Once upon a time I spent a summer working at a clothing store that sold a special children’s clothing line marketed as environmentally friendly. Before setting out the stacks of t-shirts for green-minded parents to purchase, I took each tiny garment out of its individual plastic bag and rolled my eyes at the inconsistency. Why was an “environmental” line producing so much plastic waste?
When you’re a values-driven business focused on ethical manufacturing and sustainability, you have an opportunity to make a big impact with your packaging—for your brand and the environment. So does your packaging meet your brand’s standards?
In defence of plastic bags
This post is all about environmentally friendly packaging, but sometimes you need to use plastic. People Tree addressed this issue with a great blog post about why their garments come individually wrapped. They also share that the plastic bags they use are made of polypropylene, which is recyclable and generally a better option for plastic packaging.
The companies below have even more great options for keeping your products safe and sound and eco friendly in transit.
You know those bubble envelopes? When you get them maybe you pop the bubbles or maybe you save them to reuse yourself or maybe you throw them away. RePack‘s envelopes and bags are meant to be used at least 20 times. Once the package arrives at its destination, your customer pops the empty pack back in the mailbox and sends it back for reuse! Returning the pack is incentivized with a 10% off voucher for the long list of stores that use RePack.
Used by: Mud Jeans
Eco-Enclose is a full service eco friendly packaging dispensary based in Colorado. They offer boxes, a variety of mailers, even tape (and more!), as well as the option to customize the packaging with your branding (with fairly low print run minimums). All of their products are made with an eye for sustainability. For example, their poly mailers are made of 100% recycled materials and are fully recyclable – and they can be reused if your customers need to mail anything back to you.
Used by: Hey Honey Darlin
If you want to have fully branded packaging, check out Earthpack. Their recycled bags, boxes, tissue, mailers, and more are made in the USA and use water-based inks.
Used by: Patagonia
04. Greener Printer
Though not exactly packaging, Greener Printer will print any of the branded add-ons that make your packaging extra memorable – all on recycled paper.
They have all the trimmings that your business needs, from hang tags to lookbooks to postcards and business cards.
05. Harmless Packaging
If you really need to use plastic bags to protect your products from the elements, consider Harmless Packaging. Made from corn and potato starch, Harmless bags are compostable and dissolve in warm water once they’ve reached the end of their journey.
Bonus: Reuse What You Have On Hand!
If reclaimed materials are part of your brand, take advantage of that for your packaging!
Did you receive a package wrapped in yards of kraft paper? Reuse it in your next shipments! (I’ve definitely wrapped presents in reused kraft paper.) Still receive a paper newspaper? Crumple it up to protect breakables. The same goes for shredded paper. Stamp your logo on or add a piece of washi tape in a brand colour to tie it all together.
If your business sells food or beauty products in person, ask that customers return the containers (like glass jars) for a small reimbursement and then sanitize and reuse them. (Why yes, I did just steal that idea from old timey milkmen.)
You could even seek out reusable materials by getting ribbon, string, paper, or other packaging from thrift stores and garage sales. Make it part of your brand to have mis-matched paper, then seal it with a sticker that briefly explains your mission. This would be especially great for, say, a clothing company that uses reclaimed fabrics. (Reclaim your packaging too!)
Don’t keep it a secret!
When you’re communicating your brand’s values through packaging choices, don’t keep it a secret. The key word here is communicating. You don’t need to advertise your environmental achievements everywhere, but include a line in the shipping section of your website that shares the benefits of your packaging.
Values-driven consumers – who are likely your target audience – care about how your product will reach them. Letting them know that you’ve made thoughtful choices about packaging will leave a good impression just as they’re about to hit “ADD TO CART.”