The verdict is in, and consumers want sustainable packaging. There are a wide variety of options available to businesses to improve upon the eco-friendliness of their packaging, and household name brands are taking notice and choosing the best, bold packaging options available for their products to connect with environmentally minded consumers.
The rapidly-growing zero waste community has expanded reduce, reuse, recycle to a broader set outlined by Bea Johnson in her book Zero Waste Home. So today we hope to applaud mainstream brands with eco-conscious packaging efforts as inspired by the 5 R’s of waste reduction: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.
REFUSE: LUSH Cosmetics
Refuse is the first new addition to the sustainability R’s we all grow up with. If you refuse to bring packaging waste into your home, then you will never have to figure out how to get rid of it. It’s the best possible way to reduce your packaging carbon footprint.
LUSH Cosmetics have long been a champion of the R’s with its unpackaged bath bombs and reusable black pots, but in the last couple of years it has really exploded its unpackaged product line to include lotions, shampoos, conditioners, shower gel, and more. It is now entirely feasible to meet all of your personal care needs in either unpackaged or at least recycled packaging.
The classic reduce sits second in the 5 R’s because a reduction in the packaging used means a reduction of both resources necessary to make it and resources to dispose of it. A lot of good comes from packaging reduction efforts even if it cannot be entirely eliminated.
A household favorite, Tide by Proctor & Gamble, have made new efforts to make packaging reduction a reality in their production lines. Their new eco-box has 60% less plastic, and the product inside has 30% less water in it. This powerful combination also means a reduction in production costs and the carbon footprint for transporting less weight to consumers for the same stain fighting power.
Reuse sits in the middle of the list of Rs. Though it may take more resources to create a reusable product up front, each reuse lowers both the cost and the impact of the package. A well-designed reusable package should cost less both as an investment and in resources and waste management when it is finished than its disposable counterpart.
With the creation of Loop, an ecommerce grocery store with all reusable packaging, brands like Häagen-Dazs, Pantene, Clorox and Crest can now offer reusable options. Users pay a deposit upon purchasing their products that they receive credited back to their cards upon their return. Then they get washed, refilled, and sent to new customers! And the more sturdy packages look beautiful on consumer shelves in the meantime.
Recycle falls 4th on the renewable waste management hierarchy. Recycling is tough because it requires the materials are kept in a particular condition to be broken down and re-formed into new products, and some materials can only be recycled once or twice before becoming unusable. But for most materials, the complex process significantly reduces the environmental impact of the final product.
We would be remiss to have a blog post on zero waste business opportunities without mentioning Patagonia. The outdoor wear brand began taking in recycled post-consumer plastic as materials to make their garments nearly 20 years ago! Not only that, they accept old pieces from their line that can no longer be repaired to be recycled or reused, which saves literal tons of clothing from ending up in landfills.
ROT: Celestial Seasonings Tea
Rot is the final selection in the ecological Rs. Choosing to compost materials mean they no longer provide any manufacturable value in society, but by composting instead of tossing them in the waste bin, the materials give new life to plants and crops as they grow and ultimately feed manufacturing, carbon offsetting, and beauty.
It varies widely in the tea industry whether tea bags are made of eco-friendly materials. Many are lined with a thin layer of plastic! But Celestial Seasonings stands above the rest with a fully compostable tea bag and outer wax-sealed protective bag. Not only that, their box is fully recyclable as well.
With a wide variety of waste diversion options, there is a functional and cost effective zero waste packaging alternative for every business to lower their impact and create strong ties with the eco-conscious consumer.