For companies interested in reducing waste and increasing the sustainability of their packaging, there’s more than one way to skin that cat.  If it ends up costing a little more, (and you want business justification besides doing the right thing) most businesses chalk that up to an investment in their brand.

1.  Use Recycled Materials

First, specify that the paper and plastics used in your packaging are in fact recycled. Minimizing the exploitation of new resources and the from-scratch manufacturing process is one obvious step toward sustainability.

2.  Use More Sustainable Processes

Whether it’s new or recycled material, there are lots of ways to meet your sustainability commitment by choosing simple and clean processes. You can do this in the design phase by minimizing the number of materials used.  Or in manufacturing phase by simplifying the process or using more efficient production techniques.

3. Make Your Packaging Recyclable

While it’s definitely preferable to start with recycled material, if that is not possible, choose materials and processes that will make your packing recyclable after it has served its purpose. While some materials are “recyclable” in theory and name, including many plastics, take the time to make sure you’re using products that are in fact recycled, as opposed to simply shipped abroad.

4. Make your Packaging Compostable

What materials are compostable?  A lot of companies claim their materials are biodegradable or compostable — with a lot of small print (like “only under certain conditions and it might take up to 5 years”). The only way to know for sure if the material is, in fact, compostable is for it to have been tested by an accredited third party.

You might assume that paper is compostable, but depending on processing and printing, that often isn’t the case. In fact, paper in landfills actually rarely composts cleanly but gives off tons of methane and CO2.

If you’re committed to compostable packaging, Bagasse (sugar pulp fiber) and other fibers such as reeds and other grass-like fibers are among the best options.

5.  Make Your Packaging Reusable

Most people don’t consider it, but designing your packaging for a possible “second use” is another sustainable strategy that keeps your packaging out of the landfill. One company put their limited edition products in a silicone package that could be reused as a measuring cup. Be creative. If consumers keep part of our packaging around, it’s also a powerful branding reminder.

 

When it’s time to make packaging choices, there are a lot of considerations in the areas of cost, usability, branding, and sustainability long before you get into the design and production.

It’s a good idea to work with a company that understands them and will work with you to deliver the best packaging for your business, product, brand, and planet.