Plastic: The Environmental Choice

An interesting article in today’s Washington Post highlights the trade-offs and market realities associated with green products. It addresses the packaging challenges faced by organic ice tea maker, Honest Tea. The company employs a variety of measures to keep energy costs and environmental impacts of its packaging low. As a result, Honest Tea comes in plastic bottles.

While most people simply assume that plastic packaging is worse than allegedly more recyclable glass when it comes to environmental concerns, this piece shows that even the greenest of companies find plastic is better in many cases. Indeed, it’s lighter and easier to transport, which saves energy. Plastic is also cheaper because it takes less energy to make. And, of course, retailers like plastic because it doesn’t break as easily and, hence, it is less of a hassle to stock.

Honest Tea’s story makes one thing very clear. In a market for green products, freedom and flexibility are everything. The company is looking at a variety of factors to meet green needs and customer demands, and they seek solutions via a trial and error approach. Should lawmakers and environmentalists push mandates – as they are currently doing for plastic bottles containing water – such rigid laws will preempt that process, and mandate politically preferred options that won’t serve consumers or the environment.