Sustainable Packaging

By Louise Dennington | February 15, 2022

When considering packaging for your product, it is now part and parcel that companies consider the sustainability aspect of materials being used. This is not only in reference to the sourcing of the packaging, but also the development and the use of it ensuring minimal environmental impact and footprint.

Why is this important?

In reducing the ecological footprint of all stages of a product’s life cycle, you are reducing the environmental impact and helping to combat climate change on the natural ecosystems on which humanity depends.

You know the saying…. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE – essential values a business needs to adopt. 

REDUCE: Cutting back on the amount of packaging waste. This can be done by minimising void fill and secondary packaging materials, eliminating unnecessary packaging such as outer sleeves, buying in bulk, finding a dual use for your packaging and training your staff to be aware of packaging costs.

REUSE: Packaging that can be used repeatedly so it doesn’t have to be thrown out. This includes wood, metals, plastics, composites and some foam – things that are designed to be durable, allow for ease of use, ease of cleaning, and provide the option to be repaired.

RECYCLE: Packaging made of materials that can be used again, usually after processing. This includes glass, metal, card, paper and certain plastics. Biodegradable packaging, most commonly paper based materials, will easily break down in the soil or the atmosphere (in most cases if sent to landfill).

Take fast food giant McDonald’s as an example.

We’ve set goals to source 100% of our guest packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources, and to recycle guest packaging in 100% of McDonald’s restaurants, by 2025.

They are prioritising eliminating packaging through design innovation, introducing reusable solutions and encouraging behaviour change to reduce usage. Materials will be shifted to 100% renewable, recycled or certified sources, and the variety of materials used streamlined to enable easier recovery without compromising on quality and performance. They also vow to find ways to scale up systems to allow for greater acceptance of recycling, and of course, use more recycled materials, including recycled plastic content, in their packaging, restaurants and facilities, helping to drive global demand for recycled content.

“Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address,” said McDonald’s executive Francesca DeBiase. “Our ambition is to make changes our customers want and to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use.”

Sustainability may not be at the forefront of your mind when you’re considering your options, but it certainly contributes to the many other factors that make for good packaging design. The packaging needs to speak to its audience, it should reflect your brand and your brand values, it should be practical and visually appealing. All these things can be achieved in a sustainable way of course!

Everyday green thinking – best printing practices

Have a positive impact on the earth and undertake these sustainable printing practices:

  1. Print on both sides of the paper – save paper and save money.
  2. Use recycled paper – consider buying recycled paper to print on, or even recycling something that has been printed on before by using the reverse side.
  3. Don’t print at all – send it by email, present it on a computer device, save it as a pdf.
  4. Choose an ethical printer and supplies – opt for those with power saving modes and automatic duplex printing.  Choose environmentally friendly inks and toners and refill rather than replace to reduce the amount that end up in landfill.

Calling all creatives!

It goes without saying that many design disciplines adopt sustainable methods and tools. As a creative, best practices should include consideration for both traditional and digital graphic design elements, such as materials, ink, paper, and of course, the design itself.

By adopting sustainable design guidelines in your projects, you can contribute to minimising the pollution and waste produced during printing and digital design processes. 

Want to understand more about integrating sustainability into the design process? Then this great course offered by the London College of Communication may be of interest

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Design for Sustainability Online Short Course

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