In the wake of increased plastic pollution and climate change, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the negative environmental impacts of poor product packaging. It is not surprising that consumers are even naming and shaming wasteful brands.
As a business owner, the needs of your customers come first. This means that if your customers are looking for sustainable packaging, then you need to provide it. Not only does sustainable packaging fulfill your customers’ needs, but it also adds value to your business by promoting your brand.
What is Eco-friendly Packaging?
Eco-friendly packaging, also known as sustainable packaging, is any packaging made from recycled, easily recyclable or bio-degradable materials and is safe for humans and the environment. Sustainable packaging utilizes non-toxic, reusable, or recyclable materials with less negative environmental impact.
Characteristics of sustainable packaging solutions are;
Made from recycled or minimal raw materials.
Environmentally friendly and safe for human beings.
Less production process, thus minimizing carbon footprint.
Creates a circular economy with an extended life span or usability.
Why Eco-friendly Packaging?
Every year 82.2 Million tons of packaging waste end up in landfills, most of which are non-biodegradable packaging materials. The problem gets worse with the rising trend of online shopping.
Buyers have become more eco-conscious and are looking for brands that are committed to leveling up their sustainability efforts. A recent study showed that 54% of consumers look for environmentally friendly packaging when shopping, and 52% are less likely to buy a product packaged in an environmentally harmful material.
Further, consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable packaging, stating that they can pay 10% or even more for a sustainably packaged product.
This shows that you cannot afford to sleep on eco-friendly packaging as a business owner. Manufacturers in the packaging industry also need to make more environmentally friendly packaging designs.
Best Eco-Friendly Packaging Solutions
Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
Regular packing peanuts are made of polystyrene, commonly known as styrofoam, and are used to keep fragile items safe during transit. But they can be frustrating to deal with after unpacking. Not only are they harmful to the environment since they are non-biodegradable, but how they stick on clothes is pretty annoying.
This is where biodegradable packing peanuts come in. They are a perfect alternative to polystyrene packing peanuts as they are made of natural substances, e.g., wheat straw and field corn.
They work just like their polystyrene brother but come with more benefits. They are compostable, do not pollute the environment and are less expensive.
Mushroom packaging is a high-performance eco packaging material made from a mix of mushroom roots or mycelium and hemp hurd. The result is a lightweight and durable material that will sustainably suit all your shipping needs.
One remarkable thing about mushroom packaging is that it is not manufactured but grown. Yes, it is grown. Being 100% bio-based and chemical-free, mushroom packaging is one of the most eco-friendly packaging alternatives.
Once used, toss it into your home compost bin or spread it in your garden. It will break down in 45 days and release rich nutrients into the soil.
Ecovative Design provides the best mushroom packaging solutions. They offer custom packaging solutions that are strong and durable at a fraction of the cost of foam packaging. They will grow packaging materials in only seven days to your required shape and size.
Plastic waste is a great concern for everyone since plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose. Thus recycling plastic is essential for environmental conservation.
Although the best way to tackle plastic pollution is to eliminate plastics, sometimes there is no way around it. Certain products are heavy and require a container that will not break during transit.
Whenever plastic is your only option, consider using recycled or biodegradable plastic. Avoid single-use plastics.
Another alternative to recycled packaging is reusable packaging.
If you have an online store, you definitely need to check what Repack is doing with reusable packaging. Their materials are made from post-waste recycled polypropylene (RPP) and are designed to be reused repeatedly.
Your customers just need to drop their empty Repack packaging at any postbox anywhere in the world, and Repack will collect, clean and redistribute them for reuse. Shop Repack packaging here.
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Recycled Cardboard and Paper
Cardboard boxes are the most common form of packaging. Although paper and cardboard are made from renewable sources, they can harm the environment if unsustainably sourced.
Look for cardboard boxes and paper made from recycled materials to ensure your packaging is as eco-friendly as possible. Cardboard and paper can be recycled up to 7 times which is good for the environment.
Also, consider using corrugated bubble wrap made from 100% recycled cardboard instead of plastic bubble wrap.
Cardboard cartons are suitable for small boxes and lightweight packaging. Wondering what to use if you need a little bigger or heavier packaging? Corrugated packaging is your friend.
Unlike standard cardboard, which is made of a single sheet, corrugated boxes are made of 3 layers which makes them more resilient and lightweight at the same time. Corrugated packaging is made from biodegradable materials and is the most desired packaging solution.
Due to its resilience, corrugated packaging does not require extra packaging materials like bubble wrap.
Here are different reasons you should consider corrugated packaging compared to other packaging solutions.
Strong and moisture resistant
This packaging material is an excellent sustainable alternative to plastic. It is both sustainable and biodegradable. Seaweed is inert (requires only water to grow) and can grow in fresh or seawater. It contains vitamins that make it possible to make edible packaging.
Seaweed packaging significantly reduces the amount of environmental pollution as its materials are edible and compostable.
Another advantage of seaweed packaging is that there is zero food waste. It significantly decreases food spoilage by increasing food items’ shelf life. Food items packed in seaweed do not form molds but rather dry out and remain useful even when dry.
Plantable packaging is an amazing zero-waste packaging alternative to conventional packaging. Imagine a packaging material that grows to produce herbs, vegetables or even flowers when it finds its way to the ground.
Plantable packaging is made from a mix of post-consumer recycled paper and agricultural waste incorporated with tiny seeds. It is ideal for food, product wraps, lightweight boxes or as shredded box filler.
If you use transparent product packaging, it’s time to replace single-use plastic polybags with glassine sleeves. Glassine is glossy paper that feels like parchment or wax paper made from wood pulp.
Glassine is curbside recyclable and biodegradable. It is also acid-free and FSC-certified. It is perfect for inner packaging and gives your clients an excellent impression when custom branded.
Ecoenclose makes the best glassine pouches. Check them here.
Packaging can be considered compostable if it decomposes into natural components in a composting setting. It has no adverse environmental effects because it is broken down into natural elements.
Most compostable packaging materials are plant-based, e.g., corn and bamboo. Compostable materials should take at least 30-90 days to compost.
How to Package Environmentally friendly
Sustainable packaging is not only about the materials used but also involves the packing and shipping process and the consumer’s disposal.
Also, as a business owner, it is good to know that not all your customers know about your eco-efforts and what to do with the packaging after they are done unpacking.
To ensure that your packaging is sustainable, here are some innovative strategies to apply;
Educate your customers on recycling and disposal best practices- clearly label recyclable or reusable packaging, or you can attach an ‘ecocard’ in your package showing how or whether the material is recycled.
Be vocal about eco-friendly practices on your website and social media platforms.
Consider shipping in smaller packages as they reduce the materials you use and also the shipping costs.
- Offset your carbon footprint with this card
Small businesses and corporates have no option but to improvise ways to lower their environmental footprint. Switching to sustainable packaging is one of the ways you can reduce your carbon footprint while building your brand.
I hope this article inspires and challenges you to use sustainable packaging for your business.
What other sustainable packaging options have you come across? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments!