Have you ever found yourself staring at the endless options of packaging supplies, trying to decide which one is the most eco-friendly, and ending up feeling so overwhelmed that you almost gave up on the whole idea of sustainability? You aren’t alone!
As a small business owner, it can be a struggle to find the perfect balance between cost, functionality, and environmental impact when it comes to packaging products. We’ve finally discovered some fantastic eco-friendly packaging options that are both practical and sustainable (and beautiful too!). So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the endless options out there, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! Choosing eco-friendly packaging is one way we can do our part to reduce waste and help the environment. In this blog post, we’ll share some of our favorite environmentally-friendly packaging supplies, as well as tips on how to choose the right one for your needs.
Types of Environmentally-Friendly Packaging Supplies
There are several types of eco-friendly packaging supplies available on the market, including biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, and sustainable materials. That is a lot of -ABLES and how is someone supposed to know what each means?!
You may have seen the term biodegradable and wondered what makes a substance biodegradable. Biodegradable substances are those that break down quickly and safely into mostly harmless compounds. Typically, anything that is plant-based, animal-based, or a natural mineral-based product falls under this category. However, the rate at which they break down can vary depending on the original material and the level of processing. So, while all biodegradable materials will eventually break down, the time it takes for them to do so can vary greatly. Most of them, however, break down within 6 months. Which sure is an improvement on the previous 100 year timeline on some materials!
A couple of examples of biodegradable packaging are:
Cornstarch-based packing peanuts: These are made from biodegradable cornstarch and are designed to dissolve in water. They are a great alternative to traditional foam peanuts, which are not at all eco-friendly.
Biodegradable plastic: Some plastics are designed to be biodegradable, meaning they will break down over time into harmless compounds. These can be made from plant-based materials like cornstarch or from petroleum-based materials that have been modified to biodegrade.
Edible packaging: Yes, you read that right! Some companies are experimenting with edible packaging made from materials like seaweed, starches, and proteins. These are not only biodegradable but also completely edible, making them a zero-waste solution.
It’s worth noting that while edible packaging is a novel and eco-friendly concept, it may not be the most practical option for all types of products or shipping methods. A couple companies creating edible products we’ve come across are Loliware and Evoware.
Images from Evoware featuring some of their products.
Some may use the term compostable and biodegradable interchangeably but that isn’t always the case. A product can be compostable and biodegradable but not always is a biodegradable product made with compostable elements. When a product is compostable, it can decompose into natural elements in a compost environment, without causing any harm to the environment. Generally, it takes around 90 days for the compostable material to break down completely in a composting environment. This means that compostable packaging is an eco-friendly option as it can be easily disposed of and will eventually become a part of the earth’s natural cycle without any negative impact on the environment.
Examples of compostable packaging that can be safely broken down:
Mushroom-based packaging: made from mushroom mycelium, this type of packaging is biodegradable, compostable, and can even be eaten!
Compostable bags: these bags are made from plant-based materials like corn starch or potatoes and can break down completely in a compost environment.
Compostable food containers: made from materials like sugarcane pulp or bamboo, these containers are an eco-friendly option for food packaging that can be composted after use.
Recyclable packaging refers to materials that can be processed and transformed into new products after being used. Any reduction in packaging that will be tossed in the trash is a win for the environment! There are all sorts of materials that can be recycled, like cardboard boxes, paper envelopes, and even some types of plastic.The recycling process helps to reduce waste and conserve resources, as it requires less energy and raw materials than producing new products from scratch. While recyclable packaging is a step towards sustainability, it’s important to remember that not all recycling facilities accept all types of materials, and the process can still generate emissions and waste. It’s still key to properly dispose of it in the appropriate recycling bin to ensure it can be recycled and reused.
Some popular options include cardboard boxes, padded mailers made from recycled materials, and paper-based shipping envelopes. In addition, some companies are now offering innovative solutions, such as reusable mailing envelopes made from recycled materials.
So, you know how we’ve been talking about different types of eco-friendly packaging materials? Well, the ultimate goal of all these materials is sustainability. Sustainable packaging is all about using materials that come from renewable resources and can be reused, recycled, or composted without causing any harm to the environment. So whether it’s biodegradable, recyclable, or compostable packaging, as long as it’s made from sustainable materials, we’re doing our part to help protect our planet.
Factors to Consider When Selecting Packaging Products
When you’re trying to pick the perfect eco-friendly packaging for your products, there are a few things you should keep in mind. For starters, think about what you’re actually shipping. If it’s something delicate, you’ll need something a bit sturdier to protect it during transit. But if it’s lightweight, you might not need as much protection. You should also consider how you’ll be shipping your products. Some types of packaging may not be the best option for certain shipping methods, like air freight. And of course, the cost is always a factor. While eco-friendly packaging might be a bit pricier, it could also be a great selling point for customers who care about the environment.
As for types of packaging for shipping, here are a few examples:
Corrugated cardboard boxes: These are great for shipping items that need a bit more protection. They’re made from recycled paper and are easily recyclable after use.
Biodegradable bubble wrap: If you’re shipping delicate items that need cushioning, biodegradable bubble wrap can be a good option. It’s made from a biodegradable material called PLA, which is derived from cornstarch.
Compostable mailers: If you’re looking for something that’s both eco-friendly and lightweight, compostable mailers could be a good option. They’re made from materials like cornstarch and are designed to break down in a composting environment.
When considering eco-friendly packaging for items that are not being shipped, there are still several factors to consider. First, think about the nature of the product. Does it need to be protected from light, moisture, or other environmental factors? If so, you may need to choose packaging that provides adequate protection. Next, consider the shelf life of the product. If it is a perishable item, you may need packaging that can extend its shelf life, such as vacuum-sealed bags or containers. Finally, think about the end user. Is the packaging easy to open and use? Does it align with the values of your target market? These are all important factors to consider when choosing eco-friendly packaging for products.
Environmentally-friendly Packaging Suppliers
If you’re looking for eco-friendly packaging supplies, there are plenty of options available. Some of our favorites include NoIssue, a company that offers compostable mailers and custom tissue paper, as well as EcoEnclose, which offers a range of sustainable packaging options, including biodegradable bubble wrap and recycled shipping boxes. Another great option is Packlane, which allows you to design your own custom eco-friendly packaging using sustainable materials like recycled cardboard. Uline is a popular packaging company that offers some sustainable products.