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Shifting The Sustainable Paradigm

Text - Anna Olivia

Given their 35 years of design experience in the packaging and retail industry, a.m. associates feel well placed to share their sustainable packaging knowledge more widely.


In recent years, a.m. associates have been focusing on environmental research and development projects, and have written a book on the subject, ‘Why Shrink Wrap a Cucumber? - The Complete Guide to Environmental Packaging’. Given the current need for environmental solutions, a.m. associates are the answer.


I sat down for an interview with company directors Laurel Miller and Stephen Aldridge to discuss their role as environmental design consultants.


What is a.m. associates doing to share their specialist knowledge of environmental packaging?


We offer environmental audits of packaging as a good starting point. The environmental audits allow us to assess what a company has now, and how to make minimal short-term solutions to save money and materials, and how to build a long term solution to reduce material use. Alongside this, we also offer The Cucumber Seminars, aimed at helping designers make knowledgeable environmental decisions about the packaging they design and specify.


Currently we act as sustainable packaging consultants to our client base, but obviously we are always looking to reach out to more companies. We have a lot of answers and a logical approach to the problem, and know how to advise clients to prioritise having maximum environmental impact.


The frustrating part for us is that a lot of design briefs are reactive and polarised to a specific problem. When we get a design brief, it is at the end of the chain. We can’t go back and adapt the product for the pack. Really, what we would like to do is get involved at a much earlier stage of the product development process so that we can re-think and challenge existing parameters. If we are involved at the conception of the product design, we could have an influence and save more on materials, as the packaging and the product can become one. An example of this is our BT hub.


Do you plan on working on a national or international scale?


We plan on working on both a national and an international scale. However, we are very conscious that our expertise can have a big impact on small businesses and we don’t want them to miss out because we are focusing on national and international clients. In some instances, we can access funding to help small businesses, so they should not hesitate in coming forward. Having said this, the bigger the company the bigger the impact on the environment, the more materials and the more costs we can save.


When did you start focusing on environmental research and development projects?


Our book is best practice and common sense for the packaging industry, informing readers on how they can make more sustainable decisions during the packaging development process. Our mantra has always been ‘less is more’, and we realise that environmental design can be confusing, so we wanted to write a handbook on the subject. When we launched the book, we got more opportunities to focus on research and development, which we find hugely interesting. Research and development projects also give us the chance to shift the paradigm and re-think how packaging is used through retail systems, at home and beyond to end of life.


If a.m. associates' thoughts excite you, please contact Laurel Miller or Stephen Aldridge at studio@structuralpackaging.com