We All Want To Be Good Stewards Of Our World
I have been on holiday over the last week, and it provides a very needed bit of time to look around and see what is going on in the world at large. One of the areas that struck me is how there has suddenly been a pivot of the media towards issues of “global warming.” There were several sensational headlines and dire predictions (again?). I am always cautious when a multi-lateral, international, supernational organization makes dire predictions. My first thought is always, who is paying? That then tends to indicate the motivation of the article or research.
The Political Narrative Is Rarely The Truth
But looking at the geopolitical forces at work to drive a narrative on global warming is not the intent of this post. If you are reading this blog, it is most likely that you have somewhere comfortable to live, you and your family have sufficient means to feed yourselves, and are most likely gainfully employed. Interestingly enough, there is a lot of evidence that once a family is over a surprisingly low income, their carbon intensity declines, and their impact on the earth reduces.
This does seem intuitively correct. If a human being does not have sufficient food and shelter for themselves and their family, it is doubtful they will care about the environment. Their incentive is to survive and to survive at any cost, even their and our environment.
Billions Of Individual Decisions
So what does this all have to do with SNGLRTY? Our vision started with a desire to create a watch like no other. Daniel and I set the bar high; we did not want to do anything that had been done before. As we journeyed along with the development of SNGLRTY, we faced many decisions. Daniel and I approached these decisions aiming for the best result for SNGLRTY and also looking to reduce any negative outcomes from the decision. I believe that we all have to be responsible for the outcome because at the end of the day each of our own decisions will add up to the final outcome. The easiest place to start is to reduce waste.
Intent into Practice
Let me explain. One of the most wasteful areas for watches is in the packaging. How much packaging do you accumulate from a new watch? Depending on the price you pay, the box can be pretty small or huge. I have seen some very extravagant watch boxes. Regardless of the size of the box, the common link between all this packaging is that it will be filled with plastic to a greater or lesser extent.
What is wrong with plastic, you may ask? Well, all plastic is made from oil, and it is a manufactured material. The problem with manufactured materials like plastics is that our natural environment has not encountered them before. With no experience of these materials, there is no natural process for nature to reprocess them through decomposition. The results of this are obvious from the tons of plastic in the oceans today.
It Is About The Life Cycle
For comparison, I will use polyethylene, there are many different plastics, but polyethylene is the simplest and will be sufficient for these purposes. Polyethylene is made from ethane (a gas with two carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms) linked together (poly meaning many). Some hydrogen atoms are removed in making polyethylene, and the carbon atoms link up to make very long chains. So if polyethylene were to decompose, it would release a lot of ethane into the atmosphere.
Polyethylene has wonderful properties, it can be molded in many different ways. The trouble is what happens at the end of its life. There are a few options, perhaps recycling, buried in a landfill, incinerated, or just discarded randomly into the environment. Let’s look at each of these quickly.
To Complete The Cycle Requires Intervention
Recycling is the best option, and it keeps the product serviceable for longer. The problem is that eventually, the item it is recycled into will hit the end of its usable life and need to be disposed of. The next option is to bury the polyethylene in a landfill.
Burying plastic does not help because it does not decompose. The fact that polyethylene is 100% artificial means that our natural environment does not have the tools to decompose plastic into its constituent parts. This means that if you bury a piece of plastic today, it is very likely that in 200 years (perhaps even thousands of years), that same piece of plastic can be dug up and will still be identifiable. This is not a good result.
Next on the list is to incinerate it. This will reduce the plastic to carbon dioxide and water, so if this is managed, it could be acceptable. Although it certainly releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which may have other consequences. That said most naturally occurring substances will decompose and create methane, carbon dioxide, and water in the process, grass is a good example here.
So, unless the plastic is incinerated, the plastic will be around for most likely centuries. It may get broken into smaller pieces over time through abrasion, but this can cause other problems, such as the microplastics entering the food chain.
Back To Practicalities
So when developing a product, whether it is a watch or a piece of packaging, what should our target be? The product needs to be robust and long-lasting for its serviceable life. Still, it should not impact the earth for an undue period before decomposing or being reduced to its constituent parts through natural processes (being in a landfill).
The Packaging Conundrum
This is a particularly pertinent question when designing packaging, especially the shipping packaging as this is generally used only once. Many in the market use plastic in large quantities, and I understand why. Plastics are very cheap, easy to mold, and very robust. The big drawback is all this plastic is used only once and has no value to the customer. Our goal was to mitigate both these issues.
Packaging For Value
Packaging has two goals. The first is to protect the watch from damage during transportation. The second is to make sure that the watch is presented beautifully when opened by our customers. For Daniel and I, we did not want it just to be a piece of packaging, we want it to have practical ongoing use too. What is the point of having a huge box stored at the back of a wardrobe somewhere?
Package the Watch
The inner package we designed should not just be for delivery, we intend it to be a useful accessory for anyone’s watch collection. Daniel and I wanted to provide a packaging solution that was practical and valuable to our customers. The cylindrical leather case does both, your brand new SNGLRTY watch will arrive in pristine condition. In addition, you will also have a well-sized carrying case that provides ample protection to any of your watches when they are not on your wrist.
The next step was to ensure nothing happens to the leather case or the watch during shipping. For this plastic was excluded, and we developed a cardboard packing system that is not only robust, lightweight, and is flat-packed like a piece of Ikea furniture until it is needed. When the shipping pack is fully assembled, and your SNGLRTY watch is cocooned in the center in its leather case, it can fall from 2 meters and no harm will come to it.
Is It Perfect?
Have we achieved all our aims? Alas, not. We are still using some plastic. The inner lining of the leather watch roll uses a nylon lining material (nylon is just another plastic). Also, the core of the leather watch roll used foam (plastic) to hold the watch. These are areas we will be working on to improve over the following months and years.
As for everything else, we believe it is a significant improvement over the vast majority in the market. All the shipping material will decompose in a year or two. This is important as it is single-use. And the leather outer of the leather watch roll will decompose in a few decades in a landfill.
We Are Aware
Daniel and I are cognizant of the impact that our decisions have. We are determined to ensure that we make the best decisions we can at the time, and where we see weaknesses continue to work on improving. We take the responsibility to not waste the resources we have, but to use them thoughtfully and responsibly.
In this instance, we have done a lot to remove single-use plastic from our packaging. Our task now is to continue to reduce or remove it from as many other areas of our products as possible.
With billions of us making similar decisions we can have a positive impact on the environment, and the world we live in.