Sustainable Packaging: Why It Matters and How to Source It

Sustainability is more than just good for the planet; it’s good PR for your company. That’s why you should consider adding sustainable packaging to your repertoire. It helps your company meet sustainability goals while giving eco-conscious consumers a better choice when selecting their products.

Here’s why it matters, and some tips on how your brand should go about sourcing sustainable packaging.

Trends in Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging has gone beyond just post-consumer recycled paper products to make corrugated cardboard and packing materials that keep products safe.

Sustainable labels, soy-based inks, and starch-based biodegradable packing peanuts are all reasonable and cost-effective sustainable packaging solutions.

Flexible packaging, made of non-rigid materials like paper, can cut down on your need to source sustainable packaging from multiple sources because it can work with a wide range of product types, sizes, and materials. Flexible packaging works for health and beauty as well as food and beverage retailers looking for sustainable packaging design options.

Public relations are huge for companies looking to be more sustainable. Eco-friendly packaging represents one way you can foster your sustainability goals to give your customers a better choice.  A March 2022 study by NTT found 44% of organizations saw improved bottom lines because of sustainability.

Is it Cost Effective?

Yes, because when you use eco-packaging correctly, you actually use more of it. Plus, once your packaging company becomes used to handling sustainable packaging, your labor costs become less.

Not only that, you get more loyal and satisfied customers who order more products when you offer sustainable packaging as an added value proposition. Sustainable packaging for small businesses helps them gain a market advantage over similar companies that don’t offer the same things.

Another facet to consider is the adoptability of eco-friendly packaging. As more and more companies invest in these types of products, they cost less money because demand rises for sustainable packaging products.

Don’t Forget Your Damage Metrics

Damage metrics are important because damaged products can actually lead to more waste in landfills. You can gauge how your damaged products affect the environment using Pregis’ EcoGauge calculator.

Preventing damage is the key to using sustainable packaging properly. Yes, you can use less of it when you train your staff on the best practices for keeping items safe during transport. But you still need to use the right kinds of sustainable packaging materials to keep items from breaking.

Is it Still a Trend?

Absolutely. More and more companies are adopting this paradigm. Patagonia, Amazon and Calvin Klein, among many others, use sustainable packaging.

The Impact of Sustainable Packaging

Eco-friendly packaging does more than just keep recyclable materials out of landfills for longer periods of time. It also considers the energy expended in creating them. It can reduce carbon emissions, particularly when you choose a company that invests in or utilizes solar and wind production.

Sustainable packaging allows consumers to recycle the materials easily, whether you utilize post-consumer paper, bio-derived alternatives to plastics, or air pillows made of sustainable and recyclable materials.

Sourcing Sustainable Packaging

Packaging suppliers with a commitment to sustainability shout it loud and clear on their websites and social media.

Locating sources of eco-friendly packaging should be fairly simple. However, you still need to dig deeper. Ask the right questions, request use cases and case studies, and see if the company can provide testimonials and reviews.

What to Look For

Sustainable packaging comes in many forms. Common measures include recyclability, recycled content and reusability (the traditional R’s). But one that can be overlooked when evaluating a product description is to reduce damage. For you as a shipper, and for your customers, how the product arrives is paramount.

If a shipment or product is damaged, it often creates landfill waste. The environmental impact of damage doesn’t stop there. It can set off a cascading effect that requires more carbon emissions, raw material consumption, more packaging, freight, and so on because the manufacturer must make more items that aren’t damaged and customers have to return the broken items.

The impact is staggering: More than 5 billion pounds of damaged products go to American landfills every year.

Returning and reshipping a damaged product takes approximately 1.7 gallons of fuel, 1.8 kWh of electricity, 40.4 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions, and .13 square feet of habitat loss. Multiply those losses by 5 billion pounds a year? You get the idea.

Circularity is the key to creating this type of paradigm shift in the ecommerce economy. The pandemic accelerated adoption of more shipping by 10 years. The more that large companies invest in sustainable packaging, the sooner costs for these supplies will come down. The greater investment potential encourages more sustainable packaging companies to grow, thereby keeping more resources out of landfills for longer periods of time.

Companies that grow help create a circular economy where every company in the eco-friendly packaging market grows due to expanded collaboration with retailers and packaging solutions companies.

Pros and Cons of Sustainable Packaging

Making a choice based on the total environmental impact is all pro in our book. Among the pros is customer retention. Communicating with your consumers and customer base is a great way to build brand loyalty.

A few watch outs however is to confirm that the product performance matches the application, shipping environment and does not require you to use more for equal performance as that may go against your sustainability goals.

Depending on the product and sustainable attributes, the price may vary so it is advised to do a total cost comparison so you know the full picture and do not respond to a price.

Less Impact on the Environment

Reduce environmental burden, protect natural resources, and help educate consumers on the proper end-of-life disposal. Packaging is a great billboard; use it!

Brendan Heegan is founder of Boxzooka