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PackageSmart – Evaluating Packaging Impacts

Bring Your Product to Market with a Strong Sustainability Story for Your Innovative Packaging

Is There a Better Alternative?

Yes – How PackageSmart Creates Packaging Impact Assessments

There are many approaches to packaging Life Cycle Assessment. Here’s a look “under the hood” at the methodology used by EarthShift Global’s PackageSmart. PackageSmart provides not just engineering insights, but clear testimony to the full environmental impact of new packaging designs.

In the broadest sense, packaging Life Cycle Assessment involves collecting a substantial amount of data about a piece of packaging (resources used, emissions created, etc.), and then boiling down that data through an interpretive process to create high-level metrics that can be used for assessment and comparison with other options. These impacts address the needs of most users by focusing on the damage a package causes ed by our products in the areas of to human health, ecosystem quality, and resources, and then adding some of the metrics that are most of interest to today’s companies: greenhouse gas emissions and water and energy use.

“I have taught packaging sustainability since the Spring 2008 to MSU packaging students. The main goal of this course is to evaluate the environmental footprint of product/packaging systems using LCA concepts and streamlined LCA software.
After using many types of software, I have found that PackageSmart does a great job of encouraging system thinking and developing a product/packaging life-cycle perspective among my students.”— Rafael Auras, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Packaging, Michigan State University

We began development of the PackageSmart packaging impact assessment method by drawing on five categories from ReCiPe (Goedkoop, 2009) (http://www.lcia-recipe.net/), the latest internationally accepted data interpretation methodology. We then added a sixth category - cumulative energy demand (Frishknecht, 2003). This combined approach provides a broad and robust perspective on the total environmental impact of a package.

Three of the ReCiPe assessment categoriesy calculates an endpoint result by taking into account a different combination of environmental mechanisms and mid-point indicators (“Impact Categories”). PackageSmart leverages the following ReCiPe categories:

Human Health

In this category, the damage analysis links six impact categories (Climate Change, Human Toxicity, Photochemical Oxidant Formation, Particulate Matter Formation, Ionizing Radiation and Ozone Depletion) to Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY), the sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability.


The impact categories that apply to ecosystem quality are: Climate Change, Terrestrial Acidification, Freshwater Eutrophication, Ecotoxicity, Agricultural Land Occupation, Urban Land Occupation and Natural Land Transformation. The damage to ecosystems is measured by considering which species would disappear in a given time period.


The two impact categories that apply to resources are Fossil Depletion and Metal Depletion. The quantification of damage is based on the marginal increase of cost due to extraction of resources, measured in dollars per kilogram ($/kg, economic).

Two of the categories come from ReCiPe midpoints: water depletion and climate change. These are described in more detail below.:

Water Depletion

This category quantifies the total water consumed by a process/product. It is measured as the volume of water consumed (in cubic meters).

Climate Change

Gas emissions linked to climate change include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and fluorinated gases. This category combines the effect of the differing times greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere, and their relative effectiveness in absorbing outgoing infrared radiation. The concentration of greenhouse gases is measured as kg equivalents of CO2, i.e. the relative global warming potential of a gas as compared to CO2. The IPCC model with a 100-year time horizon is used for characterization. The uptake of carbon dioxide from the air (sequestration of CO2 by plants) and the subsequent emission of biogenic carbon dioxide (from the burning of biomass) are not included.

PackageSmart also incorporates a sixth category:

Cumulative Energy Demand

Cumulative energy demand measures the cumulative energy resources required (total MJs) throughout the life cycle of a package, including energy from: non-renewable fossil, non-renewable nuclear, non-renewable biomass, renewable biomass, renewable wind, solar, geothermal and renewable water.


To make interpretation and comparisons easier, LCA studies often normalize data in relation to a reference system. The normalization factors available with the impact assessment methods are typically for a certain geographical region. Our PackageSmart method contains normalization factors that express per-capita world impacts for the year 2000.

The Global Packaging Project (GPP) has worked over the past 2.5 years to develop a set of recommended Life Cycle Indicators and packaging attributes which are incorporated into PackageSmart LCA software. It is likely that many companies will adopt these metrics for their sustainable package metrics, and in turn the GPP environmental indicators will standardize the measurement of sustainable packaging, making comparisons and evaluations much easier. Their environmental indicators include both attributes and LCA impact categories. (See figure below for a summary of the GPP metrics.)

In conjunction with the release of the GPP indicators, a GPP Impact Assessment Method (IAM) will be included in the PackageSmart LCA software. This will allow users to easily model their LCA toward these indicators, providing them with accurate and actionable data.

GPP Environmental Indicator Overview


Goedkoop M., Heijungs R., Huijbregts M., Schryver A.D., Struijs J., Van Zelm R. (2009). ReCiPe, First edition. Pre Consultants, Amersfoort, Netherlands, CML, University of Leiden, Netherlands, RUN Radbound University Nijmegen Netherlands, RIVM, Bilthoven, Netherlands.

Frischknecht R., Jungbluth N., et.al. (2003). Implementation of Life Cycle Impact Assessment Methods. Final report ecoinvent 2000, Swiss Centre for LCI. Dübendorf, CH, www.ecoinvent.org

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PackageSmart User Types

PackageSmart Access TypesPackageSmart utilizes a role-based user model, which allows three different levels of access to the application:Administrator – The Administrator role has full access to the application to create, change or delete models, add materials and processes to the inventory and change the number of levels in the model. Administrators can also create report templates, which other user roles can use when creating reports. Administrators are typically the team members best versed in LCA but, don’t worry — if you don’t think you’re an expert - EarthShift Global is here to help.User – User-level access is designed for engineers, designers, and other professionals who aren’t specialists in LCA but who wish to create models or iterations of existing models. User-level privileges are similar to Administrator privileges, with the exception of being able to add to the inventory and change the number of levels.Viewer – The Viewer role is “read-only” - the person can interact with existing models, run analyses and scenarios (similar to a calculator) and run reports, but cannot make changes to the underlying models. Viewers are often managers, but can also be engineers or designers who are new to PackageSmart and want to ease into the LCA process.

System Requirements

PackageSmart runs on current and recent versions of Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari browsers on both Windows and MacOS environments. Although it will run on screen resolutions of 800x600, we recommend monitors with a higher resolution for minimal scrolling.

Data Security

Your data is safe and secure with us. Our servers utilize 128-bit SSL certificates so that all communication between our servers to your environment is fully encrypted.

Try Before You Buy – Free 7-Day Trial Account

Interested in PackageSmart but not quite sure? Click below to register for a free 7-day trial account. You'll have full access to the application for 7 days. Run some "what if" analysis on the environmental impacts of your packaging, check out the reporting engine to run EPD reports, or just take a look around.

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