Sustainability in Traveling

Traveling in recent years has changed. Largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, also because we are becoming more conscious about how our activities affect our planet.

For some years now, there have been aspects of travelling that I am more careful about, trying to enjoy the trip while caring about its sustainable aspects. Anyone who knows me a little, or has read a few posts of mine, will know that I am convinced that, when it comes to our environmental footprint on this planet, every action counts, no matter how small it may seem.

A couple of the things I do when travelling is to bring my own toiletries to avoid using hotel toiletries packed in mini, single use, plastic containers, and carry a reusable beverage container. The later has given way to an interesting experiment when I ask an airport seller or a flight attendant to pour a beverage in it. Generally, airport restaurants or vendors have no problem filling my container with coffee or other beverage, while not all airlines will accept doing this – I have gotten replies that go from a simple “we cannot do that” to “I’ll pour it in this plastic cup and then you can refill your container”.

I recently travelled to Chicago for the Sustainability in Packaging 2023 conference. Very adequately, I found some nice examples of how some aspects of travelling have improved recently.

I flew with Aeromexico, and it was great to see how they are doing much more than offering an additional, voluntary, carbon/offset fee when buying tickets. One thing I noticed since last year is that their flight attendants are some of the friendliest when you ask them to refill your reusable beverage container, whether it’s for water, juice, or coffee.  This flight was no exception. Further than that, a new discovery / which I loved on my flight to Chicago! – was that they are no longer using disposable plastic containers for food. Hot breakfast was served in a combination of aluminum containers with aluminum lids and hard, reusable, plastic bowls for fruit (which did have a plastic film on top). I asked one of the flight attendants, who confirmed / with a proud smile – that aluminum got recycled and plastic bowls were washed and reused.

The conference venue was Accor Group’s Swiss hotel.  I was very happy to see that most toiletries came in paper packaging, that there were no plastic bags lining trash bins in the room, and that there was an extra trash bin for recycling, which was a different color and material, and had the RECYCLE text and symbol. Another nice discovery was a pretty ceramic cup next to the coffee maker, which allowed me to enjoy a morning coffee, even if I still used coffee that came in a plastic tray, which I put in the recycling bin. According to information from Accor Group, by using recycling bins around the hotel and properly training its people, over 7 tons of materials were recycled in 2022.

Regarding housekeeping, this was the first time that an invitation to choose skipping room cleaning (which I have seen and accepted before) came with a credit offer for each day I chose not to have room cleaning service. Credit was made valid on my bill as offered.

Catering for the conference also managed to avoid single-use items by having glasses made of glass, ceramic dishware and metal cutlery, which were constantly collected and replaced by clean ones, possibly generating employment instead of trash.


The Spearhead Group annual PBE™ Award Winners

At The Spearhead Group, supporting design and engineering schools is vital to our innovation and R&D programs. Our collaboration with Istituto Europeo di Design launched in May 2019 with an initial program that required the students to develop a spirits brands and any Physical Brand Enhancement™ to support them. This year, Spearhead sponsored our third luxury packaging design challenge named the PBE Awards™ with Istituto Europeo di Design based out of Turin, Italy. The students have been working with the “Less is More” theme for the 2022 PBE Award™ competition. The brief challenged them to create a Value-Added Gift Pack (VAP) engineered to use the least amount of CrownBoard Prestige™ paper which was generously donated by our strategic material Pioneer Billerud.

Spearhead has found that working with bright and upcoming students results in a tremendous amount of new and unique ideas. For years, the packaging space has become fairly static, and we pride ourselves as market disrupters by constantly pushing for change. The only way we can achieve change is by driving sustainability first and striving to make the market trends.” said Robert Catalano, Chief Innovation Officer & Co-founder.

We are proud to announce the winners of our annual PBE™ Awards. Congratulations to the first-place winners Morena DiMolfetta, Alessandra Pinto, and Massimo Piovano, with their project “Travel Bag”. The second-place winners were Paolo Bosetti, Francesco Falvio Noli, and Lorenzo Ravarino with their project “HUG”.

“We have been extremely impressed by the creativity and professional ability of the IED Torino students who took part in this very challenging project,” said Giovanna Pinna who leads the Spearhead PBE Awards™.

Special thanks to the students and to all those that helped make this a successful program, especially to Giovanna Pinna, European New Business Lead, Natale Bauducco, Advisor to The Spearhead Group, Paola Zini – IED Turin, Valeria Spada – Partnership and Special Projects – Italy, Marco Cassino – IED Professor – Italy, and Motoki Yoshio – IED Professor – Italy.

