Imagine your customer happily awaiting their product to arrive only to be disappointed when it arrives due to unsustainable packaging. As the first physical touchpoint with your product, unsustainable packaging starts the customer’s product use negatively.
Eco packaging is a must for companies that are positioning themselves as sustainable. Packaging is a signal to your customers about your overall commitment to sustainability.
For packaging to be considered environmentally friendly the materials and processes to create them need to have a significantly less environmental impact when compared to traditional materials and manufacturing.
Just like other areas of the ‘eco’ business world, there is much confusion and misunderstanding about what eco-packaging is. Your goal should be to be as sustainable as possible within the bounds of profitability. (Side note: Yes, profitability is important! If you don’t make money you can’t continue to be in business and therefore won’t be able to continue to have a positive impact on the world.)
3 tips to reduce green washing your packaging
1. Be transparent about your sustainable packing.
Sustainable packing is in its infancy. As more companies make it a priority your commitment to sustainable packaging will be easier to implement (and cheaper too). For now, transparency is key.
1.a. Get specific about why your packaging is eco friendly.
No packaging is perfect (yet) so let consumers know why you packaing is eco.
Are you no plastic or no single use plastic? No virgin forests? 100% recycled paper/cardboard? Home or industrial compostable? Do you have reusable/returnable containers? Stating that you have ‘eco packaging’ is no longer acceptable. You need to provide information to your customers on how they can do their part.
1.b. Be open about your current packaging limitations and share your long-term goals.
Sustainable packing is in its infancy. As more companies make it a priority your commitment to sustainable packaging will be easier to implement (and cheaper too). Discuss your long-term plans and how you are working towards achieving them. Transparency is key.
2. Consider the whole supply chain
If your supplier is delivering to you is unsustainable packaging you are greenwashing by only presenting your part of the journey to the end-user. Work with your suppliers to negotiate sustainable packaging up the distribution channel.
3. Consider your customers' abilities
When selecting your environmentally friendly packaging you also need to be aware of your customers’ abilities and desires. When I lived in rural USA there was no curbside recycling or industrial composting facilities. The one place in town that you could recycle was open limited hours and it was too hard for most people to do it. Make sure you consider your target customers limitations.
Sustainable/eco-friendly packaging options for unbreakable items
Sustainable/eco-friendly packaging options for fragile products
Sustainable packaging for fragile products is a little more complex. There are increasing number of options and suppliers available. The following list is a great place to start but make sure you consider your product and brand’s unique needs.
- Biodegradable air peanuts
- Corrugated cardboard (up-cycled)
- Biodegradable air pillows
- Air pillows from recycled materials
- Mushroom packaging
- Corn starch
- Reusable bags (i.e. a cloth reusable shopping bag)
- Jiffy padded paper bags
- Clamshell box (i.e. Roo Create )
Eco-friendly is becoming mainstream, and smart business owners are implementing cradle-to-cradle business practices to ensure they are ahead of the game.