The Guide to Eco-Friendly Packaging
Eco-Friendly packaging helps to protect the environment while at the same time increasing profitability for brands and businesses.
In this article we will discuss what eco-friendly packaging is, why brands should make the switch whenever possible and how to do it. But first let’s find out why.
The Effects of Plastics on the Environment
The bad effects of plastics have always made headlines. And this is not just because they take anywhere from 100s to 1000 years to decompose, but also because the harmful impact they have on our health and the environment.
A study carried out by Oceana found that Amazon generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste just in 2019 alone and they estimated that up to 22.44 million pounds of this waste entered and polluted the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Another study revealed that given the current rates, by 2050 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic waste.
As a result of this, many brands have pledged to help the environment by doing business while being environmentally conscious and minimizing their footprint. This has not only become a trend, but also, as it should, has created a good impact in their business. And here is why.
How Sustainability Helps Increase Profits
Millennials are now the main buying force: the first digitally native generation has overtaken baby boomers as the largest adult population in America. Next is the Gen Zers who already have an estimated collective buying power that is nearing $150 billion.
A study done in 2020 found that millennials and Gen Zers were far more likely to value and practice sustainable behaviors, such as paying more for sustainably developed products. And this study doesn’t stand alone.
In another study carried out by Nielsen, 3 out of 4 millennials and 72% of Gen Zers polled would pay more for products with sustainable packaging.
“Millennials and Gen Z are becoming a force to be reckoned with as they continue to represent a larger share of the consumer demographic. Companies that don’t have sustainability as part of their core value proposition need to act now to protect against future reputational impacts and loss of market share,” said Shikha Jain, author of the study and Partner at Simon-Kucher & Partners. “We’ve been on this journey for a while, but the clock is ticking and failure to think through the implications could have long-term consequences for traditional firms.”
Globally, sustainability is rated as an important purchase criterion for 60 percent of consumers. In the US, this number is just over the global average at 61 percent.
So, are you paying attention yet?
What is Eco-Friendly Packaging?
Eco-friendly or sustainable packaging refers to the development and use of packaging that has minimal environmental impact and doesn’t contribute to the further depletion of natural resources. Recycled materials reduce the consumption of resources, however many materials can only be recycled a limited number of times. Compostable packaging is designed to break down into compost. This can then be used to enrich the soil, or even to grow new resources.
Here are some of the most eco-friendly types of packaging:
1. Compostable Packaging
This refers to the ability of a material to naturally decompose back into the earth, ideally without leaving any toxic residue. Compostable packaging materials are usually made from plant-based materials such as corn, sugar cane, bamboo, and bio-poly mailers (made of starch, a bi-product of vegetables. This is a compostable fiber that meets the requirements of “industrially compostable” and is a 100% biodegradable solution, available with a simple, single-coloured PANTONE print).
It is worth noting that for a material to be truly considered compostable, it should be able to break down in home compost within 180 days and 90 days in commercial composting conditions. Here is an example of a client we have worked with who embraces this compostability in their products.
climbOn is an excellent example of a brand that uses composable packaging in a lot of their products.
2. Cornstarch Packaging
This is a biodegradable packaging material that can replace the annoying and messy styrofoam as well as plastic. Cornstarch can also be used to make biodegradable packing peanuts, which is a great alternative to bubble wrap.
3. Mushroom or Fungi Packaging
This type of packaging is created by letting a fungus grow around clean agricultural waste, such as corn stalks or husks. Over a few days, the fungus fibers bind the waste together, forming a solid shape. It is then dried to prevent it from growing any further.
This type of packaging is gaining momentum in the cosmetics industry. WildSmith Skin, a London-based cosmetic brand, has been putting a lot of create into their packaging and committing to sustainability.
4. Kraft Paper
Also known as paperboard is more environmentally friendly than plastic and other packaging. Because of its strength, Kraft Paper is used for many industrial and commercial applications. The material is used in packaging operations for packing, wrapping individual items, bundling and void fill. Also, Kraft paper can be used as load binders between layers of palatalized products.
5. Green Cell Foam
This uses cornstarch to create a fully biodegradable foam that can be used as a replacement for polystyrene or styrofoam. It is certified compostable in backyard and industrial facilities and can even be dissolved in a sink for safe and easy disposal.
6. Recycled Packaging
This type of packaging, as its name says, is any form of packaging that can be reused and recycled. This means that it gives more than one life to plastics and other materials that are already in circulation.
7. Corrugated Packaging
This refers to box fibers made mainly from trees and old corrugated containers. Once recycled, corrugated box fibers are used 7-10 times to make new boxes and other paper products. And more corrugated packaging is recovered for recycling than any other packaging material.
8. Air Pillows
Made of recyclable materials, these are small bags that can be inflated and are made of bio-degradable materials and can be reused.
9. Seaweed Packaging
This packaging is 100% biodegradable and although this is still not very popular, seaweed can be used as an alternative to plastic, especially for food packaging.
10. Organic Fabrics
An eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags and containers is organic fabrics such as hemp, flax, recycled cotton and even palm, banana and pineapple leaves. These materials biodegrade in 100 days so they are incredibly eco-friendly.
Your packaging is the first touchpoint your customer will have with your brand and product. This is your opportunity to spread your brand message and values and what better way to showcase it than with an authentic commitment to sustainability.
Although not possible with all products, many brands have found creative ways to reduce the amount of materials used in their packaging. Whether by condensing liquid formulas, incorporating packaging into the product, or arranging products in different ways, there are a variety of methods that you can adopt without compromising product quality.
The final question each brand should ask themselves is, how can we re-imagine the way we present our products to our consumers? And how can we make this would more sustainable while at the same time increasing our profits? Can both, ethical environmental practices and sustainability be connected to brand loyalty?
The answer is yes, and the evidence is laid out in the statistics mentioned before.