Zero waste and sustainable production is a dream for many companies worldwide. And the same goes for environment-conscious consumers. 

Sustainable packaging strategies are defined as the procurement, manufacturing, and usage of packaging products with a low environmental impact.

Many consumers packaged goods corporations have created render multiple sustainability promises, notably packaging and shipping, over the last decade. 

Right from vowing to make all packaging materials 100 percent recyclable, biodegradable, or reusable to eliminate the usage of crude petroleum polymer worldwide. 

Companies are striving to enhance the integrity of their packaging and redesign the enterprise process, from supply and manufacturing to distribution and retail.

Formerly, unfit-for-retail-sale commodities, damaged packaging, polymers, and other byproducts were transferred to a dump or waste station for combustion. 

In 2018 about half of all waste generated in the United States was disposed of in burial sites. 

But thankfully, manufacturers today are focusing more actively on sustainability and boosting corporate goals to zero garbage.

Here, you will notice an elaborative listing of the ten sustainable packaging strategies that every industry should follow to be a part of the “go-green” movement and minimize their carbon footprints.

Table of Contents

1. Compostable plant-based packaging

plant-based packaging - packaging strategies
Circular fiber flow involved on plant-based packaging| Infographics from Corrugated packaging

Plant-based packaging is making its way to our homes. From edible cutlery to recyclable boxes, they are rapidly growing worldwide.

Compostable packaging has numerous environmental advantages. It consumes less energy to manufacture, decreases debris sent to landfills, and emits zero pollutants when it degrades. 

Eco-friendly and biodegradable packaging enhances the brand image and implies a higher-quality commodity.

Plant-based alternatives are quickly gaining traction in the field of product packaging. People are increasingly ‘becoming green’ in response to their environmental concerns. 

As a result, using plant-based packaging strategies will make a company environmentally friendly and increase the client base. 

2. Edible bioplastics to the rescue!

resealable edible packing bags - packaging strategies
Resealable edible packaging bags| Amazon Purchase Link

Edible packaging is a concept that has been here for a long time now. Packaging companies, consumer electronics, automotive, building/construction, agriculture/horticulture, coatings, rigid packaging, flexible packaging, and a diverse range of other industries today are employing bioplastics.

We are very familiar with the capsules enclosed water known as Ooho, which replaces plastic water bottles using an impermeable membrane composed of seaweed. 

We can gulp down the water along with the edible container. If the consumer spews out the membrane, it will break down easily in about 4–6 weeks. 

At the same time, some businesses and academics are experimenting with carbohydrates derived from substances other than seaweed, such as potato starch, which has been used to manufacture cupcake cases, translucent films, food wrappers, and many more.

3. Mycelium fungus replaces Styrofoam

Every time we buy an electronic or fragile good, companies tend to gift us a massive piece of Styrofoam. And, what exactly do we do with it? Nothing! 

No wonder Styrofoam consumes around 30% of our landfills. Not to forget, it takes at least half a century to break down!

Ikea intends to use mushroom-based packaging as an environmentally beneficial alternative to Styrofoam. 

As part of its attempts to decrease waste and improve composting, this world-famous pack furniture business is considering utilizing compostable “fungi packaging.”

Mycelium is the fungus component that expands in a network of interwoven filaments that adhere to anything growing around, forming mushroom bases in due process. 

Clean crop debris, such as maize shoots or skins, encourages the mycelium to flourish. The fungus strands hold the waste together for a few days creating a solid structure. 

The structure is then dried to halt it from spreading any further. The main attraction is throwing away mycelium packaging in the yard, which will dissolve spontaneously within a few weeks.

4. Seed paper: A double benefit

seed paper - packaging strategies
Butterfly shaped seed paper with recyclable petals| Amazon Purchase Link

Minimizing landfill pollution and carbon footprint is one thing, but what if a single strategy could fulfill that and more. 

For instance, increase the number of vegetation on the planet! Is plant-able seed packaging the answer to environmental sustainability?

But, what exactly is plant-able packaging? Plant seedlings are incorporated within the packing material. 

Just drop it in the soil and observe flowers or herbs grow beautifully. This sustainable packaging strategy is pervasive in Japan.

Seed paper eco-packing is a zero-waste alternative to typical paper/plastic packaging for commodities that necessities tiny boxes, belly bands, inserts, and box fillers. 

