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Flat-Packing to Save the World

Think of a “green” product, and you probably imagine something made of recycled, non-toxic materials. But actually, the key to ensuring that a product has a light carbon footprint is making sure it ships in the tiniest space possible—so that less truckloads and shiploads are required, and therefore less gas.

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Think of a “green” product, and you probably imagine something made of recycled, non-toxic materials. But actually, the key to ensuring that a product has a light carbon footprint is making sure it ships in the tiniest space possible—so that less truckloads and shiploads are required, and therefore less gas.

Ikea’s a master at that. To promote its charismatic 2009 line of green products, the furniture store just released a charming series of videos that provide some examples of clever problem solving. The third video down poses the biggest problem: Designing a chest of drawers that packs down into a tiny box. The drawers themselves are the biggest hurdle because they’re so bulky. As you can see in the video, the designer solved that dilemma by making every drawer a different size, so that they can all nest inside one another during shipping:

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Perhaps that seems trivial, but it’s not. Packaging and product designers can often  increase shipping efficiency by over 50% with the right design. That’s a lot of trucks, and a lot of gas—and all with just a sliver of ingenuity.

[Image by OiMax]

 

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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