Sustainable packaging is in—and any form of unsustainable packaging is out.
If your business isn’t already committed to the eco-friendly practice of sustainable packaging, then it’s about time you start. By adopting sustainable packaging practices now, your business can reap financial and social benefits wide and large, all while soothing your conscience.
Seriously, a commitment to reusable packaging, returnable packaging, biodegradable packaging, minimalist packaging, and other unique packaging solutions will significantly add to your consumer base in a way you might never have previously considered.
How? Well, since our world is currently facing somewhat of a climate crisis, consumers are more focused than ever on being climate positive and buying from climate-positive businesses. They want sustainable choices. And they want to know that your focus is on adopting the proper sustainability practices. With that said, let’s observe some sustainable packaging ideas that can shift your company even further into the eco-friendly territory you ought to exist in.
What is Sustainable Packaging?
Okay, let’s back up a step. Before we dive into our detailed mix of unique packaging solutions that are centred around sustainability efforts, we should first discuss what sustainable packaging is.
In the simplest of terms, sustainable packaging is packaging that is much better for the environment than traditional packaging. To determine whether a type of packaging is or isn’t sustainable, the top sustainable packaging manufacturers conduct assessments to determine the impact a packaging product has on the environment. Is the packaging climate neutral, or better yet, climate positive? They decide. This process also involves performing a Life Cycle Assessment test, which analyzes how sustainable different types of packaging are based on every step of their production and manufacturing.
Sustainable packaging is—in all its various forms—eco-friendly. Whether the form of packaging is made from reusable materials, biodegradable materials, or returnable materials, the focus is always on making a product that is sustainable and beneficial for the environment.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at some fun and delicious (wait, delicious? Yep!) unique packaging solutions.
#1: Compostable/Biodegradable Packaging
Biodegradable packaging and compostable packaging alternatives are usually used as replacements for plastics. They are instead made of plant-based materials and polymer that will break down over time if composted properly. This eco-friendly sustainable packaging solution is ingenious, and in recent years a lot of companies have been shifting towards the biodegradable option. You can find biodegradable stickers, stand-up pouches, cellophane bags, mailer bags, and more! These options are all far more eco-friendly and climate positive than their alternatives.
Now, there is a slight difference between biodegradable packaging solutions and compostable packaging solutions. All compostable items are biodegradable, but the same cannot be said for the inverse. So, make sure you do your due diligence when looking into sustainable packaging solutions that are biodegradable, as you’ll want to ensure they are also compostable.
#2: Reusable/Recyclable Packaging
The next eco-friendly unique packaging solution to get familiar with—if you aren’t already—is reusable packaging. This is likely the sustainable packaging effort that most of us will already be familiar with. The concept is simple: this sustainable and unique packaging solution can be used or recycled multiple times. It is often used for transporting products. This option is undeniably more eco-friendly than the alternative, which would be to use a package and simply toss it away after.
One of the most common forms of recyclable packaging is paperboard cardboard. This clever and unique packaging solution is made from recycled paper pulp. It is ideal for making shipping boxes, as its lightweight material is incredibly easy to form.
Shifting our focus over to reusable bags, here is one statistic to show just how invaluable reusable packaging is: While a plastic bag is often used only once and a paper bag is often used an average of 10 times, a reusable bag has a lifespan of some 300 uses.
If you’re a larger company reliant upon shipping big packages, and you haven’t already shifted over to this sustainable practice, now is the time to do so!
#3: Plantable Packaging
Who said sustainable packaging couldn’t be loads of fun? Certainly not us! If you’re looking to really boost the uniqueness of your packaging efforts, plantable packaging is the route to go. Not “plant-based.” Plantable!
It’s exactly what it sounds like. This sustainable and eco-friendly packaging option is made from materials that can be planted. In these packages, a seed or something plantable is embedded within the package. So, after someone has purchased a product, they can simply plop the packaging into the soil in their backyard and watch as it blossoms into a beautiful new addition in their garden.
This packaging option focuses specifically on enhancing sustainability. It works best for products that can be shipped in small packages (think jewelry, tea bags, cosmetic options, or special celebration cards). But besides being sustainable and a unique packaging solution, plantable packages are also just plain fun. Who wouldn’t want to one day see the pouch their makeup came in bloom into a stunning flower?
#4: Shipping Using Smaller Packages
Stop me if this has ever happened to you before: you order something online, hoping that it won’t come in an unnecessarily large package. Then the package arrives, and it turns out the tiny cherry-coloured lipstick you ordered came wrapped in multiple pieces of plastic, and in a massive box!
A simple and eco-friendly solution to this? Opt instead for sustainable packaging that is small. That means choosing boxes, bags, or containers that simply aren’t as big as the ones you normally choose. For all the economists out there, this sustainable packaging option will not only contribute to a more eco-friendly routine, it will also lower shipping costs.
This choice doesn’t just mean finding smaller packaging options—it also means using less filler (tissue, bubble wrap, Styrofoam, etc.) in your packages. Using smaller packaging options and less filler material is one of the easiest and best sustainability practices you can instill in your company.
