April 16, 2020

The following is an excerpt from an article by Micha Bennett that originally appeared in CSU Source.

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University has selected three Global Challenges Research teams and two Resident Fellows across five colleges from a competitive field of proposals. The SoGES awards are intended to encourage interdisciplinary understanding of complex global sustainability issues, foster collaborative cross-campus partnerships and support sustainability research at CSU.

New this year, the Global Challenges Research Teams will be funded for two years, with each team receiving $30,000. The longer timeframe allows teams to better execute planned work and articulate accomplishments.

“One of our goals is to provide a roadmap for how an engaged community can learn to provide higher sustainability,” said Simske, principal investigator for the Re-use Efficiency Packaging with Analytics for Customized Knowledge (REPACK) Global Challenges Research Team. “The SoGES grant really allows us to create the time and energy to dive deeper here than simple band-aid measures, and consider both the big picture and details simultaneously. Having a broad, cross-discipline resource like SoGES is true to a land-grant mission.”

Communication Studies Assistant Professor and Dialogue and Diversity Specialist with the Center for Public Deliberation Elizabeth Parks is one of the Principle Investigators of the Re-use Efficiency Packaging with Analytics for Customized Knowledge (REPACK) team. Other PIs include: Steven Simske, Department of Systems Engineering; and, John Macdonald, Department of Management.

One of the major sustainability challenges present today is the waste that accompanies packaging, usually corrugated cardboard, from the increased prevalence of online purchasing. However, since the average box contains only 50% recycled materials, half of the fiber must still be produced anew each time a package is shipped. Moreover, online ordering leads to smaller, more frequent one-off orders which require more packaging compared to the bulk orders that are sent to big-box, brick-and-mortar stores and then resold. Given these factors, reusing packaging materials is more efficient than recycling.

This project will explore the development of a label designed to track reused packaging, investigate means to drive supply chain adoption and explore how branding affects community participation, thus improving the sustainability of the growing e-commerce industry.

Parks role on the team is to investigate how to engage diverse populations in long-term reuse initiatives, and ensure that the mixed quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches to community engagement used in the project are inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible to diverse individuals and groups.

  • Image: REPACK article
  • Tags: research, DEI, Parks, collaborative