulated sea turtle nest (large bowl filled with sand) and eggs (ping pong balls). The students would explain that sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach and that the ping pong balls were about the size of the eggs and identified the species of sea turtle on the postcards and give a few facts. The “Sea Turtle Ambassadors” have participated and won every year since 2014.
I’ve walked dozens of beaches looking for nesting sea turtles in Latin America. I’ve watched these ancient reptiles crawl out of the ocean, make their way up past the high tide line, dig their nests, drop their eggs, and make their way back to the water. This ancient ritual is fascinating to witness and I’ve had the pleasure of helping more than 1,000 people share this experience. But this is not a graceful dance.
Out of the water, the turtle struggles to crawl and is slower than the famous tortoise chasing the hare. In the water, freed from the weight of their shell and heavy sand to crawl through, these marine animals are graceful and quick; one powerful thrust of their flippers propel them across the water. To see these animals in their true splendor, one must visit their home and get under the water.
Sea turtles have attracted divers to spots around the tropics since Jacques Cousteau first started bringing the underwater world to the surface. They are the highlight of any dive, a major draw for tourists that help to drive coastal economies around the world. Divers dating back to Cousteau have used this inspiration to help protect these animals. Divers organized by Project Aware have helped to clean thousands of pounds of trash from the ocean. They have also helped create marine protected areas and prevent unsustainable development around important reefs.
Sea turtles need divers and the dive industry now more than ever. Six of the seven species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered around the world. People continue to eat their eggs and meat in many countries and the sale of souvenirs made from turtleshell, though now illegal in most countries, continues in many places in Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere. The growing threats of climate change and plastic pollution now affect every single turtle on earth.
More recent threats directly related to divers are also cropping up. Go Pro cameras on sticks allow divers and snorkelers to take great photos, but can also cause stress in a sea turtle and block its path of escape. Even the sunscreen that divers wear can affect sea life, just a small amount of the chemical oxybenzone (found in many sunscreens) can pollute a reef.
SEE Turtles is launching Divers For Turtles as a way to bring more ocean lovers into the effort to protect sea turtles and the ocean. In partnership with dive shops and the dive industry, we will help divers get involved in conservation efforts and improve diving practices. Our new sea turtle ID card will help divers recognize the different species while promoting conservation messages and raising funds for conservation programs.
Divers are a key part of the travel industry that keeps up demand for turtleshell products, contributing to the demise of the animals they come to see. Divers For Turtles will also be a resource for opportunities to volunteer in conservation and research efforts and advocacy to support efforts to protect the ocean. With the support of divers, dive shops, and the dive industry, we can help end the trade in turtleshell products, clean the ocean of plastic waste, and save endangered turtle hatchlings around the world.
“I love hawksbills but I prefer to see them alive in the water,” I said in Spanish to the woman behind the counter of the souvenir shop. Laid out in front of us were more than 50 pieces of jewelry and other products made from the shell of the critically endangered hawksbill.
“No!” was the sharp response, catching our group off-guard.
Of course, we weren’t exactly regular tourists doing souvenir shopping. Our group was made up of myself, the two leaders ofFundacion Tortugas del Mar, and Dan Berman, a donor who supports both of our organizations.
We were visiting Colombia’s Caribbean coast to see first-hand how the Fundacion has been studying and combating the tortoiseshell trade. Cartagena was identified as the second-largest site for the sales of these products in the region in ourEndangered Souvenirsreport, after Nicaragua. Data collected by Fundacion Tortugas del Mar over a 5 year period showed that on average more than 2,500 products were being sold per year by 19 vendors and shops, with an estimated value of more than $20,000.
The good news is that sales of these products has dropped dramatically. After years of working with local authorities to confiscate these products from vendors, the trade is slowing down.Too Rare To Wear, with the support of the Berman Fund and other donors, is providing funds and resources for Fundacion Tortugas del Mar to train police, do outreach to vendors, souvenir shops, and tourism businesses to wipe out both the supply and demand for these products.
Hawksbill turtlesat one time were quite common in tropical areas around the world. Their shells were plastic before plastic was invented and millions of shells were shipped around the world over the past few hundred years; 2 million shells alone were shipped to Japan between 1950 and 1992, when the legal international trade was finally ended. This has had a devastating effect on the hawksbill, it is now considered critically endangered and their numbers have plummeted to now roughly 15,000 adult females on the entire planet.
The first shop that we visited was in Tolu, a coastal town that is a popular spot for Colombians to vacation. The stand was unassuming, without walls on a stretch of dirt off the main road. The turtleshell products were significant though not a large percentage of the total products being sold. The owner quickly figured out that we were not shopping for souvenirs and her demeanor changed from one of friendliness to confrontational. Her family is Wayuu, an indigenous group that views wild animals like sea turtles more as a resource than a tourist attraction or animal to be appreciated for its intrinsic value.
Karla and Cristian are bringing their programs to towns like Tolu and nearby Coveñas and Rincon del Mar. Their first step is to inventory the amount of products being sold, and then reach to the vendors to explain that these sales are illegal and encourage them to sell other products. Finally, the last step is to work with government authorities like the police to visit these shops and confiscate the products. The loss of the money spent on the products is often enough to encourage the vendors to stop selling them, though it can take a few times. If there are repeat offenders, eventually the authorities may impose fines or jail time, but the hope is to stop these sales without resorting to that.
Later that day, we had a meeting with nine souvenir shop owners in Cartagena, in a beautiful location inside the historic walled city called “Las Bovedas.” These shops often sold turtleshell products, primarily to cruise ship passengers, until the Fundacion started to work with police to confiscate the products. Now, none of these shops sell these products and many are enthusiastic in their support to help stop this trade.
These shops are the first in a new program that Too Rare To Wear and the Fundacion are launching called “Turtle-Free Souvenir Shops.” The shops will receive a sticker that shows their participation and we will work with tour operators to bring traveler to support these shops for their participation. We spent an hour discussing the issue with them, answering questions on how they should respond to tourists asking for turtleshell, and how we plan to support their efforts.
Our next stop wasHotel Punta Faro, a luxury resort on Mucura Island, located within the Corales del Rosario y de San Bernardo National Natural Park, that is a big supporter of turtle conservation efforts. The national park, the hotel, and the Sueños de Mar Foundation has a collaborative work agreement that includes environmental education with children, young people, and fisherman of the local community. We were lucky to witness a release of 12 sea turtles that the resort rescued through a program they have where they offer chicken to fishermen who bring them the turtles instead of consuming them. Punta Faro is one of the first hotel partners of Too Rare To Wear and is putting together a display to share with their clients about the turtleshell issue, which will help to reach a key market for these high end products.
Our last stop in Rincon del Mar showed how much work remains. We were there to run a workshop with local teachers and community leaders about sea turtle education, I made a stop to a well-known souvenir shop in town that is a major seller of turtleshell. The owner calls himself the “Rey de Carey” or “King of Hawksbill” for the amount of products he sells. And he definitely sells a lot. In one visit, we counted more than 100 rings, dishware, necklaces, and other products.
The impressive work of Fundacion Tortugas del Mar has made great progress in slowing the turtleshell trade in Colombia. While there remains some trade in Cartagena and surrounding areas, by working closely with the tourism industry and local authorities, Karla and Cristian are providing a model for how to successfully save hawksbill sea turtles.