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Guacamole Airplane Details Its Improved Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide

by Rudy Sanchez on 11/30/2022 | 3 Minute Read

Two years ago, design studio Guacamole Airplane launched its Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide to share its materials knowledge to encourage more sustainable choices by brands and designers. Guacamole Airplane finds inspiration in the ethos of the open-source tech movement and 70s hippies and takes a hands-on, meticulous approach to sustainable substrates and packaging design.

Guacamole Airplane recently unveiled a significant update to its Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide, adding more valuable and first-hand information to its database. Updates to the guide include how to design with the materials, methodological assessment and experiments by the studio, and explanations on disposing of the substrate properly.

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“The new guide includes more detailed information about sustainability claims, for example, compostability certifications, whether or not FSC-certified stocks are available, and generally what percentage of recycled content a manufacturer can offer,” said Ian Montgomery, co-founder and creative director for Guacamole Airplane.

“We constantly hear from clients that they are overwhelmed by how many new packaging materials and suppliers are out there claiming to be sustainable,” Ian added. “To help sort through the noise, we added much more information about exactly where and how we’d suggest using a material. For example, many compostable materials only make sense in niche applications for restaurant take-out packaging where collection for an industrial composter is guaranteed.”

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The site now uses improved photography, adding plenty of glamour shots to help these materials shine. Seeing that their audience is primarily from the designer community, they wanted to show more images of how materials get utilized across different product categories.

What's more, Ian and company recognize that sustainability is a broad and vague term. Rather than focus on a singular sustainable characteristic, like biodegradability, compostability, or recyclability, the guide presents many substrates with detailed explanations—including plastics. “When we first published the guide a few years ago, there was a strong anti-plastic narrative in the sustainable packaging world. In the last few years of our work, we’ve become increasingly open to plastic solutions when our goals are specifically to reduce the carbon footprint on a package,” he explained.

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That's why the guide includes more best-in-class plastic suppliers that manufacture with as much recycled content as possible and strive to produce mono-material compositions more compatible with recycling.

While Guacamole Airplane isn't advocating for more plastic in our waterways, a thin, flexible plastic film to package food or clothing will likely be more carbon efficient than paper, metal, or in some cases, a bioplastic option. “While choosing a bad thing to avoid another bad thing is a tough place to work out of, we’re generally more concerned with climate change as an existential threat to humanity than we are about plastic not being recycled," Ian said. "Not a fun conversation at all, but a tough question to reckon with that can lead to pretty different design solutions.”

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According to Guacamole Airplane, the agency hopes the guide inspires conversations inside organizations and helps them set sustainability objectives by seeing what the final packaging will look like. “Designing for sustainability comes down to goal and priority setting," Ian said. "And an organization aiming to go plastic-free might have very different packaging than an organization aiming to minimize their carbon footprint.” 

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Ian and his studio also have bold ambitions for future versions of the Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide, with the end result potentially spelling a printed edition. “We hope the guide will be an invaluable resource on every designer’s desk along with Pantone Books and the McMaster-Carr catalogs,” he added.

But for now, you can view the updated guide on Guacamole Airplane’s site.

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