You’ve Got to Be Kitting Me: How Kits Have Affected the Consumer World
In case you haven’t heard, kits are a big deal these days. But if you haven’t, and you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, I’ll give you the scoop. Broadly speaking, a kit is a “set of articles or equipment needed for a specific purpose.” Like I said, that’s a very broad definition, but today’s kits have a very broad reach. Look around, and you’ll find a kit for virtually every area of your life—from what you wear to what you eat to the gifts you give.
Kits range from the standard utilitarian need, like these practical emergency/survival kits that have been around for decades, to Kylie’s lip kit (which some might consider a survival tool depending upon your evening plans). I even found this mani/pedi kit with a really neat symmetrical design.
There’s really no limit to the creative uses for kits—one I found fascinating is the “bridesmaid / groomsman proposal kit.” I was at a wedding this weekend where the couple spent more time and money on the wedding party’s proposal kits than the flowers (FYI: the average price of flowers for a wedding is $1,500 —crazy, right?). In our current culture of immediacy, it’s no surprise that everyone is looking for the simplest way to get everything they need in one place, and these kits fit that bill. But, what does this mean in terms of the packaging we use for all of these perfectly packaged kits?
The Lesser of Two Evils
I came up with the idea for this blog post after speaking with my friend about meal kits. As a young working professional, the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is go through the process of gathering ingredients, cooking said ingredients, and the cleanup that inevitably ensues (all for one person). So, I was considering signing up for a meal kit service because 1) I am lazy after work (see previous statement), but also 2) I hate letting food I buy go to waste. Like when I have to buy a bunch of cilantro instead of the one tiny sprig that I need. When I brought up the idea to my friend Claire, she said she had tried it and loved the idea, but the execution of the actual kit came with so much excess packaging she couldn’t justify using the service. Because I work at The Packaging School, my ears perked up at her comment and as an earth conscious citizen, I was torn. I wanted to order it for convenience’s sake, and I wanted to justify the excess packaging by the food waste I would be eliminating, but which waste is worse? Here’s an excerpt from a Buzzfeed article that does a good job of laying out (literally—in photos) all of the waste that came from a Blue Apron package.
“Blue Apron argues that by portioning out its ingredients exactly, it helps cooks reduce the approximately 31% of post-harvest food that goes wasted in the country. That’s a compelling argument on paper, and one that makes intuitive sense to anyone who’s ever tried to follow a fancy recipe exactly and ended up with a partially zested lemon and seven-eighths of a head of black garlic in her fridge. But it’s a little harder to swallow when you’re staring down a plastic bag containing about three tablespoons of all-purpose flour—a bag that’s likely been shipped across the country to your doorstep.”
Blue Apron does state that their packaging is recyclable and gives instructions on how to recycle on their website, but for me, I’m still stuck. Waste, as a general rule, no matter the substance, is not the ideal.
Immediate and Online
After working at The Packaging School for about a year now, I have learned a decent amount about packaging and its necessity in today’s world of instant gratification and internet shopping. How all of that has led to more packaging and logistics (think about all that’s involved in shipping a package, keeping the contents safe, and how they get it to you in a day still baffles me). People want what they want when they want it—the popularity of these kits is evidence of this. The interesting thing is people tend to lean on kits for a perfected (and quicker) version of what they really could have created themselves. And the question for me becomes—is this convenience worth the tradeoff?
Food for Thought
When we think about the subject of waste, not everything can be packaged in a neat little kit. It gets complicated. Kind of like life. Life is beautiful and wonderful, but also messy and weird and happens more like the family dinner you make with flour flying, bowls crashing, and turkey burning. If we try to eliminate food waste, we end up with plastic waste. As our society becomes increasingly conscious of waste issues, we must have thoughtful solutions.
Can there be a balance between the convenience of kits and the unwanted environmental impact? What do you think?