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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quick Take: Packaging

I walked over to my local coffee shop earlier this week to grade papers, and I was amused to see a new product in the refrigerator case by the front counter.

Now, I have no real objection to this product. I'm sure it's perfectly fine water, and the packaging would seem to have a number of advantages over plastic bottles. According to the company website, 76% of the packaging is from a renewable resource - trees - and the particular trees in question are grown in "certified, well managed forests." The packaging can be shipped flat and, in many places, can be recycled.

So, if you're going to rely on packaged water, boxed water has something to recommend it. Of course, this begs the question of whether you ought to rely on packaged water in the first place. Maybe the return of public drinking fountains would be better still.

What amuses me about this product is what might be called the packaging of the packaging: the box is designed to look simple, generic, and unpretentious. Two sides of the box tell you - in large, friendly letters (with apologies to Douglas Adams) - how you should evaluate the product, its packaging, and your own character as reflected in the mere fact of your impending purchase: it's better and, by extension, you are (or would be) better.

There you have it, a pre-packaged ethical judgment . . . in black and white, no less!

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