Thanks again to our esteemed panel of judges, Sebba Alqetrani, Director – Package Development Sustainability at MAC Cosmetics, Patricia Burguete, Head of Global Sustainability Strategies at The Spearhead Group, Inc., Humberto Ibarra (Beto), Co-Founder, CMO, and Owner at Tequila Mandala, Sarita Gonzalez, Project Leader – Luxury at Coty, Daniella Kohler, Brand Owner Manager – USA Cartonboard at Billerud, and Luis Carlos Vega, R&D Lead at The Spearhead Group, Inc.

Please follow us on our blog and LinkedIn to see more announcements about the 2022 PBE Awards™ program. (more…)

The Spearhead Group PBE™ Award Panel of Judges

Today, we proudly announce our esteemed PBE™ Award Panel of Judges.

Sebba Alqetrani, Director – Package Development Sustainability at M·A·C Cosmetics, Patricia Burguete, Head of Global Sustainability Strategies at The Spearhead Group, Humberto Ibarra,  Co-Founder, CMO, and Owner at Tequila Mandala, Sarita Gonzalez, Project Leader – Luxury at Coty, Daniella Kohler, Brand Owner Manager – USA Cartonboard at Billerud, and Luis Carlos Vega, R&D Lead at The Spearhead Group.

We see it as our responsibility as a packaging company to not only eliminate plastic but to engineer packaging that uses less material in order to be more sustainable. To inspire next generation innovation in Physical Brand Enhancement™, Spearhead is sponsoring our third luxury packaging design challenge called the PBE Awards™ with IED Torino – Istituto Europeo di Design. Over the past several months, the students have been working with the “Less is More” theme for the PBE Award™ competition this year and have been challenged with creating a Value-Added Gift pack (VAP) that is engineered to use the least amount of paper materials.

Spearhead offers Physical Brand Enhancements™ with new takes on manufacturing and present materials that challenge conventional packaging through our global partnerships with Strategic Material Pioneers, like Billerud who share our vision for a better world. The students will be using CrownBoard Prestige® generously donated by Billerud for their packaging which is visually appealing and durable. Billerud is a world leading company in superior paper and packaging materials made of virgin fibre; passionately committed to sustainability, quality, and customer value.

These activities allow us to not only focus on innovation and sustainability, but to become engaged with students and set an example of doing the right thing for our planet. We would like to thank our judges for their participation, dedication, and commitment.

Please stay tuned for the PBE Award™ results in the coming weeks and reach out to our Marketing and Innovation Manager, Lana Toler to discover all the innovative things we can create for you!

The Spearhead Group proudly announces Bottle2Bag™ program

The Spearhead Group has a history of engineering packaging to eliminate plastic and be more sustainable. Today, we proudly announce our Bottle2Bag™ program. Spearhead has created our own program called Bottle2Bag™ which is focused on using post-consumer single use plastic bottle waste to make fabric that can be used in reusable bag production.

The Bottle2Bag™ initiative goes hand in hand with Spearhead Project Earth™, a non-profit foundation funded by The Spearhead Group with the mission to remove plastic from an international waterway. We see it as our responsibility as a packaging company to not only eliminate plastic from our packaging but to clean up single use plastic waste. Now with Bottle2Bag™ we are going a step further to use plastic bottle waste as a new material for bag production. These activities allow us to not just focus on sustainability, but to become engaged and set an example of doing the right thing for our planet.

“Many are not aware of the impact of single use plastics on our environment. It takes up to 450 years for a single use plastic water bottle to decompose so this is a problem that will remain for many generations. Plastic not only contributes to unsightly shorelines, carbon emissions – but also creates microplastics. These microplastics get into our oceans, fish, and eventually into our bodies. It has been reported that an average person consumes about a credit card sized amount of plastic a week due to microplastics. It is up to anyone supplying packaging, to take on the social responsibility of seeking ways to eliminate plastic.”

– Heather Catalano, Co-Founder & CEO

Looking to learn more about our programs or to partner with an organization that embraces and practices sustainability every day?


Please watch our video and reach out to Lana Toler to discover all the good things we can create for you!

The Spearhead Group Launches Spearhead Project Earth™, a Not-For-Profit Dedicated to Giving Back to the Global Community

The Spearhead Group proudly launched Spearhead Project Earth™, a not-for-profit dedicated to giving back to the global community. These activities allow us to not just focus on sustainability, but to become engaged and set an example of doing the right thing for our planet. By committing to help restore and protect Burlington Island and the Delaware River for us and future generations.

This program was made possible thanks to the support of Burlington citizens and members of the Board of Island Managers, particularly David Babula, Joe Abate, Karen Robbins, and Angela Wenger.

“We are determined to act together to restore the integrity and beauty of this landmark site for all of us who value the Delaware River, Burlington Island and our responsibility to preserve international waterways. Plastic items trapped on island shores can easily reach the ocean. We’ve launched Spearhead Project Earth to act on our company’s core mission to place sustainability first, locally and globally.”

