The Clever Entrepreneur’s Guide to Eco-Friendly Packaging: What It Is + Ideas to Try for Your Products

The Clever Entrepreneur’s Guide to Eco-Friendly Packaging: What It Is + Ideas to Try for Your Products

If you're a busy entrepreneur, making an effort to go green in your packaging is easier than you might think. Here's how our guide on how to get started.

By Francesca Nicasio 04 October, 2020

@ma.crochets

Using eco-friendly packaging in your business is rapidly becoming something that you MUST do (versus something that’s just 'nice' to do).

For starters, non-sustainable product packages such as single-use plastic bags are wreaking havoc on our environmental ecosystems. Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, and this requires 12 million oil barrels to manufacture. These materials take 500+ years to decompose, so they often end up polluting our oceans and landfills.

There is some good news in that customers have realized the damaging effects of our actions on the environment, and many are making conscious choices to go green, particularly when it comes to the companies they support.

Research from IBM and the National Retail Federation found that almost 70% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada believe that brands should be sustainable or eco-friendly

These numbers tell us that going green with your business practices is a worthwhile move not just from a sustainability standpoint, but also in terms of branding and customer engagement.

There are several ways that businesses can be sustainable, but one of the most significant moves you can make, especially as a wholesaler, retailer, or creator, is to adopt sustainable product packaging.

Which is exactly what we’ll talk about below.

In this post, we’re giving the lowdown on eco friendly packaging — including what it is, the different materials involved, and how to select the right sustainability vendor. We’re also including several examples of eco friendly packaging done right. Let’s dive in!

What is eco-friendly packaging?


Eco-friendly packaging refers to packaging that produces little to no waste. Typically, sustainable packaging pieces stay out of landfills and oceans by decomposing back to the earth or through recycling, where they’re remanufactured to create new things.

Different types of eco-friendly packaging materials


There are several types of sustainable packaging materials in the market, but here are the most common ones:

Compostable


Compostable packaging materials can disintegrate and go back to the environment (i.e., soil or the earth). One of the best things about compostable materials is they decompose naturally and don’t leave chemicals behind. In fact, compostable packaging can even enrich the soil that they’re in.

noissue’s compostable mailers are a prime example of eco-friendly packaging material that safely decomposes back into the earth. noissue's bags can break down within 90 days in commercial compost and 180 days in domestic compost conditions, including worm farm compost.

Biodegradable


Like compostable items, biodegradable materials can also break down back into the earth. One key difference, however, is that biodegradable products can leave behind damaging substances as they decompose, which can harm the environment.

Biodegradable packaging can come in many forms, and most of the brown paper bags and boxes that we see in the market fall into this category.

Recyclable


Recyclable packaging is made out of materials that can be collected and remanufactured into new things. The most common example of recyclable packaging is corrugated cardboard. According to Corrugated.org: "96 percent of corrugated produced in 2018 was recovered for recycling and almost all of that material was used to make new products."

Recycled


Recycled packaging is just what it sounds like: its packaging made out of previously recycled materials. This recycled mailer is a great example. Made from post-consumer recycled plastics, it gives plastics already in circulation a second life. It has a second adhesive strip so that the mailer can be reused once more, and once it has served its purpose, it can be recycled at any facility that accepts soft plastics.

Finding and choosing an eco-friendly packaging provider

Now that you know the basics of eco friendly packaging, let’s discuss how to find and choose the right vendor. Below are the top questions you should ask yourself when searching for and evaluating sustainable packaging for your biz.

What are your product requirements?


List your packaging requirements based on factors like the type of product that you’re selling as well as its size and dimensions. Your packaging should house, protect, and showcase your items in the best possible way, so consider things like capacity and durability.

For instance, someone selling delicate glassware would likely need snug and durable boxes, while a store that sells clothes can go for light and flexible packaging materials.

Another consideration is product presentation and transportation. Will your items sit on a retail shelf or are you selling them online?

If it’s the latter, then you should think about eco friendly packaging from a shipping perspective. In addition to the product package itself, you’ll need to consider things like mailers and boxes.

How will you customize your packaging?


Product packaging is the first thing people see when they encounter your products, so it’s important to make a strong first impression.

To that end, choose a vendor that allows you to customize your packaging materials so you can create boxes, bags, and mailers that are on-brand. Ideally, your packaging vendor should enable you to choose colors combinations as well as upload your own design or logo.

