Expensive, offering a lack of branding opportunities and limited choice…. such are the beliefs around sustainable packaging. Caylin Van Der Walt, IPL Packaging Designer, looks to dispel further misconceptions around sustainable packaging design and production.
Sustainable Packaging Looks Uninteresting
Commonly, when people think of ‘sustainable’ packaging they see it as a by-word for visually boring. They envisage packaging comprised of nondescript, dull brown or cream paper with visible reused fibres.
This need not be the case. Long gone is the look of recycled and sustainable paper being a rough fibrous pulp substrate. With the rapid advances made within the last few years, sustainable, recycled and eco-friendly papers are now akin to the ‘not-so-eco-friendly’ paper packaging options of the past. These new paper options can ensure a brand’s desired ‘look and feel’ specifications are met and tick those all-important design boxes ranging from ‘sleek sophistication’ to ‘textured modern minimalism’.
As global packaging designers and suppliers, at IPL we’re fully aware that colour is often a driving force in brand identity – it sets the tone and personality of the realm the company wants to embody. When colour is limited that narrows the field.
Luckily, sustainable inks have come a long way to ensure this is not the case going forward. Recently, we’ve worked with soy and water based inks that allow for a wide variety of colours and shades to be part of any new brand extension, without sacrificing the brand’s commitment to a lower carbon footprint.
As one of the better alternatives to conventional inks (derived from petroleum based products, water, resins, pigments and a wide variety of metals), soy ink is often capable of producing more vibrant colours than standard inks. Due to its lighter consistency, the ink lays on the paper differently, making it easy to degrade the colour during the recycling process. Water-based ink also offers a great alternative to traditional inks. It’s gentle on the environment, contains no toxic chemicals and is completely comprised of naturally occurring substances.
Sustainable Packaging Materials are Limited
All credit to new innovations, there is ever increasing choice available when it comes to choosing sustainable packaging materials.
Bio-plastics are steadily gaining popularity. Sugarcane and cornstarch have the same attributes as its counterpart plastic. The spectrum of paper alternatives available also extends far beyond recycled paper only – with FSC certified paper, wood-free paper, bamboo paper and stone paper to name a few. All these papers have multiple options and shades, textures and specifications, so you’re more likely to find something that will fit both brand and purpose.
The increase in sustainable packaging design options doesn’t end there though; recyclable packaging certainly doesn’t equate to using a burlap ribbon as an alternative closure option to non-reusable, non-recyclable options like magnets or plastic pips. Friction-fit and tuck-flap closures are among a variety of closure developments that provide the desired results while still delivering on sustainability goals.
Sustainable Packaging = Added Cost to Brands
Adopting sustainable packaging solutions enable brands to connect with eco-conscious, green-aware consumers and, simultaneously, gives them a competitive advantage. The eco-friendly stamp can instantly give a premium impression to customers, two-thirds of whom report that they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands.
But, apart from attracting new customers, sustainable packaging can often mean less materials = less money spent on packaging = saving money! Using less materials with your packaging can make a packaging solution significantly less expensive than traditional packaging.
Waste can be recycled using the paper molding process and converted into customised packaging products at an extremely affordable rate. Texture and visual tension can be created using a variety of non-printed effects. Techniques such as embossing and debossing require no ink and therefore no added costs (just a plate and pressure) and effectively create a sense of depth and add an element of luxury to any brand.
Consequently, we’re witnessing both emerging and advanced markets moving towards ethical and environment-friendly options, pushing designers, marketer and packaging experts to meet the right social and environmental standards, reduce material and shipping costs and minimise waste, playing a persuasive role in helping customers choose certain brands over their competition.
Recyclable Packaging means Sustainable Packaging
As a design team we regard sustainability as so much more than an object (in this instance, packaging) simply being recyclable. Many companies strive to use packaging with recyclability, without an understanding or focus on sustainability.
When it comes to packaging being sustainable it means looking at the entire packaging process: from design through to material, manufacture and delivery. From a design perspective – sustainability means designing with the intention to reduce or completely eliminate negative environmental impact through thoroughly considered and meaningful design. Everything should have a purpose!
Evaluating and analyzing the lifecycle of the packaging process helps designers to understand more about the environmental impact of the package design and how it can better meet sustainable packaging targets.