A sustainable packaging system made with busy parents (and the Earth) in mind
At Seed, a core tenet that underlies all of our work is the understanding that health is not just human. Every living organism is a microcosm and exists in the context of Earth's greater ecology. To define health in human terms is to misunderstand biology and to perpetuate the very thinking that is destroying our collective home. As the climate change of our inner world mirrors the environmental threats of our greater world, we must urgently expand our definition of 'health' to acknowledge the interdependence of all life and that the choices we make have an impact beyond ourselves. This is more than a belief but a call to action.
To this end, we are far more than just a probiotics company. We think in systems and sustainability, from our practices to our products, with the pursuit of reducing our carbon footprint and minimizing unnecessary waste. Whether it's our environmental research under SeedLabs, which encompasses award-winning initiatives to support or restore at-risk ecosystems (think honey bees or coral reefs) through the applications of specialized probiotics or our Carbon Negative initiative—' health is not just human' is a lived truth that reflects action and commitment.
As part of these efforts, we've created a sustainable refill system for our latest consumer innovation, PDS-08™ Pediatric Daily Synbiotic—a 2-in-1 powdered synbiotic formulated for kids and teens with 9 probiotic strains and a fiber-based prebiotic designed for benefits in and beyond the gut. Plus, PDS-08™ was designed with how-do-I-get-my-kid-to-take-this-daily in mind: the 6g daily powder sachets come in a refillable aluminum container with a built-in daily tracking system, and the powder can be easily mixed into food or drink. No refrigeration necessary.
The sustainable refill system begins with a Month 1 Welcome Kit, which includes a signature deep Seed green refillable aluminum container to keep for monthly refills, a PaperFoam tray made of starch, natural fibers, and water, and it's shipped in a custom corrugated shipping box constructed from ecological paper made from algae that would otherwise damage fragile marine ecosystems. Each subsequent monthly refill of PDS-08™ comes in a bio-based, home-compostable pouch that protects against oxygen and moisture. Furthermore, we use a natural insulator barrier foam made from U.S. grown cornstarch to protect each refill. While most padded mailers are petroleum-based, corn foam requires 70% less energy and produces 80% less greenhouse gasses. What's more, it's biodegradable, backyard-compostable, edible, and dissolves in water.
Reaching our current packaging design took many (many) iterations (and a few failed attempts) to develop, and we continue to iterate even today. Since we first designed the packaging experience for our flagship consumer innovation DS-01® Daily Synbiotic, we've committed ourselves to practice the careful art of iteration when it comes to sustainability and our packaging. Collaborating with innovators from around the world, we continuously research, test, and design with biomaterials and unique applications of upcycled waste to ensure each component of our packaging system protects our bacteria and is gentler on the Earth.
For further background on our rationally designed synbiotic, PDS-08™ was evaluated in a 12-week, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial (findings published in Pediatric Research) and shown to support gastrointestinal function and healthy regularity in a pediatric population (and even increased regular, healthy weekly bowel movements in children experiencing intermittent constipation)—without stimulant ingredients and with no observed side effects or GI distress.
With a breakthrough formulation that comprises 9 clinically-studied probiotic strains and a dual-phase prebiotic, paired with innovations in probiotic stabilization and precision release, we've developed a product with the potential to meaningfully impact the quality of life for children and their families.
Additionally, as a whopping 95% of children and adults in the U.S. do not reach their daily recommended fiber intake, PDS-08™ was designed to help bridge the fiber gap with 5 grams of prebiotic fiber per serving. The fiber in one dose of PDS-08™ is equivalent to:
1.5 cups of strawberries
1.1 cups of broccoli
1.7 sweet potatoes
3.3 slices of multigrain bread
Because PDS-08™ is in a powdered format (versus gummy or tablet), we included 5g of fiber into a single dose to make it easy for kids to take.
Beyond digestive support, PDS-08™ includes strain-specific benefits for dermatological health (think clear, smooth skin) and advanced respiratory health. It's the first multi-strain synbiotic to include two pioneering strains clinically validated to support respiratory tract function and healthy response to seasonal airborne particles in children.
Our work to ensure probiotics is regarded as a field of science extends beyond our educational initiatives and strain-specific research to include novel delivery systems—a critical aspect of elevating the industry and ensuring efficacy and impact. With a microencapsulation system that safeguards select strains from stomach acid, enzymes, and bile salts, PDS-08™ was engineered to survive digestion and make it where it matters most (the colon). This system provides exceptional stability and bacterial viability—results from heat and humidity testing indicate remarkable heat and humidity tolerance, surviving 28 days of constant exposure to extremely humid conditions (80% relative humidity, at room temperature ˜ 72 ºF). Furthermore, through the entire duration to Day 28, the powder exhibited free-flowing physical characteristics with no clumping.
With busy parents in mind, the Month 1 Welcome Kit includes a FREE refillable container with a built-in daily tracking system, so parents never miss a day. Simply twist the BacTrac™ container top to align the dot (•) and day so you always remember the last day of use.
And while glass is infinitely recyclable, we know the less we create, the lower the impact. So our container is made of aluminum to keep for monthly refills.
From Mycelium to PaperFoam
To encase our aluminum container, we initially pursued the production of trays made from mycelium (the root structure of a mushroom), which acts as a natural glue, binding agricultural waste, turning it into a positive-impact resource, and ultimately replacing unsustainable synthetics like polystyrene or polyethylene. Mycelium trays decompose naturally in soil within 30 days.
While mycelium has sustainable properties, it's also quite heavy. Our thinking: less weight = smaller carbon footprint. So, we cut the weight of our trays in half by changing the material to PaperFoam, which is made of starch, natural fibers, and water. It's fully recyclable, home-compostable, and breaks down in 90 days.
Certifications: Vincotte certified home compostable, Vincotte certified biobased, Vincotte certified industrial compostable, UL validated paper recyclable
Biodegradable Algae Shipper
In the early days, we shipped DS-01® in an FSC recycled box that was green-ink dependent. To remedy this, we dyed the pulp of the box and increased sustainability while improving aesthetics. Today, our shipping box for both PDS-08™ and DS-01® is constructed from ecological paper made from algae that would otherwise damage fragile marine ecosystems.
??Certifications: FSC Certified
Each subsequent monthly refill of PDS-08™ comes in a bio-based, home-compostable pouch that protects against oxygen and moisture. To further protect each refill, we use a natural insulator barrier foam made from U.S.-grown cornstarch. While most padded mailers are petroleum-based, corn foam requires 70% less energy and produces 80% fewer greenhouse gasses. Bonus: it's biodegradable, backyard-compostable, edible, and dissolves in water.
Sustainability Should Not be Proprietary
It took us many iterations to create the sustainable refill system we have today, and we recognize that we still have a lot of work to do if we want to leave a beneficial footprint on the Earth. We also know we can't do it alone. As a resource, we codified all of our learnings—from creating sustainable packaging to doing business sustainably—into a free, open-source, step-by-step tool for understanding and actioning carbon offsets and our successful path to carbon negativity. An Open-Source,¹ Incomplete² Pocket³ Field Guide4 to Carbon Offsets5 (and Other Ideas6) Vol. 017 is the synthesis of our journey—navigating the confusing, complex, opaque world of carbon offsetting. It includes the questions we asked, the platforms we vetted, the partners we worked with, and the peer reviewers and BS-checkers we consulted in our quest to remove more greenhouse CO2 pollution from the Earth than we emit. It is an evolving composite of our research, findings, partners, strategies, and action items for growing companies to understand, define, and develop their own carbon-offsetting plan.
With the belief that sustainability should not be proprietary, we understand the only way we will be able to improve (and one day reverse) our impact on the planet is together. We think of this as scaffolding to build from, a series of shortcuts to audit, offset, reset, invest, and iterate.