What’s your budget?


Going green with your packaging needs to make financial sense. Run the numbers to figure out your costs and profits, then find vendors who meet your budget.

Needless to say, your costs will vary depending on factors like the size of the packaging, its complexity, as well as your order quantities.

At noissue, for example, our 10.2" x 15" mailers start at $0.6 per bag for an order of 50 mailers, but the per-bag cost goes down when you order larger quantities.

How sustainable are they, really?


Beware of “greenwashing” — a practice in which companies try to mislead customers by marketing themselves as sustainable without really walking the talk.

Do your research and ask questions about how materials are sourced. It also helps to take note of certifications indicating that the vendor has met certain sustainability standards.

The certification by the Forest Stewardship Council is a good one to keep an eye out for. Materials that have the FSC stamp of approval are certified to have “come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits."

Five eco-friendly packaging ideas to inspire you


What do these eco friendly packaging materials look like in action? Here are a handful of ideas and examples to inspire your own sustainability efforts.

Compostable mailers - Wheat & Sea Collective

The lifestyle brand Wheat & Sea Collective uses compostable mailers when shipping out products. As mentioned earlier, these bags can safely break down and decompose without leaving harmful residue, so they’re great for products and the environment.

Recycled and refillable packaging - All Earth Mineral Cosmetics

The cosmetics brand All Earth uses refillable pots that are made from recycled materials. The outer part of the packaging is made out of solid beech wood that's sourced from sustainable forests in the UK. Meanwhile, the inner pot is made from salvaged fish nets.

Recyclable and reusable boxes - Ashley Rose

View this post on Instagram

🌿Double tap if you’re liking the new look! New packaging arrived this week!! 🙌🏼 I never knew how happy 300 pounds of cardboard could make someone 🤣 — These boxes have been almost 6 months in the making so as I opened each package to see what I would find inside, I found myself holding my breath 🙊 I’m always hesitant to get my hopes up, but these beauties totally blew me away! They’re even better than I had imagined. — My hopes are for you to receive your order and then ♻️ upcycle your packaging to use as a beautiful storage box, or even for regifting to pass along some love to your friends and family! — My goal has always been to produce my designs ethically and leave as little waste as possible behind 📦 These boxes are made from corrugated cardboard that can be easily recycled, but I truly hope you choose to hang onto them to give them even more life. — 🌿 What kind of fun things would you do with your new beautiful box?? P.s. Check out my Story highlights to get a sneak peek of the inside of the box!

A post shared by Eco-friendly Childrenswear (@ashleyrose) on

The eco-friendly childrenswear brand Ashley Rose uses corrugated cardboard boxes, which are easily recyclable. These boxes sport a lovely design, and the company encourages customers to reuse them as storage boxes.

FSC-certified boxes that are 70% recycled - VS Earrings

View this post on Instagram

Your recent orders 💖 Packaging orders is my favourite part! I’m extremely happy that I use plastic free, recyclable, recycled and reusable packaging! ♻️ As it’s Plastic Free July, I thought I would write a post about my packaging. The boxes I use are FCS certified, of which are made from at least 70% recycled paper. The vegan paper tape is also recyclable - you can leave it on the box. I use shredded paper filling too! This is old paper and any left over from your labels. Want to go completely plastic free, while still buying fashionable and fun earrings? I sell sustainably sourced wooden earrings! These are made from birch plywood. I’m releasing my new astrological collection soon too! ✨ V x #vsearrings #plasticfreejuly #recyclablepackaging

A post shared by VS Earrings (@vs.earrings) on

VS Earrings, a store that sells handmade jewelry, packages its products using FSC-certified boxes that are made from at least 70% recycled paper. The tape used in the boxes is vegan and is also recyclable.

FSC-certified tissue paper - LovelyScripture

LovelyScripture, which offers hand-crafted journals, Bibles, and canvases, uses custom-made, sustainable tissue paper with paper tape. Both the tissue paper and tape are FSC-certified and are sourced for a forest and supply chain that's managed sustainably.

Ready to implement eco friendly packaging?

Going green isn’t just good for the environment, it’s also good for business. No matter what you’re selling, it’s high time to evaluate your product packaging and find ways to limit waste. We hope you found this guide useful! If you’re looking for eco friendly packaging materials, check out noissue’s range of sustainable mailers, tissue paper, tape, and stickers. Your customers (and Mother Nature) will love them!