Sustainable packaging. Two words that don’t always go hand-in-hand. Packaging waste is a massive global problem, and one which your business probably doesn’t want to contribute to! So, knowing how to ‘keep it green’ in your packaging design is the key to being a more responsible eCommerce retailer. Sustainability is a growing focal point within discussions of Corporate Social Responsibility. So, sustainable packaging is one of the most actionable ways you can demonstrate your commitment.

The environmental impact of packaging waste
Plastics play a huge role in the lives of consumers. It’s hard to keep track of how often we encounter plastic on a daily basis, especially in retail and food packaging. In particular, most of the things we buy come in plastic packaging. So, it’s hardly surprising that the packaging industry is responsible for 40% of plastic pollution in the world – and a third of all household waste. That’s terrible!

Unfortunately, the eCommerce industry is one of the biggest culprits. This is due not only to the use of plastic packaging but to the unfortunate reality of ‘over-packaging.’ We’ve all had the experience of an item arriving and filling up our living room with plastic. We’ve dubbed this experience the “Russian doll” method, often used in order fulfillment: a pre-boxed item is placed in a second box with a large amount of filler, creating excess packaging waste.

At its current rate of expansion, eCommerce will contribute more and more to this issue over time. Global eCommerce sales are forecast to hit $4.9 trillion by 2021, and will account for almost a fifth of all retail sales. If green packaging solutions aren’t adopted, the amount of plastic waste going to landfills will increase drastically.

Sustainable packaging as a competitive advantage

Thankfully, times are changing. Consumers are growing much more conscious of the environmental impact of their purchasing habits, especially online. According to a study by McKinsey, over 70% of customers were willing to pay a so-called ‘green premium’ for a product if it came in eco friendly packaging.

There is also plenty of evidence to show that going green in your packaging design can actually benefit your brand. BBMG’s Conscious Consumer report discovered that 87% of consumers in the United States saw themselves as more likely to buy from brands committed to environmentally friendly practices. So as such a tangible marketing asset, packaging has become increasingly inseparable from brand identity and eco friendly attitudes.

On the flipside, brand owners may be at risk of damaging their business profile if they don’t use sustainable packaging. For example, if your packaging materials can’t be easily recycled (or composted!), your customers are likely to be more frustrated than excited.

Defining sustainable packaging
We’ve shown that there are sound economic and personal incentives to use packaging that’s sustainable. But now you might want to know, what exactly is sustainable packaging? It’s not uncommon for a packaging manufacturer to claim that their packaging designs are ‘green’ without actually explaining how or why.

According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, any packaging design which “can be transformed into a closed loop flow of packaging materials in a system that is economically robust and provides benefit throughout its life cycle” can be considered as sustainable. So, what does this mean for you and your business?

Ideas for making your packaging more sustainable

Reduced packaging. As we mentioned, ‘over-packaging’ is a widespread issue in eCommerce. Not only does this mean more packaging waste - it also costs you more to over-package! Streamlining your packaging design is one of the best ways for your business to lower its carbon footprint. For tips and tricks in this area, check out our dedicated sustainable packaging study.

Recycled or reusable packaging. Maximizing the use of recycled materials in your design keeps recyclable packaging elements in use for longer. Using recycled paper for your packaging inserts, for example, shows customers that you take sustainability seriously. Designing packaging that has reuse options, such as branded tote bags, also helps to create a more circular economy of raw materials.

Plant based packaging. The number of plant based packaging options has grown massively in the past few years. eCommerce businesses can look at biodegradable packaging alternatives, such as compressed plant fibers like mushroom filaments and coconut. These are usually by-products of industries such as agriculture, which helps to minimize waste in the supply chain. For example, our compostable mailers are made from corn starch as an alternative to plastic poly mailers. Creating this bio-based polymer uses only 0.05% of the annual global corn crop, making it an incredibly low impact design.

Paper alternatives made from the likes of bamboo or sugarcane are also increasing in popularity. As are alternatives to traditional petroleum-based inks for custom printing. At noissue, we only use renewable soy-based inks. This way, we can provide you with premium custom tissue paper and a sustainable packaging solution all in one.

Eco-credentials are another development impacting what both consumers and businesses choose to purchase. The FSC certification guarantees that paper items with the FSC label have come from a forest and supply chain that is managed responsibly. All of our packaging is FSC certified, and we strive daily to be a leader in innovation and sustainability.

For more environmentally friendly packaging ideas, check out our dedicated blog post!

The Wrap Up: The benefits of ‘keeping it green’

As the environment becomes a more salient issue, it will continue to be hugely important for businesses to adopt sustainable packaging. Fortunately, there are more green packaging solutions on the market than ever before - and at far more accessible price points! It’s a fantastic way for your business to cut down its carbon footprint, and also to give yourself a competitive edge in your industry. So in honor of #PlasticFree July, we encourage you to find new ways of ‘keeping it green’ in your packaging design!