Creative ways for businesses to reduce packaging waste

Charlie Bradley Ross Tuesday, 23 April 2019

April 22nd 2019 was Earth Day, the theme of which was ‘Protect our Species’, a reminder of the delicate balance in which our planet’s wildlife hangs. The harmful effects of plastic pollution on our ecosystems have been widely reported in recent years - but there’s still so much for the fashion industry to achieve, especially by cutting out unnecessary packaging. Much of this could be a simple change in perception, for both consumers and producers. Quoted in The Guardian last week, Arnaud Meyselle, CEO of skincare brand REN, said: “We’ve been living in a world where packaging equals luxury. Now packaging equals waste. People don’t want it any more.” Channelling energy into cutting out wasteful packaging can build more transparent and trusted relationships with customers. Read on to find out ways businesses are already harnessing sustainable packaging practices and explore our resources to help you do the same.


Finding alternatives for a more sustainable unboxing experience

A symptom of the rise in e-commerce, pretty packaging often equals excess, and brands continue to add distinctive boxes, wrapping and inserts to increase the ‘wow’ factor of the customer’s experience. Giving customers something extra in the process of unwrapping their purchase is the equivalent to the value of dwell time in the physical store, i.e. the additional time spent browsing displays or chatting to an assistant. Opening a box, tearing back layers of tissue paper, exploring the informational insert cards is more time for the customer to gather information about the brand and learn its values.

Ever more layers to unwrap and more inserts to discover has spiralled into the age of the YouTube unboxing video. Fashion and beauty bloggers marvelling at the excitement of the process and the many millions of likes these videos attract highlights how packaging has now become integral to the perception of the product. Unfortunately, these packaging extras are often non-recyclable and made of materials harmfully damaging to our environment.

But thankfully there are sustainable ways to build on the power of first impressions, without costing the earth. With 36% of European consumers already boycotting brands over concerns their packaging is unsustainable and unethical, the conscious consumer wields more buying power than ever. This means that brands need to keep up their side of the deal, by providing more options for sustainable packaging. Although at first, this might seem like a huge challenge, it’s an exciting place to be. The marketplace is open and ready to embrace new and creative packaging formats. Based on what we've learnt by talking to brands, we’ve summarised some of the ways to get started here:

Using recyclable or biodegradable materials is the most obvious place to start. In the Eco-Packaging for Sustainable Businesses masterclass, we explored alternative low-impact solutions, including compostable technologies and biomimicry design.

Make your packaging too beautiful to throw away. Take for example children’s occasionwear brand Monday’s Child whose products are delivered in pretty pink boxes that can be repurposed into dollhouses. Or Puma’s Clever Little Bag designed by Yves Béhar which replaced the outer shell of the shoebox with a reusable bag to carry your shoes further than just out of the shop.

[caption id="attachment_5414" align="aligncenter" width="819"] Childrenswear label Monday's Child's Little Pink House packaging boxes can be repurposed into dollhouses.[/caption]

Replicate luxury without the tissue paper. Cloth bags and wraps are sustainable options, especially if the fabric is upcycled. In our eco-packaging masterclass, we met Re-Wrap, the company responsible for the cute Furoshiki-inspired cloths used by Lush. Or make drawstring bags, like the dust covers for shoes and bags coveted by luxury fashion followers. Top marks for making yours from cutting room scraps!

Offer discounts on bulk orders. Sending out one big order is much better for the environment than lots of small ones. If customers have an incentive to buy big, you’ll be saving on packaging by combining their orders, as well as CO2 emissions on deliveries.

Challenge your customers and give them the choice. Build tick boxes into your site and allow customers to decide for themselves whether they want the extra tissue paper layer or the free samples. Additionally, listing the benefits of a package lite delivery shows them how much of an impact these additions make and generates a wider understanding that they can take away with them.

Educate your customer. If you make the brave decision to plump for less pretty packaging, make sure your consumers know why that is, whether that’s on your website or a mission statement designed into your packaging. More likely than not, this will only elicit a positive reaction, building brand positivity and respect.