Eco-friendly Packaging: Everything You Need to Know
Table of Contents
- The shift to online shopping and its biggest problem
- What does 'eco friendly packaging' mean?
- Why you should choose eco-friendly packaging...
- Benefits of eco-friendly packaging for eCommerce businesses
- Eco- friendly packaging ideas
- Best Indian brands that offer eco-friendly packaging
From the backyard of environmentalists and activists, the term ‘eco-friendly’ has now entered the world of eCommerce. ‘Eco-friendly’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ is an umbrella term for things and practices that are “not harmful to the environment”. An eco-friendly lifestyle is essentially designed to cause least possible damage to the planet.
It does not take a genius to understand why this term has entered the market. The world is drowning under a mountain of plastic waste -that is a fact we can no longer shy away from. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, we produce more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Yep, we’re pretty much doomed.
What is interesting to note is the palpable shift in the buying behaviour of consumers.
With each passing day, more and more consumers are moving towards eco-friendly, sustainable products. And to cater to the rising demand for these products, more sustainable and ethical brands are entering the market. It’s not just new brands but also the existing big ones. The customers are more than willing to hold big companies accountable for not providing them with the right choice (We’ll come back to this point). Who’s leading the pack, you ask? Why, Generation Z of course. Fine, fine. Millennials too. The bottom line is that the younger generation is not only more concerned about the environment, but also eager to take action. After all, it’s them who have to face the consequences and live with the reality of a dying planet.
The shift to online shopping and its biggest problem
The world is hooked to their screens and why wouldn't we be. We have everything we need. Food, clothes, makeup, electrical appliances, medicines (even plants) are all a click (or tap) away. According to reports, by 2034 India is expected to surpass the US to become the second largest eCommerce market in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown created an even bigger need for online retailers. The shutting down of physical stores drove people towards online shopping.
Let's be real, we love to buy things. Shopping online has certainly made it more tempting and convenient with one-day deliveries and discounts. Here's what we sometimes fail to consider: each product that reaches our home comes sitting in heaps and heaps of waste (mostly plastic). With every product that we open, we leave behind a trail of waste. Waste that never leaves our planet.
Enter: eco friendly packaging.
What does 'eco friendly packaging' mean?
To put it simply, eco-friendly packaging is designed to 'last longer' and reduce the environmental impact. It aims to combine the functional and ecological needs without comprising the natural ecosystem. Has it succeeded to provide the *ultimate* packaging solution? Yes and no. While there are many eco-friendly packaging materials available, we do have a long way to go.
Why you should choose eco-friendly packaging...
If you are wondering why sustainable packaging matters, here are some of the benefits:
Eco-friendly packaging materials are biodegradable
Plant based packaging uses natural ingredients, which means it will be biodegradable. While plastic stays in landfills for hundreds of years (not to mention the harmful chemicals it releases), using biodegradable packaging bags means it will degrade naturally (or you can compost it at home!) So cool.
They help reduce your carbon footprint
A lot of the sustainable packaging options are made from recycled materials, reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases and thereby, reducing the carbon footprint.
They are toxin-free
It is clear that non-sustainable materials like plastic and Styrofoam are bad for the environment. These materials contain petrochemical resources like crude oil- equally if not worse for humans too. Eco packaging on the other hand is much safer.
Benefits of eco-friendly packaging for eCommerce businesses
Now that we have established why eco-friendly packaging is important for the planet, let us also understand how it can benefit the brands. While reducing carbon emissions and helping in saving the environment should be (and is) enough of a driving force, there are other reasons why every eCommerce business should look for eco green packaging.
Customer is king
Eco-conscious consumers care about the packaging material used by brands. According to a report published in August 2020, 60% of Indian consumers have actually moved away from companies they perceive to be non -sustainable. Adopting environmentally friendly packaging solutions is a great way to foster customer loyalty.
Appearance doesn't matter? Well in this case it does. What's outside is as important as the inside of the box. Yes, packaging caters to a functional needs. But it is also a visual cue. Consumers may not 'see' what the product is made of, but they will notice the box it comes in. Switching to environmentally friendly packaging is a necessity at this point to show your commitment to the environment.
One of the most important components of green packaging is reducing waste. Choosing good quality green packaging would not only help businesses improve their brand image, but also lower the cost of shipping. Go green, save money.
Eco-friendly packaging ideas
There is no dearth of sustainable packaging for eCommerce businesses. Keeping the 3 R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) in mind, companies can find a number of supplies that can cover a wide range of products.
Here are some of the best eco friendly packaging materials:
Paper is recyclable, biodegradable and waaaay better than plastic. It is considered to be a more sustainable packaging option, especially by those looking to reduce their plastic packaging. The catch here is that paper also ends up in landfills. And paper-based packaging are more often than not laminated with plastic coating- which makes them non-recyclable. Recycled paper packaging, on the other hand, is a better alternative.
Cardboard packaging is one the most common packaging materials available in the market. But as was the case with paper, cardboard also is not the best eco friendly packaging option. One point to note is that unlike plastic, both paper and cardboard are not as hazardous to the environment.
Using recycled paper and cardboard and other recyclable packaging materials is still a small win.
Styrofoam and thermocol may be a cheaper option but they cause irreversible damage to the environment. It’s time to ditch the cheap, boring Styrofoam and switch to an environmentally sustainable packaging: bagasse. After extracting sugar from the sugarcane, the waste that is left is known as bagasse. It is slowly becoming a popular choice of food packaging with many affordable options available.
Never heard of this one? Similar to bagasse, mushroom packaging is also a great biodegradable packaging solution. It is made from renewable material, emits low Carbon Dioxide, and can easily be composted at home.
Best Indian brands that offer eco-friendly packaging
Here are a few of our favourite homegrown brands that give equal important to sustainable packaging:
The founders of The Nature Masons, Jennifer and Mrinalini are animal lovers and eco-conscious people. Their beautiful products are wrapped in equally beautiful and most importantly, plastic-free packaging. They use sustainable paper packaging and have even found a sustainable alternative to plastic tape. They also have a ‘Return of The Empties’ scheme under which you can send back 5 empty jars in return for a small discount.
Pappco Greenware is an eco-friendly food packaging brand committed to solving the single-use plastic problem. They have a wide range of products made from bagasse.
Feeling overwhelmed with India’s trash problem, Sahar Mansoor started her own brand in pursuit of zero waste living. Bare Necessities offer products to help you kick start (or continue)your zero waste journey. Their packaging too is ‘bare’. They use reusable glass jars, recycled paper and paper tape, and encourage their consumers to reuse or compost each component.
Bisani is a sustainable brand that believes in eco-friendly packaging and is committed to selling high quality, natural products. They use recycled materials for their packaging.
Don't be fooled. See the whole package (pun not intended)
Well there you have it folks. Everything you need to know about green packaging. As consumers we need to be smarter and not fall for marketing gimmicks. Read, research, discuss to call out the greenwashing when you see it. The picture below is a beautiful example. Yes, that's a paper straw wrapped entirely in plastic. (Yikes)