Learn everything about sustainable and eco friendly packaging and its benefits, uses, and how it makes a positive impact on the environment.
Eco friendly packaging
Sustainability is one of the most pressing issues we face in today’s society. It’s a red-hot topic in its hour of need as the worrying effects of climate change become ever-present. To address this urgent crisis, we all need to consciously make changes to reverse the environmental damage caused to our natural world. One of the most viable ways to do this is to make the switch to eco-friendly packaging.
Perhaps you are a small business owner looking for eco-conscious materials to ship your goods? Or maybe you’re an everyday consumer who is keen to buy products and support businesses using sustainable packaging? If so, we’ve got you covered.
What Is Eco-Friendly Packaging?
Eco-friendly packaging is a form of ecologically safe packaging generally made of recycled or renewable materials. The main advantages are that it produces minuscule to no environmental waste, is biodegradable, and is entirely safe for the population and nature. The primary goal of eco-friendly packaging is to cause as little harm to the natural world as possible.
What Isn’t Eco-Friendly Packaging?
When looking at eco-friendly packaging, it can be hard to know which materials are genuinely sustainable. We need to consider many factors, including the energy required to produce the material, down to the weight and bulkiness and associated fuel costs.
Bubble wrap, for example, a packaging staple for decades, is made from plastic materials that are not biodegradable and take a shocking 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Polystyrene packing peanuts, which are still commonly used, are equally as bad for the environment. Plastic is essentially a form of fossil fuel, which comes with a colossal carbon footprint. When you consider the average lifespan of packing and packaging materials, it’s a crime that we use unsustainable plastics for this purpose.
Fabrics offer an alternative, sustainable packaging material. The reality is that conventional cotton production has caused reduced soil fertility, destruction of biodiversity, and life-threatening illnesses to those who have suffered long-term exposure to the pesticides and insecticides used in its making.
We need to re-evaluate when it comes to eco-friendly packaging. Where possible, we should always consider opting for greener packaging and support the companies that do so. Luckily, over the last few years, there’s been a massive push towards creating sustainable and innovative packaging ideas – some of which are quite surprising.
The Best of Eco-Friendly Packaging
In recent times, bamboo has become a go-to material in the fight for sustainability. Bamboo serves a purpose as a replacement for plastic, paper and even metal. It is one of the fastest-growing plants globally and doesn’t require harmful pesticides to flourish. Remarkably, bamboo also releases 35% more oxygen into the environment than the equal volume of trees.
The plant has become a prevalent eco-friendly packaging choice, specifically in the food industry. Being heat resistant, higher tensile strength than steel, and no bleach required in production, it’s not hard to see why. Bamboo also comes with the bonus of being an affordable resource; it requires less land and intervention to grow than timber and is fully biodegradable and compostable. Reusaboo has compiled this helpful post, covering 30 eco-friendly bamboo products and packaging alternatives.
One of the most eco-friendly packaging materials around today, cornstarch is becoming increasingly popular. This organic material, which has plastic-like properties, can be used for everything from bottles to protective moulds and loose-form packing. This new material is created using polylactic acid, made from fermented sugars, instead of synthetic polymers. If disposed of properly, cornstarch packaging material will break down into carbon dioxide and water within several weeks.
It’s now possible to buy an eco-conscious version of the traditional polystyrene packing peanuts. They are 100% biodegradable and typically formed from natural wheat and cornstarch. Not only do these peanuts dissolve in water, but you can also throw them onto your compost pile after use. Lastly, they do not have an electrostatic charge, meaning that they won’t annoyingly stick to your clothes like the classic type.
Corrugated Bubble Wrap
Corrugated bubble wrap is the green alternative to standard plastic bubble wrap. It’s made entirely from recycled cardboard and is naturally decomposable. As far as eco-friendly packaging goes, this is a simple, highly cost-effective solution readily available to buy. In addition to artfully moulding around products and being a great deal more aesthetic, corrugated bubble wrap takes up significantly less storage space than its plastic counterpart.
Due to its corrugated nature, this bubble wrap also biodegrades faster than paper packing. The honeycombed shaping means that no tape is required; all that is needed is secure tucking around the product.
Perhaps the most unexpected eco-friendly packaging alternative mentioned in this post, mushroom packaging, is becoming increasingly popular. The idea formulation came from start-up Ecovative Design, a company looking to create a hyper biodegradable substitute for polystyrene.
Mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, acts as a natural binding agent to make a composite material containing by-products from the agricultural industry and wood chips. The packaging can be grown and then formed into multiple shapes to protect products of all kinds.
Nowadays, big-brand names such as IKEA are using this innovative packaging, as more and more companies strive to become greener. This eco-conscious alternative comes with the additional benefit of being surprisingly affordable.
After discussing how conventional cotton isn’t eco friendly, we’re keen to talk about alternatives. Unlike its counterpart, organic cotton is grown without pesticides and artificial fertilisers and is processed using no chemicals. From an environmental standpoint, organic cotton farming utilises 62% less energy and 88% less water than non-organic cotton. It’s a firmly sustainable and ethical eco-friendly packaging choice in the move away from single-use plastic bags.
Lyocell, another ecological fabric sometimes used to wrap around products for protection, is manufactured from wood pulp in a green closed-loop process and is entirely biodegradable and recyclable. A comparable option is modal, a type of rayon fabric made exclusively from beech trees’ renewable fibre. Hemp and flax are similarly eco-conscious and are often used to replace plastic bags and containers.
A more unusual option is rPET, a silky soft polyester fibre fabric derived from plastic water bottles. The World Wildlife Fund sells a variety of items made from rPET, including tote shopping bags.
Another surprising eco-friendly packaging is seaweed packaging. Not only biodegradable and, in fact, edible, but this alternative packaging can dissolve in water instantly. London start-up Notpla has been working to create plastic-like casings that fully decompose in just six weeks instead of hundreds of years sitting in a landfill like synthetic plastics.
The seaweed is dried and ground down into a powder before being transformed into a dense, gloopy fluid and moulded into various shapes. Unlike plastic, this eco-friendly packaging doesn’t break down into micro-particles that are unfeasible to collect and is cheap to make. Expect to use a whole lot more seaweed packaging over the coming years as we move as a society towards a greener future.