#5: Minimalist Packaging
Minimalist packaging takes the idea of “using smaller packages” and pushes it one step further. This unique packaging solution is perfect for any business that wishes to step up its sustainability efforts while remaining chic and elegant.
Minimalist packaging is very straightforward. Instead of just paring down the size of your sustainable packages, the design is also pared down considerably. Those who adopt a minimalist approach will print less on their packages, opting instead for designs that say a lot with a little. This minimalist design will attract customers with its simple and aesthetically pleasing approach, all while being more eco-friendly than whatever option you currently might be using.
If you choose to adopt a minimalist design approach for your business’s sustainability efforts, there are a number of tuck end boxes, mailer boxes, custom parcel boxes, and pillow boxes that are both cost-effective and better for the environment.
Minimalist-designed packages are more eco-friendly than traditional packaging in more ways than have already been mentioned. As the design is reduced and the materials used are better, minimalist packages are often easier to recycle. From the standpoint of a consumer base, this is undeniably a win. When packages arrive in the mail, it’s often a huge pain figuring out whether something is recyclable or not. But with this type of sustainable packaging, that won’t ever be a problem again!
#6: Returnable Packaging
You’re likely already familiar with this form of sustainable packaging. Maybe you’re a big kombucha drinker, and you drink two or three glass bottles’ worth of the stuff per week. Well, what do you do when the bottles are done? You, the eco-friendly human that you are, take the glass bottles back to the store so they can be rinsed, sanitized, and used all over again!
And that, at its core, is what returnable packaging is all about. It’s a unique packaging solution that focuses on using materials that can be returned and used again, and again, and again. Returnable packaging is one of the most clever and simple forms of sustainable packaging that’s around today.
There are so many eco-friendly (and business-friendly) benefits associated with returnable packaging. For starters—packaging costs are reduced, the number of wasted materials used during the packaging process is reduced, and your customer base will likely flock when they know you have adopted the eco-friendly practice of using returnable packaging.
This form of sustainable packaging is truly a win-win for businesses and consumers alike, all while assisting the environment in a climate-positive way.
#7: And the Most Fun of All: Edible Packages
Picture this scenario. You order some chocolate bars in the mail, devour them in one sitting, and then when you’re done, you eat the packaging too!
Wait, sustainable packaging can also be … delicious? Yup, it sure can be. Of all the unique packaging solutions we’ve discussed so far, this one might just be the most innovative. If you put yourself in a customer’s shoes, wouldn’t you flock to order something if you heard the packaging was edible?
Edible packaging works like this: Proteins, lipids, and polysaccharides (welcome to science class) are all used in tandem to create edible films or coating that can then function as packaging. Many food-based businesses have already adopted this sort of sustainability practice for their packaging. You can either create your sustainable packaging so it can be consumed with the product it holds, or design it so the packaging and product can be eaten separately.
The eco-friendly benefits of edible packaging are that the amount of plastic or paper waste produced is reduced to nil. The need for recycling also gets thrown out the window, as edible packages end up in someone’s stomach rather than a trash can.
And if those benefits weren’t enough, this brilliant form of sustainable packaging also can include vitamins and other potential nutrients. So, a focus on edible packaging means a healthier environment and a healthier customer!
One More Time: Why Make the Move to Sustainable Packaging?
While reading about these unique and sustainable packaging ideas, you’ve likely already come to some realizations about why a shift to sustainable packaging is smart—both for your business and the environment.
For starters, sustainable packaging is eco-friendly. By prioritizing your sustainability efforts, you can contribute to a more climate-positive world. You can help reduce the number of plastics used, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and eliminate a chunk of the ridiculous amount of waste created.
Sustainable packaging is also a huge boon for your business. You can lower shipping and packaging costs, gain a competitive advantage over your competitors who haven’t implemented the right sustainability practices, and boost your earnings in the process. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Really, the question isn’t “Why should you make the move to sustainable packaging?” The question is, “Why wouldn’t you make the move to sustainable packaging?”
As time passes, and our intensity for becoming climate positive and climate neutral increases, so too will the demand for sustainable packaging. We’re seeing it already. Sustainable packaging is the future, and it is the now.
Whatever your business sells, know that there is a sustainable and unique packaging solution out there for you. Edible packaging is a fantastic form of sustainable packaging for companies with a priority on food and beverage products. Minimalist packaging is clever for brands that want to remain sleek and fashionable, while also contributing to a healthier environment.
Smaller packages are perfect for a variety of businesses, including those producing cosmetics, jewelry, and more. Businesses looking for sustainable packaging options for larger products can focus on using reusable, recyclable, and returnable packaging.
And the push toward implementing forward-thinking sustainability practices doesn’t have to stop with just one form of sustainable packaging. You can implement several sustainability practices if you want to.
Aside from what was mentioned in this article, there is also bioplastic packaging, upcycling, mono-materials, and several other forms of sustainability practices that can be adopted into your business. The world of sustainable packaging is truly our oyster. Why not start today with one of these brilliant, environmentally-friendly ideas?