What is sustainable packaging design?

If you need to package products for your new business, you may worry about how these materials could impact the environment. 

In fact, the UK generates about two million metric tons of plastic packaging waste annually. By using a sustainable packaging design, you could reduce your business’s environmental footprint to build a green brand.  

Sounds great, right? But, what is sustainable packaging design, you might ask, and how can you use one for your business? Don’t worry; we can answer those questions. 

This guide covers sustainable packaging design, including:

  • What is sustainable packaging design?
  • How can you use sustainable packaging for your business?
  • What are some examples of sustainable packaging design?

See also: How to be more environmentally friendly as a business

What is sustainable packaging design?

Sustainable packaging design is when you ship or sell products in containers that harm the environment as minimally as possible. Instead, the design aims to lessen its footprint over time.

Sustainability can come from several factors, including the packaging’s: 

  • Reusability – the packaging itself can be handy to the customer   
  • Materials – the exterior, filler, glue, and ink are eco-friendly and recyclable
  • Production – the materials are sourced and produced in an eco-friendly way. 

It’s also important to consider the ethics and cost of this packaging design. If the price is too high, it’s not viable for small businesses’ products. 

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition argues that the design is sustainable if: 

  • It is safe and healthy throughout its lifecycle.
  • It’s sourced, produced, and shipped using renewable energy. 
  • It matches the general market price. 
  • It uses manufacturing best practice for clean production. 
  • The physical design and materials optimise renewable materials. 
  • The materials remain healthy and safe for the environment.
  • It maintains a circular, closed-loop life cycle, meaning it can be re-reused without harming the environment. 

Examples of sustainable packaging design 

Lush protective chips

The cosmetics company Lush packaging uses filler chips to protect their delicate products, such as bath bombs. 

But there’s a twist. These ‘eco-flo chips’ break down in water, so you can throw them in the bath along with your bath bomb!

H&M bags

H&M introduced a recycled paper bag that customers can fold into a hanger. This approach gave the packaging a second life while keeping their audience in mind. 

Green Meadows plant shop

Green Meadows small plant shop in Edinburgh offers customers a potting soil refilling station. Instead of selling large bags of soil, they let people grab what they need and offer biodegradable paper bags to hold it

How can you design sustainable packaging for your business?

If you’d like to use a sustainable packaging design for your small business, let’s go over how to make it happen.

Do your research 

Before you design sustainable packing, it’s important to know the facts. 

What common materials are the most environmentally damaging? What are other sustainable businesses doing? Answering these questions will help you find a viable solution. 

Also think about your target audience. Could your packaging offer customers something beneficial? 

Find sustainable packaging suppliers 

If you’d like to design your own packaging, you can source materials yourself. Otherwise, you could find a supplier that focuses on designing sustainable packaging based on your needs. 

Here are a few packaging businesses to begin your search:

Design your packaging  

Consider materials 

Choosing materials with the lowest environmental impact can help you design packaging that creates less waste. 

Try to find materials that are:

  • Biodegradable  
  • Compostable
  • Recyclable or already recycled
  • Sustainably sourced  

Here are a few options you might consider:

Apart from this, seek designs that use fewer materials, such as thinner cardboard. If the box itself is smaller, you may not need filler materials. 

Top Tip: To ensure materials are as beneficial as they seem, look to sources like the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Packaging Coalition. These organisations certify products to show they’re sourced sustainably. 

Think about reusability 

Increasing your design’s reusability prevents people from tossing it immediately. 

The design could act as an accessory to the product. For example, if you sell crafts, you could make the packaging a DIY craft. Alternatively, you could package products in reusable canvas bags.

Assess the production process 

Also, think about the sourcing, transportation, and production that make the final product. 

Find options that use renewable energy and sustainable sourcing. Then, try to streamline and shorten the production process

Factor packing into your prices 

Though sustainable packaging shouldn’t break the bank, it may cost you slightly more than mass-produced options. If you design custom packaging for your business, this can cost even more. 

So, first set yourself a limit to how much you want to spend. Then, when you find the right design, factor the cost into your product prices. For example, if it costs £1 to package each product, you could add that to your sales price.

If your target audience values sustainability, they may be willing to pay extra for it. This way, you won’t lose profitability when you prioritise the environment.

See also: How to negotiate price with a supplier.

Promote your packaging 

With your new sustainable packaging design ready to go, make sure people know about it. It’s up to customers to maintain the packaging’s sustainability by using it correctly. So show them how. 

You could post a demo video on your social media channels and leave quick instructions on the package. Be proud of your packaging and make it a key aspect of your brand. 

See also: How to avoid greenwashing as a small business owner

How can you prioritise sustainability in your small business?

Hopefully, this guide helps you design great sustainable packaging for your small business products. With a well-sourced, recyclable, and reusable design, you can decrease your impact on the planet. 

Want to focus on sustainability in other aspects of your business? Next, check out our article on how to make your office more sustainable

Simplify your financial management with a clever app

As you factor sustainability into your small business, staying on top of your expenses and overall finances is essential. 

Countingup is the business current account and accounting software in one app. It automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for thousands of self-employed people across the UK. 

Save yourself hours of accounting admin so you can focus on growing your business. 

Start your three-month free trial today