At Annie’s, we care about our packaging’s impact on people and the planet — and we know a lot of our consumers care about it, too. If sustainability was just about whether the package could be recycled or not, Annie’s would be doing really well: over 90% of our packaging, by weight, is recyclable. But there’s a lot more to it than that. We think about packaging as a system, with inputs and outputs. Now, let’s take a look at what that really means….

Just as in the natural world — where everything that is “waste” becomes food for something else — we want our packaging to feed, instead of weaken, natural systems. To move closer to that goal, we’ve tried to learn more about the entire lifecycle of our packaging this year — where it comes from to where it ends up.

We prioritize recycled content for our paper and glass. And not just any recycled content, but 35–50% post-consumer recycled content, which comes from recycling programs like the ones in neighborhoods across the United States and Canada. We also review our baseline inventory of materials annually to see how changes to our product portfolio or other aspects of our business affect our packaging needs. We collect details on our packaging materials for more than 80% of our products, and the data show that our packaging materials are increasing at about the same rate as our business is growing. Our goal for this year is to prioritize where we should make improvements to our packaging, which we can track by comparing with our baseline inventory.

A lot of the packaging used when food is transported is never seen by the public. A “mastercase,” for example, is a corrugated cardboard box we use to ship our products to the stores where people buy them. We believe it’s important to do the right thing even (and especially) when no one is watching, so this year we’ve moved many of our mac and cheese products from a regular mastercase to a tray with shrinkwrap. The result? A more-than 55% reduction in corrugate for these products. We’ve made some good improvements to our packaging, but we have a lot more to do, and we have a goal in mind: to use packaging that contributes to, instead of takes from, natural systems. We have established a baseline so we can measure our successes (or failures), and we also are working on a strategy to help us achieve the long-term goal of not only doing less harm, but more good.

Did you know? 

At Annie’s, we try to understand sustainability issues from as many angles as possible, so when we took employees to our local recycling facility and saw how much paper still ended up going to landfills (about 1/3, according to the U.S. EPA), we started wondering about the impact of recycling on our own paper packaging. Paper in landfills contributes to climate change by producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas. It turns out that if all of our paper packaging used this year got recycled instead of thrown away, Annie’s consumers would prevent more than 17,000 metric tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent1 from entering the atmosphere, which is like taking 3,542 passenger cars off the road.We think that’s pretty important, so we will continue to educate our consumers about the relationship between recycling, packaging, climate change, and other issues that matter to them.

1. US Environmental Protection Agency. Waste Reduction Model (WARM). Updated June 2013. Accessed 11 October 2013. warm/Warm_Form.html.
2. US Environmental Protection Agency. Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. Updated September 2013. Accessed 24 October 2013. cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html#results.