Feb 17 2011

Bad Ideas: Not Just Fleurons by Ben Huttly

A few weeks back i was browsing the Lovely Package blog and noticed one of the entries. It prominently showed a bunch of vegetables tied together with a twine and a label. Ben Huttly, the designer, thinks he devised a new and ecological way to display and sell produce, with laser cut paper labels containing seeds to be dispersed when the paper degrades.

Copyright Ben Huttly - Images used for review purpose only

I think that while it’s aestetically very pleasing this is not such a bright idea, ecology-wise, so i wrote a comment on his post, hoping to get some feedback and maybe starting a little exchange of ideas. Unfortunately he decided to moderate my comment and post only positive reviews, so I’m publishing my thoughts here…

Here’s my post, reformatted for display here but otherwise left unedited.

Hi, i’ve found your design on the lovelypackage blog and, while the aestetics are cool it struck me as… well… simply wrong.

Let me explain.

Here were i live (in Italy) you either buy your veggies loose (you pick the stuff up or ask the grocer for what you want, you put it in a small bag, weight it and the register prints the price label) or buy it pre-shrink-wrapped in plastic. things work like this everywhere from street market stalls to huge supermarkets. the only places a package like this would be used are posh food boutiques where you pay stuff 5 times its real price because it’s hip.

And there’s the fact that selling veggies prepackaged, not allowing the customer to buy according to his needs means that a lot of veggies are wasted.

You could still buy the veggies loose and use a cotton twine to tie them up instead of the small bags, but then you would have trouble putting them in your shopping bag without messing up both the veggies and everything else you have in your bag.

Also, while it may be true that laser cutting the label avoids the use of harmful printing ink i’m not sure that all the energy needed to work a cutting laser makes it a viable ecological alternative. i’m pretty sure there are biodegradable inks. and rounded label shapes means lots of wasted paper.

Then consider that the label itself says actually nothing useful about the produce you’re buying, 90% of the space is used to explain the label itself. making the label actually useless.

Also consider that scattering seeds around isn’t exactly always a good idea: most of them would be simply wasted on terrains where they couldn’t grow (landfills, asphalt, etc. etc.) or, worse, they could end up infesting wild areas.

So, this kind of packaging means:

  • wasted energy
  • wasted paper
  • wasted seeds
  • wasted veggies

While i totally agree with the fact that raising consciousness about the fact that growing produce is not impossible even in a city environment, this isn’t exactly the best way to do it and would probably end up being more harmful than useful…

Sorry if i sound harsh, but your idea really struck me…

Marcello