This compostable paper does not produce any garbage but will eventually decompose into something beneficial to nature. 

Pangea Organics was the first to produce plant-able packaging, with the motto “Coming from the earth and going back to it.” Many enterprises are now following in their footsteps and garnering customer recognition.

And as for consumers, we are genuinely giving back to the planet when you utilize seed paper packaging.

5. Bring your own bag

If one wishes to retain the image, branding, and voice in front of users, businesses must continuously develop new marketing strategies. 

Bring your bag (BYOB) is one of such popular strategies taken forth by small and large companies at present. 

Most of us are now thoroughly aware of single-use plastic threats. We recognize that using single-use plastic bags has a significant environmental impact on future generations.

Hence, many brands and stores encourage buyers to bring their bags and containers today. A few grocery stores sell packaging-less food items such as grains, pasta, vegetables, oils, and many more. 

It’s a great time to go green shopping! 

6. Green shipping option

Giving the consumers a green shipping choice at checkout is a great approach to push for a more environmentally conscious and sustainable solution. 

You can influence consumer behaviors by informing your customers about the significance of picking a service that takes a bit extra time or using recycled, biodegradable packaging and delivery items.

7. Decrease package size

raylo - packaging strategies
RAYLO decreased packaging weight by 21% and cost by 11%| Image from Pack Help

We usually order a small item, but the packaging makes it look like we put the wrong order. And it is a shame that the bulk of materials are thrown away when a more straightforward shipping container could have served the same purpose with less environmental impact. 

Henceforth, companies need to be mindful about choosing boxes that are the right size for the product. 

It is equally pertinent to consider how much packing the item will require to keep the contents inside safe until it reaches the consumer. 

This packing benefits the environment by lowering the company’s carbon footprint and shipping expenses and providing the consumers with fewer plastic materials to discard.

8. Reduce over-packaging

Over-packaging is heavily contested and justifiably criticized about the present environmental degradation. 

In contrast to downsizing, the accurate eco-friendly packaging practices aim is to strike the dynamic equilibrium between excessive and under-packaging.

Modern consumers are increasingly worried about the environment and have little endurance for things packaged like porcelain dolls. 

Folded in foil, strung in nylon, and packed in a box, festival chocolates have no limits! There is no way to rationalize the trash in landfills for many buyers.

In the retailing sector, packing materials are plentiful. Hence, companies need to adjust the way commodities pass through the chain to eliminate excess waste.

9. Educating the consumer

Eco-friendly and sustainable packaging solutions are being adopted by an increasing number of enterprises, which is a good trend. 

However, if they fail to make an effort to educate the customers about ethical dumping and recycling, this shift might have a limited influence.

How so? Because while manufacturers may be aware that your packaging is environmentally friendly, buyers may not be well-informed. Therefore, many companies struggle to get consumers on board with their initiatives. 

They do not narrate to customers how to properly dispose of their packaging at the ‘point of disposal,’ leaving the possibility of human mistakes. 

Not knowing eco-friendly measures can completely negate the attempts at environmental consciousness.

Hence, companies need to inform consumers how to properly dispose of or reuse the packaging to achieve higher sustainability goals.

10. Choosing sustainable manufacturers

bag into hanger - packaging strategies
Bag into hanger from H&M| Photo from Pack Help

As important as it is to change one’s approach, it is equally essential for brands to make sure the manufacturing partners and other allies are on the line and prioritize sustainability. It is imperative to be mindful of their manufacturing process and agendas.

How wonderful would it be if delivery companies took the initiative to be 100% sustainable in packaging and delivery? 

The same goes for sustainable and eco-friendly stores that would not peel the oranges only to package them in a fancy plastic container. What a waste, right?

To wrap up

Today, it has become more demanding than ever to wisely consider structure, packaging, fillers, and compression-wrap pallets. 

Do we need these after all? Businesses are progressively substituting non-plastic, biodegradable, and organic fillers in place of plastic air cushions and bubble wrap as spacers.

There are several strategies to make the packaging and distribution more environmentally friendly, and the best approach relies on the consumers’ demand. 

However, industries need to understand that it is imperative to ensure that the initiatives persist and survive. Slowly but steadily!

(Last Updated on January 30, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!