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Sustainable packaging is becoming a higher priority for both brands and consumers - more now than ever before.
McDonald's announced its packaging will be 100% renewable and recycled by 2025.
Millennials are pushing brands to be more socially and environmentally responsible.
It's clear that the term ‘eco-friendly packaging’ is clearly more than a buzzword.
In fact, implementing eco packaging in your brand’s operations is no longer an option - it’s a necessity.
Many of us were brought up with the phrase 'reduce, reuse, recycle' in our vocabulary. Today, it's essential to your business that you reflect these same values. Not only to help the environment, but also increase brand loyalty amongst eco-conscious consumers.
In this article, you’ll see:
- What is packaging sustainability and sustainable packaging design?
- Examples of eco-friendly packaging solutions
- Material technology’s influence on sustainable packaging solutions
Material science and packaging engineering developing at an incredible speed. As a result, more eco friendly packaging options are on the market that can take care of a wide range of products.
There have also been many breakthroughs in plant-based packaging and biodegradable plastic packaging. This also means that it’s getting easier for your brand to reduce its carbon footprint.
Plus, with the public more and more aware of the waste caused by bad packaging, wasteful brands are being named and shamed.
Check out Packhelp's online store here!
So let’s dive into the world of eco-friendly packaging, and see it’s benefits for your brand. But before we go too deep, what does packaging sustainability actually mean?
What is sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging is packaging that, over time, reduces its environmental footprint.
This can happen in a number of ways:
- Ingredients: Using raw 100% recycled or raw materials
- Production process: By minimising the production process, supply chain and carbon footprint
- Reusability: Creating a circular economy around the packaging, extending its lifecycle and usability.
It’s simple to say that sustainable packaging is entirely about the environment. It also should take into consideration economic and social factors.
Eco packaging needs to consider the economic factor. It needs to be priced competitively over traditional oil-based/single-use packaging options.
So yes, the definitions can get a bit messy at times!
Labelling something ‘eco-friendly’ doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable. Similarly, labelling something as sustainable doesn’t mean that it’s ethical.
But here's what's most important if your brand is considering a change:
Do you own research.
Definitions aren’t always black and white. It pays to ask your packaging manufacturer a number of questions.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is a great resource. Here, you can see the certifications of certain brands and products. It's also a great way to further your knowledge of recyclable packaging in general.
Want to know about what Packhelp's doing to further packaging sustainability? Click here to learn more
There are also other bodies, like the Forest Stewardship Council. They ensure that any wood-based products (like cardboard) are made from sustainably-sourced forests.
Eco-friendly packaging, coupled with sustainable package design, is a potent combination. These characteristics can be a great way to set your brand above your competitors.
What is sustainable packaging design?
Sustainable packaging design is designing product packaging with the main purpose of doing as little harm to the environment as possible.
This can be achieved by using recycled material. You can also do this by designing your packaging with another purpose in mind.
For example, this shopping bag from H&M that transforms into a clothes hanger.
Not only are these bags made from less material than H&M’s traditional plastic bag, but the paper is 80% recycled.
Need a paper bag for your brand made from 80% recycled cardboard? Start designing your own expandable kraft mailers now!
H&M knows its audience is people between 18 and 35. They know that these people care about the environment.
H&M know their customers appreciate brands with eco-friendly and reusable packaging solutions.
Therefore, sustainable packaging design with reusability in mind increases brand loyalty amongst their audience.
Here's another example.
We've recently analyzed the supply chain of IKEA, and how the global leader started to invest in biodegradable types of packaging made from mycelium fungus. The change has been a pioneering example of leaving styrofoam behind - the common resource used to secure products in cardboard packaging.
READ MORE: Our expert Artur Oboleński shared his thoughts on the cutting-edge technology in a case study. Click on the cover image below and read the story.
While it might seem like that, sustainable packaging design isn't just about materials.
Simply using less material, regardless of what that material is, can work wonders, too.
Value engineering is the process of redesigning packaging from the ground up with the aim of saving money - and believe it or not, most money can be saved by using less packaging. That was the case of Raylo - a London-based start-up which optimized its packaging by using less materials.
Raylo achieved an 11% decrease of packaging costs, and benefitted from a 25% less heavy package.
Packhelp's team of packaging engineers scrutinise over your current packaging options and ensure that your solution is designed to use the least amount of material as possible.
Read below to see some examples of eco-friendly packaging design.
Environmentally friendly packaging examples
Implementing sustainable packaging requires some research. You need to see how it can best complement your packaging design.
Look at the examples below to see several examples of brands that have done exactly that.
Slopes and town is a Dutch brand. They sell belts, socks and other accessories. Both their product and packaging bases itself on environmentally friendly materials.
“The box design (size, shape, material) drives reusability and brings out other elements of the Slopes & Town brand to the consumer”,
says founder, Irina.
Featured product: Two-piece kraft product box that fits Royal Mail standard sizing.
Interested in custom packaging that meets Royal Mail's large letter and small package sizes? Click here to see the range of Royal Mail Packaging!
Sheyn is a Vienna-based jewellery studio that focuses on simple yet elegant design. The brand's founders were eager to explore the possibility of 3D printing, and that's how they arrived at their incredible range of jewellery. By using the innovative technology, their production is fully sustainable too.
Sheyn have used an Eco mailer box made of 80% recycled material. This takes their unique design onto their packaging. In turn, their customer has a memorable unboxing experience based around eco-friendly packaging.
Featured product: Eco mailer box
Tip: Some of Packhelp's products can be instantly quoted. Even for wholesale quantities of packaging, you will immediately see the pricing of Eco Mailer Boxes, and other types of packaging. See the price for the quantity of Mailer Boxes you need here.
