10 Steps to Greener Packaging
1. Stoke the idea, put on the heat2. Pick the right manufacturer3. Know your materials4. Ask an expert5. Look at the bottom line6. Conduct market research7. Check availability8. Test it9. Slim down your packaging10. Look forward
More likely than not, your packaging supplier has never tried eco-packaging techniques before. Because it’s unfamiliar, they may not be as enthusiastic as you are about such a radical change. If you’re passionate about green packaging and committed to your supplier, apply a little pressure. Explain the environmental and potential economic benefits that follow a green transition, and encourage your supplier to take the leap with you. If they still won’t budge, move on to greener pastures.
If you’re shopping for a new packaging manufacturer, don’t settle. Choosing the wrong manufacturer could cost you considerable time and money, and might even postpone the assembly of your product. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about a supplier’s experience with your materials and their manufacturing techniques. If you’re still not sure of their capabilities, ask for a few samples before committing to a full order.
‘Environmentally friendly’ is a blanket term that encompasses many different qualities from the way packaging is made to the way it’s disposed of. When dealing with new options, knowing a material’s true composition can be especially tricky. Before deciding which materials to use, ask yourself some key questions. Are they recyclable? Made from renewable sources? Biodegradable? Ideally, your product should be all three. Realistically, these three elements should at least be factored into your decision. To ensure a fully green process, research the methods used to manufacture and ship your packaging back to you as well.
Switching to green packaging doesn’t automatically make you an environmental expert. If going green is a goal but not your forte, reach out to an organization or individual who does specialize in sustainability to help you make the tough decisions. For example, the nonprofit Sustainable Packaging Coalition licenses software that analyzes a package’s environmental footprint. Ecology or environmental science professors at many universities will also study specifics such as greenhouse gas emissions or toxicity. Keep in mind that even the expects don’t have all the answers. They can only help point you in the right direction.
Because it takes more time and effort, environmental packaging is often more expensive than traditional packaging options. Before you leap into green manufacturing, consider how this change will affect your company financially. If your company can afford at least a temporary drop in revenue or if you predict green packaging might eventually boost sales, charge full steam ahead. If money is tight, reconsider starting with more modest environmental options that won’t break the bank.
Green or not green, you need customers willing to buy your product. Before boosting prices to account for more expensive environmental packaging, make sure your customer base is supportive of the change. Survey your consumers to see how many are willing to pay more for your product and how much more they’d be willing to spend. If your market research results are only borderline encouraging, consider marketing campaigns or other efforts to encourage more consumers to stomach the extra expense for the sake of Mother Earth.
Green materials are gaining momentum, but they still are not considered mainstream in manufacturing. This means that products such as recycled plastic made from water bottles and other consumer products might be more difficult to find in mass quantities than other plastics. Check the availability of your intended materials before you design your packaging around it. Also, research your material’s other potential uses to determine how high its demand will be in the future.
When using recycled materials such as plastics, you most likely will not know exactly what products were melted down and reformed into your new green packaging. Low-quality industrial plastics can sometimes make their way into recycled materials and have the ability to taint what it touches. Especially when working with food or children’s products, invest in a consultant or expert who can make sure your products are safe. A little time and money up front could avoid a major disaster down the road.
One way to cut costs and still stay green is to reduce the amount of packaging used. Work with your manufacturer to see what options you have to thin plastics or limit your materials to what is absolutely needed to ensure your product is secure. Extra packaging is a hindrance to your business as well as to the environment. Also, examine ways to condense your own product. For example experimenting with more concentrated versions of liquids like detergent could save you packaging costs without compromising your product’s integrity.
Considering the switch to green packaging puts you on the cutting edge of a new movement. If you’re ready now to take the plunge, go for it. But continue to keep your eyes out for advances in green packaging in the future. As more and more companies catch on to the trend, manufacturers will introduce cheaper, easier options that might be even more environmentally friendly than what you’re already using.