A Guide to Sustainable Packaging for Your Business

A Guide to Sustainable Packaging for Your Business

Due to the growing number of sustainable packaging solutions on the market, it's much easier now than it once was to find suitable materials.

Prioritizing sustainable packaging can be an excellent way for your company to make progress in meeting its eco-friendly goals. Here's some guidance about how you can explore the possibilities.

Assess the Needs of the Items Inside

Before looking at the sustainable packaging options on the market, confirm what characteristics the type you invest in should have. For example, are you using the packaging for a fragile item or something you'll send through the mail? Does the package need to have a hook that lets it hang from a peg in a store?

Once you answer those all-important questions, you'll have a clearer idea of what you need. Consider creating a list of essential packaging characteristics and ones that you deem nice to have if available. Refer to this list during your discussions with packaging suppliers to avoid overlooking a necessity.

Pay Attention to the Design Concerns

While considering your sustainable packaging design, aim to strike a balance by eliminating excess weight without compromising durability. Remember that many of your products will probably travel to some extent before customers enjoy them. Sometimes the journey happens between a distribution center and a shopper's doorstep, or it could occur from a supplier's warehouse to your retail outlet.

A lightweight package saves you in shipping costs and is often easier for the buyer to manage after coming home with the product. However, if the package does not offer the required durability, there may be an increase in people returning broken items. If that happens, the trend could interfere with your sustainability aspirations. Research and test design elements thoroughly. Listen to consumer feedback, too. They'll likely mention if the packaging falls short of expectations.

Work With Providers That Emphasize Efficiency

Packaging materials often come to mind first when business owners think about sustainability. These are important to consider, but you can work toward improved sustainability without making immediate changes to the packaging. Take that approach by focusing on providers that run highly efficient operations.

For example, many producers of disposable drink containers add air compressors to their factory setups to aid with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle blowing. Doing that lets them make 20,000 bottles per hour with 600–psig air compressors. Increased productivity leads to a decrease in unnecessary operating time and wasted energy, thereby helping the environment.

Encourage Consumers to Reuse the Packaging

Most packages have information on them that let recipients know how to recycle or dispose of them properly. Some companies go further and actively encourage people to reuse the packaging. For example, if a person receives a pair of shoes in a cardboard box with a cool design on the exterior, they're more likely to repurpose it for storage instead of taking it straight out to the recycling bin.

Samsung has a collection of eco-friendly packages for its televisions. The brand urges people to do something different with their empty boxes after setting up their TVs. Buyers can scan a QR code on the box to view a digital instruction manual. The contents teach consumers to construct a cat house, a magazine rack or an end table.

Investigate How Sustainable Packaging Connects to Your Brand's Identity

As people become increasingly concerned about the future of the planet, many specifically choose sustainably packaged products. Think about how you could use the packaging to make people feel proud they decided to buy your product. One probiotics brand took that route and aimed to remind consumers that they made virtuous purchases by choosing their business. Sales reportedly climbed 600 percent since early 2019, though likely because of non-packaging aspects, too.

You can get creative with tying packaging to your brand identity. For example, maybe your company focused on wildlife welfare during some of its past charitable efforts. In that case, you might choose bamboo for your packaging material, then tell customers that you're making ongoing donations to Pandas International or a similar animal activism organization in honor of the change.

Keep an Open Mind While Picking Eco-Friendly Packaging

There may be several factors compelling you to explore choices for sustainable packaging. Maybe you want to reduce waste while catering to consumers' preferences and reducing your company's carbon footprint. Regardless of the specifics, try to stay open-minded as you look at new packaging. You may discover that a material you never thought could work well is an excellent choice. 

Realize that the packaging you prefer may evolve as your needs do. Fortunately, due to the growing number of sustainable packaging solutions on the market, it's much easier now than it once was to find suitable materials. The most important thing to remember now is that you've taken a decisive step in the right direction by showing a willingness to learn about how best to adopt sustainable options.

About the Author

Emily Folk covers topics in sustainability, conservation and green technology. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.