Robert Catalano, Chief Innovation Officer & Co-Founder

The Spearhead Group is a hands-on company: from deep involvement in our clients’ projects to our commitment to the environment, we are not afraid to work hard and do the right thing.

Sustainability is very important to us, as well as one of our core values. Establishing an independent, non-profit, foundation shows our long-term sustainability commitment.

If you are interested to learn how your group can participate, please contact us at

The Spearhead Group Proudly Only Uses FSC Paper Materials

The Spearhead Group has always been committed to using the best and most sustainable materials.

As part of this commitment, we only use Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified papers for all offerings.

Paper and packaging are some of the most widely used forest-based products, so ensuring they are sustainably sourced is crucial to protecting healthy, resilient forests. To show our dedication to sustainability, it was important to become FSC certified to continually provide sustainable Physical Brand Enhancements™ to our clients.

Spearhead actively seeks ways to reduce our carbon footprint and guide clients in their sustainable choices, we now offer our clients the option to print the “check tree” label on all paper-based packaging that we make for them. This label is the most trusted mark for responsible forestry worldwide and is found on millions of products worldwide, verifying sustainable sourcing from the forest to store shelves.

FSC® certification allows Spearhead to provide the responsible choices our clients want and demonstrates our commitment to sustainability and forests worldwide.

Please reach out to Lana Toler, Marketing and Innovation Manager to discover all the good things we can create for you!

Non-alcoholic Beverage Market Collaboration with Laura Silverman

The Spearhead Group is known for its extensive Physical Brand Enhancement™ activities in the spirits industry, supplying popular items such as Crown Royal’s purple bags. We are now very proud to announce that Spearhead added a new focus to an upcoming market sector: the adult, non-alcoholic beverage market.

To achieve this goal, Spearhead reached a collaborative agreement with Laura Silverman, founder of Zero Proof Nation, who is a true expert in this growing field of adult non-alcoholic trends, options and market sector growth. Laura and Spearhead’s mutual goal is to elevate adult non-alcoholic options and bring product innovation and efficiencies in Physical Brand Enhancements™ supply pipelines to this emerging sector.

“I have been working with and supplying the spirits industry products for close to 30 years,” says Robert Catalano, Chief Innovation Officer & Co-founder of  The Spearhead Group “all ironically while abstaining from drinking alcohol for around the last 8 years. After having the honor of following Laura for some time, getting to know Zero Proof Nation, and more about Laura, I have realized that there are many more folks like myself out there. Adults looking for options beyond a virgin Bloody Mary or the occasional Shirley Temple. Laura, via her consistent education through her social media and podcasts, has really opened my eyes that there is a real industry movement developed around non-alcoholic adult beverages. People should have choices, whether it be drinking alcohol responsibly or abstaining occasionally or always. We believe it is time that Spearhead embraces all of these choices.”

“When I quit drinking 15 years ago, there were virtually zero adult non-alcoholic options for people like me and others across the sobriety spectrum,” exclaims Laura. “To see where we are now is mind-boggling, and it’s my true passion to shine a light on one of the fastest growing sectors in the beverage world. I never thought that leaving alcohol behind could yield so many personal and professional gains. It just makes sense to partner with Robert and The Spearhead Group; bringing Spearhead’s Physical Brand Enhancement™ expertise to the non-alcoholic market is a natural fit and will be the next frontier for non-alc brands!”

If you are in the non-alcoholic beverage space and want to learn about how Spearhead might be able to help your Physical Brand Enhancement™, please reach out to Laura Silverman, Non-Alcoholic Drinks Industry Advisor.


Laura Silverman is the founder of Zero Proof Nation and Booze Free in DC, two platforms focused on highlighting non-alcoholic beverages and the culture driving their growth. She is co-host of By Volume, a podcast focused on the intersection between music and non-alcoholic beverages. Moving the industry needle forward is rooted in personal reasons for Laura, as she got sober in 2007 at the age of 24. Laura is frequently sought after as an industry subject matter expert by publications such as Wine Enthusiast, Forbes, America’s Test Kitchen, and BBC.

Co-op Program with Drexel University

We are excited and proud to announce our 3rd Co-op program with Drexel University in Philadelphia, the program allows for Drexel students to be a part of a co-op program for a six-month period with an approved University employer. This week, our new co-op employee/students, Joseph McDermott and Matthew Murdock joined the team.

The Spearhead Group welcomed Joseph and Matthew into the R&D lab to work closely with Robert Catalano, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-founder. They will have the opportunity to participate in product development brainstorming, 3-D print new prototypes, design and laser cut multiple substrates, and provide real time innovative solutions from a fresh new perspective.

