march 1990

Teresa Harrison faced a dilemma. She wanted to assure customers of SET Laboratories Inc. that its packages of software and manuals could be shipped undamaged. But she also wanted to be kind to the environment by not using polystyrene peanuts for packaging.

Her solution? Popcorn -- which, it turns out, is not only an effective substitute for polystyrene but, aside from the investment of an air popper, costs about 60% less, even if you don't purchase the popcorn in bulk.

The only glitch in using popcorn is that the packaged goods must be enclosed in envelopes, or they will absorb the popcorn smell. Harrison, who founded SET Laboratories in Portland, Ore., three years ago, includes a note explaining the switch and pointing out that, while it is popped fresh daily, the packing material is not intended for human consumption.