Pangea Organics' founder develops product and packaging strategics with the Earth at their core.

Pangea's rough-hewn product boxes are made from 100 percent post-consumer molded fiber and are plantable, with embedded seeds that sprout once the boxes are buried in soil.


Nature inspires Joshua Onysko. The founder of Pangea Organics was traveling through India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, taking in the natural wonders of these regions, when he began to question how their beauty would be preserved for future generations. He had what he describes as an epiphany: realizing that corporations were “inheriting” the earth, he thought he could influence them to reconsider their eco-unfriendly ways by offering up a suitable example.


It was an ambitious goal for Onysko, just 23. And it’s hard to understand how he thought he could actually make good on that aspiration. But that’s exactly what he’s been doing since he closed out his Eastern travels in 2001.


Onysko moved to Boulder, Colo., landed a job as a baker at Whole Foods and began making organic soaps in his garage at night. Friends and family who received samples started emailing and calling, saying how much they liked his soap, how it was clearing up their eczema and doing great things for their complexions.


It was all the encouragement Onsyko needed. As he expanded the operation and began selling product under a name borrowed from the term for the prehistoric super continent, he vowed to keep his focus: there would be no petrochemicals, parabens, genetically modified organisms or other ingredients thought to have a negative impact on personal and environmental health.


Unlike many green brands that are hyper-protective of their so-called proprietary formulas, Pangea listed everything in its products on its products so, according to Onysko, “consumers would know exactly what they’re purchasing and putting on their bodies”. The products were even designed to biodegrade within 48 hours of use.

Consumers overwhelmingly responded to Onysko’s ideals. And seven years later, the 30-year-old now runs Pangea as the largest cold-processed organic soap manufacturer in the country. His eco-centricity, though, goes beyond the manufacture of earth-friendly soaps and other personal care products. It carries over into every aspect of the business, including packaging.


When he launched the brand, Onysko did so with packaging that, logically, made use of recycled materials. A few years into things, though, he began to realize that packaging could play a much larger role in marketing the brand.


“It looked like a 23-year-old with 11 maxed out credit cards designed it,” he says.


Onysko turned to IDEO to revamp the line, re-imagining Pangea as a bold, modern brand with an identity that gave visual life to the company’s organic ideals.


Rough hewn product boxes were made from 100 percent post-consumer molded fiber and were designed to be plantable, with embedded seeds that sprout once the boxes are buried in soil. Primary packaging was made with endlessly recyclable glass or with HDPE plastic, which is easily recyclable in most communities, and it was screen printed, not wrapped with superfluous labels.


Now, says Onysko, “Our packaging is perfectly aligned with the company’s mission. We only make things that make things better.”


It’s come together in a sweet spot that has dramatically impacted the company’s bottom line. In 2005, Pangea sales were just $380,000, but in the year after the IDEO rebranding, they spiked to $1.2 million.


Onysko doesn’t rest easy with that success, though. His financial and personal investment in packaging is ongoing. For the most part, he says he has had to convince suppliers to explore his ideas for packaging alternatives when a concept is there, but “the supply and demand” for a format may not be.


“Sourcing the most eco-friendly materials involves a lot of research, money and patience,” he says.


Decisions on which concepts to press for are aided by lifecycle analysis, which compares the full environmental impact and helps Onysko choose the least burdensome options. It’s a process that has led him to the company’s molded fiber cartons, for instance.

“If you analyze the energy it takes to make paper or chipboard and the subsequent waste produced by making it into packaging, the environmental results are devastating,” he says. “This is why we use molded fiber instead. Basically recycled newspaper and hot water, molded fiber is biodegradable and compostable-and it uses a zero-waste process.”


Unlike other CPG executives, Onysko is happy to share what he’s learning through his due diligence. And that’s because he ultimately has a larger purpose. A portion of Onysko’s profits are being used to create the Pangea Institute, a not-for-profit he is establishing to teach sustainable living and business practices.

He’s already sharing those ideas with his customers because, he says, they play a leading role in recycling packaging.


Pangea goes beyond the “Please recycle” messaging found on consumer branded packaging and, instead, celebrates the idea of the packaging having a life beyond its original use.


“Pangea’s plantable packaging will grow sweet basil or amaranth flower, which makes the consumer think about what happens to packaging-not only where it comes from but where it goes after you’re finished with it,” Onysko says. “We make recycling an option and encourage it, but they are the ones that actually do the recycling. They are the ones that take action.”


It’s sensitivities like these that continue to propel Pangea and Onysko’s ideals dramatically forward. The company has grown its business upwards of 300 percent in the last year, and it has transitioned into a new luxury market. We can expect to see the launch of a slew of new products in the next year, Onysko says, and to witness a “renewing” of the company’s commitment to sustainability.


In the end, Onysko has been incredibly successful by pursuing profit (and great packaging) with a purpose. And he advises other brands-particularly those touting green credentials-to do the same.


“What’s the point of putting a great clean product out if it’s in environmentally reprehensible packaging,” he says. BP


Name: Joshua Onysko

Age: 30

Title: Founder & CEO

Years since founding company: Seven years

Ultimate branded package: Pangea Organics’ plantable packaging

What’s on your nightstand: Moss, river rocks, paperwhites, two lumia organic candles, matches and a glass of water.