Competition to be and look green in the personal computing industry is reaching a fever pitch. Debates rage over which companies are raising the bar and which are baiting and switching. Packaging, to be sure, is a big piece of the puzzle. This week, Dell announced that it will ship two of its hot netbooks in packaging made from processed bamboo, raising some tough questions.Inside a 25% post-consumer recycled box, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 and Mini 10v netbooks will be cradled by trays made from bamboo, sourced from Chinese farms that follow the "principals and criteria" of the Forestry Stewardship Council. Dell says it is working with its supplier, Unisource Global Solutions, to keep tabs on the full chain of custody, helping ensure that the entire process is as green and non-destructive as possible.
Bringing bamboo into its packaging is part of an approach that Dell dubs the "3 Cs of smarter packaging": Cube (reducing the size of the overall package), Content (the stuff from which it is made), and Curb (can it be readily recycled by end users?). In keeping with the third C, Dell and its partners are working to get its bamboo packaging certified for recycling, so consumers and recycling plants alike know what to do with the stuff.
Bringing more Earth-friendly tactics to packaging is a complicated conundrum, and the bamboo approach raises some concerns. For starters, is it truly better to ship bamboo from China (Dell's comes from Jiangxi Provence) than to use domestically recycled paper--or even virgin fiber? Similar debates have arisen around bamboo flooring, which has lost more than a little of the eco-sheen it once enjoyed. Further, the recyclability of Dell's new packaging appears to be dependent on a standard that hasn't yet been established; if bamboo fiber doesn't find a home in the American recycling system, it will make a lovely landfill stuffer.
Though we've given Dell flak for being fuzzy on the details of some of its green programs, the company has clearly worked some degree of sustainability into its long term agenda, especially in the renewable energy department, running facilities on renewable energy, installing solar, and working towards carbon neutrality. Among IT buyers, Dell is seen as the greenest hardware maker. The fuzzyness we speak of came from a "Going Green with Dell" campaign that did a less-than-satisfying job of explaining itself. This less-than-elegant video, however, does fill in some of the blanks.
More on Green Computing and Packaging:
HP Bags Wal-Mart's Reduced Packaging Award With Laptop In A Bag
Bamboo Encased Computers: A Help or Hindrance to Greener Electronics?
HP Tops Its Own Woeful Packaging Record
Packaging Design at Its Best (Slideshow)
Wow...This Excessive Electronics Packaging Takes the Trophy!
Harnessing Bacteria to Grow Custom Packaging
Greener By Design 2009: HP and a Computer Box Meant to Last Forever
Dell HQ Gets a 130 kW Solar Parking Lot with Plug-In Charging Stations