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How a Tiny Injured Kitten Kickstarted an Entire Sustainability Initiative

It’s so easy to pantomime corporations as mass polluters of the environment, but they’re run by humans, who reacted exactly as anyone else would when they saw a picture of Munchkin the orange Tabby.

The stray kitten was taken in by rescuers after it was found with a plastic packaging ring from a Munchkin “Any Angle Cup” stuck around his neck. It had begun to grow into the kitten’s skin.

The impact of this single photo brought about a corporate revolution that will reduce plastic use by 643,630 pounds annually.

Alerted to the kitten’s plight, Munchkin, who manufacture baby products, contacted the rescue group, Itty Bitty Kitty City, and paid for Munchkin the kitten to receive topnotch medical care, and donated $2,500 to the organization.

“It was soul crushing to read Laura’s [the rescuer] note and look at the photos of that sweet kitten, both personally because I’m a passionate advocate for animals and a pet parent myself of two cats, and professionally,” Diana Barnes, Chief Brand Officer and Creative Director at Munchkin

“We’ve all seen marine life and animals that are entangled in plastic, but no executive ever wants to imagine their brand is the source of this suffering. Laura asked us for nothing, she simply wanted awareness, she was asking us to do better.”

If the story ended there, it would be enough to tighten your throat, but it gets better, way, way better.

Barnes described cups as the “holy grail” of Munchkin’s product line. However they had just finished a total reconfiguration and branding of all 500 varieties of packaging. But the image of little Munchkin the kitten with the plastic hurting him was too much, and so Barnes and her team went right back at it.

After a year of research and development and over 250 packaging transit tests, Munchkin developed animal-safe packaging for 478 Munchkin cup SKUs.

The new design is free of plastic and utilizes e-flute corrugated linerboard made of 60-70% recycled content. Should another animal find itself in a similar situation as Munchkin the Cat, the packaging will easily break apart.

During the redesign process, Munchkin (the company) incorporated QR codes on the cup packaging, directing consumers to digital instructional manuals. This allowed the brand to remove the paper manuals, resulting in 37,278 lbs. of paper saved annually. If all Munchkin’s cup instruction manuals were placed end-to-end, they would have spanned the length of California 1.5 times.

The volunteers at Itty Bitty Kitty City were stunned and “overwhelmed” to watch this large nationwide corporation go through this massive financial expenditure simply in order to protect animals and the environment, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a pair of wounded kitten eyes have that power of persuasion.