“Sustainability” is one of the biggest priorities of our times. It’s also become one of the biggest trends (and buzzwords!) in the packaging industry. So how do you know if product packaging that claims to be sustainable truly meets sustainability imperatives, or if you’re just buying into corporate “greenwashing”?
Read on to learn more about what makes packaging sustainable, along with tips for understanding and avoiding greenwashing. You'll also get insights into how to communicate your eco-friendly packaging initiatives to consumers.
Eight Qualities of Sustainable Packaging
Sustainability refers to something that can be created and maintained without depleting critical natural resources. While it applies to many aspects of retail, it’s especially interesting within the context of packaging — which we often think of in terms of its inherent disposability.
According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), packaging is considered sustainable if it fulfills the following eight criteria:
- It’s safe, healthy, and good for people, communities, and the planet through its entire life cycle
- It satisfies market criteria for both cost and performance
- It’s sourced, made, transported, and recycled with renewable energy
- It optimizes renewable and recycled source materials
- It’s made using clean production best practices and technology
- The materials its made with are healthy across the full life cycle
- It’s designed with the intent of optimizing energy and materials
- It’s recovered and used effectively in closed-loop cycles (biological and/or industrial)
What Is Greenwashing and How To Avoid It
With the global population set to reach 9.6 billion by the year 2050, the UN projects that we’ll need the equivalent of nearly three planets to sustain our current habits and lifestyles. Given this dire predicament, it’s hardly surprising that consumers demand that the brands they support embrace sustainability initiatives.
Unfortunately, this has led to a phenomenon known as “greenwashing,” in which companies claim to be making sustainability changes but are actually investing more in marketing than they are in making business changes that reduce their environmental impact and help protect the environment.
Not only is this misleading to customers, but it’s also detrimental to real sustainability efforts as it diverts well-intentioned consumers from supporting the companies that are making an effort.
The good news? There are some things consumers can do to identify and avoid greenwashing. These include:
- Looking beyond buzzwords to hard evidence, such as stamps of approval and certifications
- Doing your research
- Using common sense
- Finding the right resources, such as the B Corporation Directory
- Seeking out third-party verification for claims
- Factoring in more than price — and being willing to invest a little more
For a more in-depth look at greenwashing, check out this breakdown published by EcoWatch!
5 Tips for Communicating Sustainability Initiatives on Packaging
This handy resource can help get you started when it comes to embracing sustainability in your packaging. However, it begs the question: In light of greenwashing, what’s the best way to communicate to people that your business claims are backed by eco-conscious behaviors — especially given research indicating that consumers are increasingly prioritizing sustainable brands?
Consider these five strategies:
- Use natural colors, such as browns, pale blues, and greens
- Incorporate sustainability symbols, such as USDA Organic and recycling logos
- Opt for minimalist, clean aesthetics
- Use natural texture, such as corrugated materials and carton board
- Use images and other visuals that convey sustainability
At Bay Cities Packing & Design, we’re committed to fully embodying sustainability, including through our own internal green program that enables us to pursue the best sustainability solutions for our business and for our customers. We also offer rigorous ISTA Testing.
To learn more about what makes packaging sustainable, to help make your eco-friendly mailer boxes stand out, or for any other concern about helping your brand make the most of sustainable packaging, contact us or request a quote today.