Sustainable Packaging Design: Why It Matters and How to Do It

Sustainable packaging design is the process of creating packaging that minimises its environmental impact throughout its life cycle. It is not only a moral duty for businesses that want to contribute to a greener planet, but also a competitive advantage that can attract eco-conscious consumers and increase brand loyalty.

According to a 2020 study by Trivium Packaging, 74% of consumers said they would pay more for sustainable packaging. Moreover, the UK government has introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax, which will apply from April 2022 to plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30% recycled content.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of sustainable packaging design, the best practices to follow, and some inspiring examples of eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Benefits of Sustainable Packaging Design

Sustainable packaging design can offer several benefits for both the environment and the business, such as:

Reducing waste and pollution: By using recycled, renewable, biodegradable, or compostable materials, sustainable packaging can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or oceans, and the greenhouse gas emissions that result from its production and disposal.

Saving resources and costs: By using less material, optimising the shape and size of the packaging, and choosing lightweight packaging materials, sustainable packaging can save natural resources, energy, and water, as well as transportation and storage costs.

Enhancing brand image and reputation: By demonstrating a commitment to environmental and social responsibility, sustainable packaging can enhance the brand’s image and reputation among consumers, investors, regulators, and other stakeholders.

Increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty: By meeting or exceeding the expectations of eco-conscious consumers, sustainable packaging can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as word-of-mouth referrals and positive reviews.

Best Practices for Sustainable Packaging Design

To design sustainable packaging, there are some principles and guidelines that can help businesses make informed decisions. Some of them are:

Follow the 3Rs hierarchy: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The first priority is to reduce the amount of material used in the packaging, as well as its environmental impact. The second priority is to reuse the packaging or design it for multiple uses. The third priority is to recycle the packaging or use recycled materials in its production.

Choose eco-friendly materials: Depending on the product and its requirements, there are different types of eco-friendly materials that can be used for sustainable packaging, such as paper, cardboard, bioplastics, glass, metal, or wood. These materials should be sourced from renewable or recycled sources, certified by credible organisations (such as FSC or PEFC for paper), and free of harmful chemicals or additives.

Design for efficiency: The packaging should be designed to fit the product as closely as possible, avoiding excess space or material. It should also be lightweight, durable, and easy to transport and store. Additionally, it should be easy to open, close, and dispose of by the consumer.

Communicate clearly: The packaging should communicate clearly its environmental benefits and features, such as the materials used, the recycling instructions, the certifications obtained, or the carbon footprint reduced. It should also use clear and simple labels, symbols, or logos that are recognised by consumers (such as the Mobius loop or the Green Dot).

Innovate creatively: Sustainable packaging design offers an opportunity to innovate creatively and differentiate the brand from competitors. There are many examples of sustainable packaging solutions that are not only functional and eco-friendly but also attractive and engaging for consumers. For instance, using plant-based inks or dyes for printing, incorporating seeds or plants into the packaging, or designing the packaging with a secondary use or purpose.

Examples of Sustainable Packaging Solutions

To inspire you with some ideas for sustainable packaging design, here are some examples of brands that have implemented eco-friendly packaging solutions in different industries:

Lush: The cosmetics brand Lush uses naked (unpackaged) products whenever possible, such as solid shampoo bars or bath bombs. For products that need packaging, it uses recycled or recyclable materials, such as paper bags, cardboard boxes or metal tins. It also offers a scheme where customers can return five empty pots in exchange for a free face mask.

Who Gives A Crap: The toilet paper brand Who Gives A Crap uses 100% recycled paper for its products and packaging. It also wraps each roll individually in colourful paper with witty messages, which can be reused for other purposes (such as wrapping gifts or crafting). Moreover, it donates 50% of its profits to fund sanitation projects in developing countries.

Pela: The phone case brand Pela uses biodegradable materials made from plants for its products and packaging. It also offers a compostable mailer that customers can use to send back their old phone cases for recycling. Additionally, it supports environmental causes and organisations, such as Save the Waves or Surfrider Foundation.

Seed Phytonutrients: The beauty brand Seed Phytonutrients uses recycled paper bottles for its products, which are lined with a thin layer of recycled plastic that can be easily separated and recycled. The paper bottles are also filled with organic seeds that customers can plant and grow. Furthermore, it partners with local farmers and supports organic farming practices.


Sustainable packaging design is not only a trend but a necessity for businesses that want to thrive in the 21st century. By adopting sustainable packaging solutions, businesses can reduce their environmental footprint, save costs and resources, enhance their brand image and reputation, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

If you are interested in learning more about sustainable packaging design, you can check out this article which explores sustainable packaging design in more detail, highlighting its environmental importance, alignment with UK regulations like the Plastic Packaging Tax, and its influence on consumer preferences. It also provides guidance on eco-friendly material selection, efficient packaging design, and carbon offsetting strategies.

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