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Living the Olympic dream. With 9 days to go before the world converges in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games we're in full swing to fulfill our commitments for 2010 Olympic partners. In November we were approached by our client Gameday Auction, an innovative sports memorabilia company based on Railway St in the Strathcona Green Zone, to help them design a sustainable packaging solution for a unique 2010 Olympic collectible, official replica jerseys (bibs), the same as the ones worn by the athletes during competition in the Games. A year ago they hired us to develop a sustainable corporate gift packaging solution for the Trevor Linden "Behind the Autograph" program and the rest has been history.

Trailblazing the road to sustainable packaging

If you think producing 100% post consumer recycled packaging is easy, think again! After much work with our various suppliers we were able to create 100% recycled (95% post consumer) gift boxes for the replica bibs. The vast majority of the cardboard packaging you'll see during the Games was produced by printing various gradients of blue directly onto bleached white cardboard. VANOC guidelines for using the Olympic logo and artwork stipulate that the logo must be displayed on a white background. From a sustainability perspective this was a very poor design decision as it meant to produce low cost packaging one had no choice but to use materials bleached with chlorine! We decided to print our artwork onto sheets of 100% FSC certified paper and glue that paper to recycled cardboard. We justified the additional costs to our client by not only the environmental benefits but also the value of creating a unique looking package that stands apart on the shelf. I brought in a great collegue of mine, Andy Maier of Courageous B who takes care of our graphic design, and we worked together to come up with solutions that work not only for our client but also that are feasible to produce with our suppliers. The bibs are being sold in the Olympic store at HBC and in the Athlete's Village (also in the Olympic venues during the Games) we're looking forward to seeing if they're a popular souvenir collectible. If you like collecting autographs the bibs are a really cool item as you can get them signed by athlete's during the Games and get them framed with photos and other things you collect during your stay in Vancouver and Whistler.

Lean manufacturing - implementing what I learned in business school

As we set up the assembly line to put together 3,000 bibs I implemented some of the lessons learned during my MBA in Sustainable Business at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. Tact time is the amount of time it takes an individual to complete a task. If everyone's task takes the same amount of time then the assembly process flows without interruption. When one person's task is a lot faster than the others down the line, 'work in progress' stacks up and creates a 'bottleneck'. Check out the video of our team on Day 1 assembling the bibs, as I watched and timed each task it helped to figure out who should do what and how many people to put at the various stages. Although I'm a firm believer that there's a lot to learn from Toyota and lean manufacturing, at a small scale it really takes people to think on their feet, see where things are getting backed up and help out as they can to help keep the process flowing.

Carbon Neutrality - the Zero program at Hemlock Printers

zero_carbon_neutralThe Hemlock Zero program offsets the carbon emitted during the full lifecycle of the paper manufacturing and transportation. Working with Offsetters, a leading industry carbon offset provider, the offsets help to support the development of renewable energy and clean technology projects which moves society towards a more sustainable future. If you're looking for a reputable and easy to use tool to calculate the environmental impact of your paper or cardboard project take a look at the Environmental Defence Fund's Paper Calculator site.

Lessons Learned - it's about more than profit

  1. Project management - there's tremendous value in stepping back and looking at a project as a whole and having one person responsible for making sure all the details are in order. That way, one person can bring in all the people they need to get the job done as efficiently as possible.

  2. Hold true to your values. Push the boundaries and create the solutions you want to see but understand that sometimes compromises have to be made to get the job done on time and on budget. Change happens in so many ways and it's important to be patient in leading the way. For example, even though we had sourced 100% recycled stickers we had to go with virgin stock product due to the long lead time needed to bring in the sustainable ones.

  3. Business is more than about profit. Business is about relationships, this is how things get done. Not only from a production standpoint, thinking about how we were able to pull off tight timelines with our manufacturers and assembly crew, but also in closing the deal. It cost me money to pull off the original packaging solution for the Trevor Linden program, but because of it Gameday brought me in to help them with Olympic projects. Never compromise quality or service, that's what it's all about.