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The Do's and Don'ts of Sustainable Packaging

May 2, 2023
A green leaf sits on cardboard packaging

We know what you might be thinking, “I love all the stuff that companies are doing to be more sustainable but where do I even get started!?” That is a fair question! Whether you want to change your habits as a consumer or the way your business provides its services, there are a lot of things to consider.

It's important to remember that making a conscious change to a more sustainable lifestyle or business is an ongoing process. The world has been operating in a non-sustainable fashion for years, so the process to change it will be incremental. This includes a learning curve and making mistakes along the way. That being said, there are some steps you can begin implementing now to start off that journey on the right foot! Try them all at once or a couple at a time – the most important thing is to get started.

DO design your packaging using the highest percentage of PCR possible

The literal definition of recycling! Reducing waste by reusing post-consumer materials as much as possible is a must.

Don’t use unnecessary packaging 

Does the packaging protect the product? Sometimes adding extra packaging wastes materials, money, and time (I.e., more money!) when maybe the solution is a redesign to use even less material! 

A link to this article in the digital edition of Sustainably Packaged Magazine

Don’t use packing peanuts 

I hate packing peanuts. Your customers hate packing peanuts. If someone says they like packing peanuts, keep an eye on them.... If you can, use void fill paper made from recycled content instead. 

Don’t use too much tape 

The “H” pattern recommended by UPS is more than enough. Another benefit of using this pattern is the cost savings of less material without sacrificing the integrity of the seal.  

Do make the instructions for recycling, compost, or reuse clear 

Tell your consumer what to do with the packaging when they are finished with it! Can it be reused? Recycled? Drop-off? Demonstrate best practices with your packaging. 

DO use mono materials when possible 

Multi-component packaging takes some recyclable components such as paper and combines it with a non-recyclable component such as foam. This adds extra steps for customers as they would need to separate the components in order to recycle. Which, to be honest, I’m just throwing away. Make it mono material!  

DON’T be afraid to start from scratch  

Go back to the drawing board – drawing is fun! More importantly, redesigning packaging can reduce waste and gives opportunities to implement sustainable materials.  

DON’T Greenwash you're packaging by calling it eco-friendly without proper validation 

Not only are there laws that prevent this but misleading your customers isn’t cool. Also, it didn’t work for the Grinch, that guy is completely green and literally lives in garbage. There’s a metaphor in there. 

DO your research on packaging materials  

Seem too good to be true? Check! Is it actually sustainableall the way throughout its life cycle? From manufacturing to recycling, how does it affect the environment? 

DO partner with suppliers that know their stuff 

Teamwork makes the dream work! Reputable suppliers should have plenty of documentation so that you can trust you are getting quality products. 

A link to this article in our digital interactive magazine.