Product design student Anne Gross has created an idea for a sustainable packaging solution that could potentially transform how goods are packed for shipping. Her invention made her the winner of DHL’s Fair & Responsible Challenge and opened up avenues for future progress.

I have always had a questioning mind, and so when I learned from a friend who studies environmental engineering that the overall usage of paper and packaging materials is going up exponentially due to the growing volumes of ecommerce, I decided to make sustainable packaging the topic of my semester project at my Product Design course at Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany.

Good design should above all be user-friendly, smart and easy to use. When I start any design project, I always start with a question – for example “Is no packaging the best packaging?” During my research, I try to view everything from the perspective of the end user, plus the environmental impact – because if something isn’t practical for the user, then there is no point creating the product to start with.

For my project, I developed the Air Parcel, an inflatable, reusable parcel that is lightweight, protects goods during shipping and can be reused over and over again. Air Parcel is durable and it eliminates the need for inner and outer packaging. At DHL’s Innovation Challenge I was invited to present Air Parcel to a live audience of around 200 experts in logistics – it was thrilling to be up on stage alongside two other international entrants presenting to all of those seasoned professionals who got to vote. Winning the challenge means I get to start a proof of concept with DHL and work with the team on all necessary steps to put Air Parcel into pilot phase. Discussions are currently ongoing for a company to prototype Air Parcel to put it into testing. My greatest joy will be to confirm that my theory was right, and Air Parcel proves to be a viable product – seeing your idea become reality is not something many students get to experience – it’s really exciting! 

as told to Michelle Bach



DHL’s Innovation Challenge 2017 is still open to receiving applications. If you are an inventor or innovator, a student or a budding startup entrepreneur, why not enter? This year’s categories include a Robotics and a Sharing Economy challenge – and finalists will compete at the DHL Innovation Day in December.



Published: September 2017

Image: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine