CHICAGO -- Steelcase Inc. announced today that the company will begin shipping select products with EcoCradle(TM) packaging, a bio-based material made from agricultural byproducts developed by Ecovative -- a natural composite materials company. Currency(R) ready-to-assemble laminate casegoods will be the first Steelcase(R) product shipped using the new packaging.

Composed of agricultural byproducts such as cotton seed hulls and mushroom roots, this packaging requires very little energy to produce since the material is grown, not manufactured. The entire creation process uses approximately one-tenth the energy used to manufacture traditional synthetic material. Moreover, it's completely compostable, returning nutrients to the soil in approximately 30-45 days, making it ideal for something as practical as compost for a community garden.

Material choice and transportation constitute Steelcase's two greatest product impact areas. Therefore, packaging plays a central role in delivering on the company's sustainability goals.

"EcoCradle is just one example of changes we are making as part of a broader strategic packaging initiative," says Dennis Carlson, manager of packaging and logistics for North America, Steelcase Inc. "We will continue to adapt our packaging and distribution systems to optimize transport, reduce environmental impact and support local communities. We look forward to integrating this additional packaging throughout our portfolio as part of this overall strategy."

Over the last year Steelcase and Ecovative worked to develop a variety of iterations, adjusting forms, agricultural byproduct mix, and processes to ensure it would meet rigorous performance standards. Ultimately, EcoCradle passed Steelcase's extensive sustainability assessment as well as performance testing in quality, durability and humidity following the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standards.

"Steelcase was a great partner to develop this exciting and effective alternative to existing plastic protective corners," said Ecovative chief executive officer Eben Bayer. "This was a particularly challenging application because of the unique geometry and the many sizes of Steelcase products. We are proud to have developed a radical solution that outperforms existing synthetics. But we are even prouder to be deploying it with Steelcase, a company whose environmental and social commitment is unrivaled in this space."

In addition to its environmental benefits, this approach to packaging creates economic potential for farmers by giving them a way to sell rather than dispose of agricultural byproducts. EcoCradle's business model is structured to support regional economies by sourcing locally grown materials for the packaging.

"EcoCradle packaging is a simple and beautiful example of the triple bottom line at work. It shows how social, economic and environmental aspirations can come together through partnership and innovation," says Angela Nahikian, director of Global Environmental Sustainability, Steelcase Inc. "We're very excited to be working with Ecovative to bring this new idea -- as old as dirt -- to our customers, our industry, and eventually to local communities."

SOURCE: Steelcase Inc.