Katie Ireland


Principal Packaging Engineer



Katie Ireland and Mary Jo Werlein will discuss tips for itendifying and avoiding greenwashing in packaging on Tuesday, April 30, at 3:50-4:10 pm during “The pet food market and marketing innovations” concurrent sessions. Register here

What is the single, most important concept you hope attendees will learn from your presentation?

How to plan and apply packaging sustainability to your products while avoiding greenwashing to succeed in today’s market and future sale markets.

Please explain the significance of this concept to the pet food industry and your organization:

The pet food industry, like food and beverage and CPG sectors, are setting sustainability goals, many by 2025. Packaging protects the pet food’s shelf life and taste characteristics. Planning your packaging options with awareness of the packaging material’s lifecycle and circular recovery path will give the producers and the buyers environmentally sound choices that will help them avoid options that are considered greenwashing, or materials that will end up in a landfill vs. more sustainable options like recycling or composting to reuse the material(s).

Sustainable packaging is important to me, because I would like to leave a better footprint and impact in the packaging field and the world around us. For CRB it is important to stay up to date with the trends as an industry steward to be able to help our clients with sustainable choices.

What are potential next developments or stages in this specific field?

The world is good at recycling paper, glass, and metals. The circularity development of plastics outside of HDPE and PP are the next big change. Building the infrastructure and the knowledge of the public on how and where to recycle is important. The chasing arrows around a number does not indicate that it is recyclable, it just clarifies the type of plastic resin used. Being able to separate the resins and reuse them as primary barriers again will be important to the lifecycle of plastics that are oil based and the impact to our environment.

Where do you hope future development or research takes it, or how you plan to progress it?

Being able to identify the right materials for function, use/ reuse/ recycle for our products across all industries is very important for sustainable living now and for our future generations. I hope that composting industrially and at home may also be growing with the proper infrastructure and science behind what actually breaks down and will not affect us and our environment with sugar/starch-based polymer plastics, water-based inks and coatings. I hope there is more research done to understand how and what we make impacts us as humans and our environment so we can help eliminate the sources and causes of detrimental effects to our bodies, our environment, animals, and eco system.

Presentation Description:

Identifying and avoiding greenwashing in packaging sustainability — Katie Ireland, principal packaging engineer, CRB, and Mary Jo Weirlein, senior sustainability manager, Adept Packaging, discuss the best options for pursuing pet food packaging sustainability without committing “greenwashing,” the deceptive practice of making products appear more environmentally friendly than they are. Packaging sustainability is a critical consideration in today’s world, where there is a growing awareness of environmental issues and a desire to reduce the impact of consumer products on the planet. However, achieving sustainability in packaging is not just about using eco-friendly materials and making superficial changes. It involves breaking down the complex issue and building a solid plan to address it effectively, all while avoiding the trap of greenwashing.


Katie Ireland is an industry-leading packaging expert with more than two decades of experience across iconic global brands including Starbucks, Kellogg, Ford Motor Company, Unilever, ConAgra and Hershey. She joined CRB in mid-2023, bolstering the design and construction firm’s holistic packaging, equipment and line design services. Ireland graduated with a bachelor of science in packaging engineering from Michigan State University before earning her MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She has extensive speaking experience.