“I am looking forward to working with the members of the R&D department in innovating and developing the future of packaging in a truly unique company. A co-op position at The Spearhead Group enables me to challenge my education in engineering and discover new opportunities to improve in design.”

– Joseph McDermott

“I cannot begin to express how I appreciative I am for Spearhead to give me this opportunity. They truly have made me feel like I am an important member of this team immediately. It is extremely gratifying and exciting to know that your ideas matter and are being taken into consideration. I am eager to work here for the next six months and learn as much as I possibly can about countless new things.”

– Matthew Murdock

The Drexel co-op isn’t the first program that The Spearhead Group has worked on with innovative students at global universities. Over the last few years, The Spearhead Group has had the opportunity to sponsor several programs at the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) Turin and Ibero University in Mexico City.

“Students provide a new perspective in innovation and our team looks forward to being at the forefront with them. We are excited to not only provide Joseph and Matthew with an opportunity now, but to help open doors for what they can pursue in the future” said Luis Carlos Vega, R&D Team Leader at The Spearhead Group.



Spearhead Project Earth

The Spearhead Group is pleased to announce the launch of “Project Earth”. Our team launched an initiative which includes a series of shoreline cleanups and an educational program as a part of our commitment to restore and protect Burlington Island and the Delaware River for us and future generations. Burlington Island is a 300-acre river island with an artificial lake called Burlington Island Lake which is situated on the Delaware River and belongs to the City of Burlington and to the Board of Island Managers.

The island’s first inhabitants were the Lenapehoking People, and its original name was Matennecunk island, which means Island of Pines. In the 17th century, the first European settlement was established on the island and on 1682 Burlington City was given the title to the island.

Although the island has not been inhabited since the 1970s, its shores are affected by human activity in an indirect and constant way. Trash floating in the river, especially plastic waste, gets trapped in the island shores, polluting this beautiful natural area, and creating a risk of releasing micro-plastics into our rivers which lead to the oceans.

When Robert Catalano, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-founder at The Spearhead Group first came across Burlington Island, which is located close to our main office in Yardley, Pennsylvania, he saw an opportunity to give back to the local communities and put our core values into action.

Patricia Burguete, Head of Global Sustainability Strategies said “our pilot cleanup was a great opportunity to see firsthand how human actions, or lack of action, can turn useful – even valuable – items into harmful trash. Every time we have a single use plastic in our hands, we can decide whether it becomes something that can be reused, properly recycled, or just thrown away, with the potential of becoming harmful to the environment.”  The Spearhead Group plans to use what we have learned in this first event to plan for ongoing clean-up and educational activities on Burlington Island.

This program was made possible thanks to the support of Burlington citizens and members of the Board of Island Managers, particularly Karen Robbins, Joe Abate, David Babula, and Angela Wenger. We had the privilege of having a Cherokee Medicine Man give an American Indian blessing to our project, accompanied by two others, in representation of the Native Americans who were the original dwellers of Matennecunk Island.

The Spearhead Group is excited about the possibilities that Project Earth can bring. These activities allow us to not just focus on sustainability, but to become engaged and set up an example of doing the right thing for our planet. Stay tuned for updates and information about how you can help preserve Burlington Island and check out our video!



Let’s Talk About Carbon

Carbon is talked about more and more lately, especially in the context of sustainability. I have noticed that, while many people use the term carbon (or carbon neutral, carbon positive, carbon offset, carbon credit, carbon footprint, etc.), not many understand what it means. In this instance, carbon usually refers to carbon dioxide which is a combination of carbon and oxygen atoms.

Carbon is a chemical element that is abundant in nature. Carbon compounds or, carbon attached to other elements, are found in an incredible number of things including coal, petroleum, plant and animal tissues.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occurring carbon compound that is essential for life. Present in the air and water, plants and algae feed on carbon to create new carbon compounds, including more CO2. It’s one of the most essential life cycles!

After the industrial revolution, man-made processes began to release CO2 into the environment at a faster pace than it could be naturally absorbed back by nature. With an unprecedented amount lingering in our atmosphere, this has created a timing issue for the reabsorption. Even if we could halt all carbon dioxide emissions right now, the Earth would need years to reset to natural levels.

This is why it is so urgent to act and reduce or offset, CO2 emissions now. Governments, industries, and individuals all need to be committed to understanding this process and doing their part to reduce COin the atmosphere. Each of us at The Spearhead Group are committed to being mindful and reducing the environmental impact of the products we offer. We pledge to partner with like-minded suppliers and manufacturers to keep improving our sustainability practices, project by project.

Welcome to The Spearhead Group Blog

The Spearhead Group provides Physical Brand Enhancements to clients in the spirits, beauty and personal care industries. Headquartered in Yardley, PA midway between New York City and Philadelphia, The Spearhead Group offers companies a modern, full-service, consultative approach from concept to reality.

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