This UK-based brand incorporated sustainability in every aspect of its sportswear business - down to the last thread in their clothing.
Each garment is shipped in a branded mailing bag. Unlike most bags used by a vast majority of e-commerce brands, Origin X Performance's packaging is fully sustainable. These bags are made from natural, biodegradable ingredients, and are just as durable as plastic alternatives.
Featured product: Bio Poly Mailers
Monday’s Child is a British company, selling young girl's clothing for special occasions.
The packaging that Monday’s Child uses tackles sustainability from the other side. The box doubles as a doll’s house for its young users.
By adding extra value to the packaging, a customer gets more value for money. Reusing the box also extends the life of the packaging.
Featured product: Full-colour mailer box
Biotika is a Polish manufacturer of soy candles and scented waxes. The brand stems from the love of nature and goes above and beyond to leave a smaller footprint as possible.
Plain textured cardboard boxes with a minimalist design. Simplicity lets the products do the talking. Neutral and organic colours add to the brand’s image, plus the recycled cardboard packaging itself!
Featured product: Eco mailer box
READ MORE: Biotika, now a growing D2C brand, has recently collaborated with Packhelp on a project of packaging portfolio optimization. Take a look at the story here.
UAU Project is an art installation showing off the delicacies and beauty of 3D printed art.
Featured product: Eco shipping boxes
Why packaging sustainability is important
There’s no need to go into detail about why sustainable packaging is important. If you’re reading this article, you know it’s crucial.
If you still need convincing, take a look at these tweet directed at Amazon's packaging:
But the push toward packaging sustainability isn’t just from the end consumer.
Large corporations like Unilever Australia have recently put pressure on the Australian government. Unilever has demanded the government do more in the plastic pollution battle.
And if corporations of this size can put the heat on governments, it means:
- Consumers want to associate with brands that are environmentally focused
- Large corporations are spearheading the initiative to help their public image
- Smaller and medium brands will be forced to implement sustainability in their packaging
Eco-friendly packaging materials
As a company, Snact is all about the reduction of waste. For starters, the product that they sell is made from banana peel - the perfectly edible part of the food that’s nearly always thrown out.
Throw your wrapper into the garden and watch it decompose.
It worth noting, that single-use packaging isn’t the bad guy here. Single-use packaging that’s oil-based and ends up in landfill is the culprit.
Single-use plastics like algae-based Agar, are made from red algae. This is a naturally occurring substance that’s available in abundance. This packaging is suited to pasta, cereals and other dry foods.
Plant-based packaging solutions
TIP: Interested in designing your own Bio PolyMailer? Check them out here.
Consumer behaviour & sustainable packaging
8 tips to move to eco-friendly packaging
If you’re a brand that’s considering using sustainable packaging, here are a few tips to make sure you get the most from the process.
1- Don’t change everything at once
Whether you’re selling 1 product or several thousand, it’s best not to commit totally to packaging sustainability before you’ve tested the concept. You can do that by sampling packaging options.
2 - Order product samples
As just mentioned, it’s risky to commit to a new packaging solution before testing it. Consider ordering a sample pack to inspect the quality of the packaging for yourself. Once you’re convinced that this is a practical option, then order in bigger quantities.
3 - Consider a redesign
Implementing new packaging can be a double-edged sword if done at the same time as launching a new redesign of the brand.
A new logo, a new colour pallet and design assets can truly be complemented by sustainable product packaging.
4 - Adjust your pricing
Price is obviously a factor that needs to be considered. You may be surprised to know that packaging made from 80% recycled material can be had for as little as €0.26 per piece.
Once you’ve settled on an eco-friendly packaging option, it’s important to calculate if you can absorb the cost of packaging or whether you need to increase prices accordingly.
5 - Order small volumes
Part of testing how your brand (and customers) take up sustainable packaging, is to do so in small volumes. Order as little as 30 pieces and judge the reaction of your team and customers. When everything is assured, scale up your order size!
6 - FIFO
FIFO stands for ‘First in, first out’ and it’s a method you might like to apply to your packaging. Before using your new packaging design, make sure that you’ve used up all your old packaging first.
7 - Consider eco-ing your product
Once your customers have taken well to your new packaging solution, consider bringing the concept of sustainability to your product itself. An eco-friendly product in an environmentally friendly box is a double-edged marketing sword!
8 - Flaunt your eco packaging
A brand that aligns itself for the good of the environment is something that the world wants to hear about. It’s a moral that can make your brand stand out and be seen over your competition.
Work your sustainability into your marketing campaigns and make sure that people know that you’re out there to help the environment.
Sustainable packaging companies
As a young packaging company, Packhelp knows only sustainability and working alongside the environment.
We have a responsibility to care for the environment and help our customers do the same.
Being a fresh and disruptive brand to the stagnant and old-fashion packaging industry, we’ve learnt many things. None more important than this:
Most small to medium brands want to sell their product in packaging that doesn’t damage the environment.
That’s why every single cardboard product in our range is made from a minimum of 80% recycled cardboard. This means that when you order custom packaging from us, you’re getting a material that was a school book, cereal box or a bank statement in another life.
In this article, you saw the current state of sustainable packaging and how your small brand can start using it. You can now see how a brand can use sustainable packaging to build a better relationship with eco-minded customers.
With a global shift toward fighting climate change, the way we approach packaging is set to grow and change. Rather than being an alternative option, sustainable packaging is only going to become more important.
Start designing your sustainable packaging with Packhelp.