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All too often, there is more packaging than product. The cardboard box is encased in a plastic theft-proof container, and inside the cardboard, the minute-by-comparison product is sealed between two protective pieces of Styrofoam. Usually, each of these levels of packaging serves a purpose; however, the plastics and foams are often not recyclable and become post-purchase waste. While it’s likely that we will remain a consumer society, producers can be encouraged to minimize plastic packaging through mutually-beneficial exchange programs.

In most developed countries, packaging alone constitutes about one-third of all municipal solid waste. Likewise, in developing countries, container waste is also on the rise; as standards of living increase, so do plastic-wrapped commodities. According to the EPA, there are nearly 30 countries worldwide that have developed legal sanctions encouraging manufacturers to reduce packaging and/or increase recyclability. Manufacturers in some countries are legally obligated to accept container returns and reuse or recycle all packaging discards, often having to pay for recycling out of pocket. The United States, however, is not currently one of these countries with production and packaging laws.


Regardless, concern over packaging waste is abundant. The EPA encourages manufacturers to abide by the principles of “product stewardship”: eliminating toxins, decreasing quantity, and increasing reusability and recyclability while using more recycled materials in production. The acceptance of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) on the part of manufacturers would relieve much of the waste-management burden of local governments.  Product Stewardship Institute is an NGO working to engage stakeholders in a push toward a nationally-recognized EPR system.

Increased reusability and recyclability would have great potential for reducing municipal solid waste if relevant laws could be enforced on the national level. Furthermore, if manufacturers were to practice EPR, they could potentially cut costs by decreasing what gets literally thrown in the bin.

In the “reduce-reuse-recycle” triad, the components are listed in order of best practice. Because it is a preventative measure, reducing the production of new packaging is clearly the most beneficial and immediate way to reduce waste, and in theory, costs. Furthermore, reusing is a more valuable effort than recycling, which relies on energy-intensive production, chemical treatments, and which often generates additional pollutants.

Here is where packaging exchange programs come into play: by reusing already-produced materials, manufacturers avoid the expenses of new production and recycling. However, to reuse materials, they first have to be recovered. Sydney-area industries have recently agreed to a  recovery-reuse program to help achieve financial, social and environmental sustainability. This case demonstrates that these three goals, which so often seem at odds with each other, can actually be merged into a single, mutually-beneficial arrangement.

A similar initiative was started in California, which recycles 65% of all materials and thus leads the country in this endeavor.  CalMAX, a division of CalRecycle, has created a network of resources for industries to better facilitate materials exchange. Education and training through workshops and “business kits” help prepare and transition businesses, organizations, and schools into green-running, waste-reducing network members.

Cooperation between organizations of all types can lead to significant improvement in waste management and its efficiency. And because efficiency is one of the primary goals of all industries, there is great potential for packaging exchange networks to relieve the costs – financial, social and environmental – of container use and disposal.


Dow Building Solutions has isolated the first certified Passive House in England. Underhill House, the pioneering project of eco-sustainability, created by the architect Helen Seymour -Smith , gave birth to an eco-friendly house on a hill that rises on the ruins of a 300 year old barn , situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The Passive House has been carved into the hillside and is invisible to the surrounding landscape so as to ensure even minimal environmental and visual impact. The structure is made of concrete left exposed internally to exploit the advantages of thermal energy and it has a bay window facing south, which helps to build-up of heat, and is highly insulated in the floor, roof and walls thanks to Styrofoam , Floormate 300 – A, Roofmate SL- A and Perimate OF -A .

Underhill House

Underhill House

Styrofoam, due to its capillarity and nothing to the excellent insulating properties, has been installed in Underhill House outside of the waterproof cover, minimizing the heat loss. There is also floormate 300-A, due to the high moisture resistance and for its resistance to compression, which is installed under the floor. The roof was insulated with Roofmate SL –A slabs, providing a minimum U -value of 0.097 W/m2K. The basement walls and foundations, finally, were isolated with Floormate and Perimate OF -A that has vertical grooves to drain the water.

All tests were certified in the Passive House and the evidence of airtight was exceeded. The isolation level is high; the design of Underhill House makes the most of the sun’s power by using AGL Solar Energy and creates a tightly sealed building that maintains a comfortable indoor climate.

This project is a demonstration of how a combination of effective materials and excellent architectural idea can achieve a functional and contemporary family home that addresses and solves problems directly related to environmental issues.


Nowadays, the environment is never far from people’s minds, and a more natural and eco-friendly look for your home is becoming ever more appealing, benefitting you both aesthetically and financially. The eco-friendly home will be the next great step in interior design, with the need for sustainable materials and less energy usage being what the future group of designers emerging from an interior design course will have to focus on if they want to meet their customer’s needs. So, why not swathe your rooms in the finest that the environment has to offer, with some of these great tips for a greener home?

Decorate your home with plants

Plants and other types of flora are a fantastic way to give a more natural look to your house or apartment, oxygenating your home and removing harmful toxins from the room. And, the great thing about plants is that you can populate your rooms with ones that suit its style. So, try to find a plant that will match your décor to gain a brighter, fresher feel in your ho


Home is where the Heart is
linda yvonne / CC BY-NC

Fill your home with organic and natural materials

It’s important to be using environmentally sustainable materials when redecorating your place, meaning that you should avoid all plastic, particleboard and chromed metal when refurbishing. Although the use of more sustainable products is more expensive, it really is the optimal choice if you’re looking for a home that will aid the environment. The use of wood, marble or stone blocks can be a more eco-friendly alternative if you’re after tables, flooring or kitchen counters and, while it might dent your wallet, it certainly won’t compromise your style.

Use energy-efficient windows and lighting

The use of more energy efficient windows and lighting in your home can benefit you in a vast number of ways. If you use special coatings on your windows, for example, you can insulate your house far more effectively and save on your heating bills. Also, if you’re looking to cut down on heating bills even further, be sure to insulate your walls with environmentally conscious fillings. This is also the case with your light fixtures, with the use of lighting specifically designed to cut down on power creating a cheaper to run and more eco-friendly system.

Make your paint that little bit greener

While you don’t have to cover your walls in a literal sea of green if you don’t want to, it will be necessary to invest in a low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint to really give you that eco-edge on your walls. This will contribute to global warming far less. You can also try recycled or biodegradable paints, which will give you the same coating but be far kinder to mother earth.

Let in the sunlight

If you can populate your home with enough windows, including skylights, it will be possible to use far less electrical light fittings during the day, saving both your budget and the planet. It’s a case of the bigger the window the better, with more natural sunlight creating a healthier looking and feeling home.

Call in an eco-designer

If you’re renovating your home to become more environmentally friendly, then there are now a number of specialist interior designers who can help you out, and many more who will work with sustainable materials at your request. Designers such as Eco Nest, for example, will do their best to try to make your New York apartment a markedly greener environment, making sure that you get a home that won’t pollute the environment. So, if you’re looking to make your home more natural looking and more efficient, you know who to call.