What is Sustainable Packaging? (The Definitive Guide)

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you are looking for packaging solutions, click here.

Sustainable packaging is a type of product packaging that shows an effort to reduce its environmental footprint. Usually, this doesn’t happen immediately. The positive effects of this packaging become evident over time.

Table of Contents

Last Updated on May 31, 2023 by Packoi Team

Many customers have shown concern over their environmental impact and carbon footprint contribution. This is enough reason for companies to be more severe about choosing sustainable options for their packaging.

In this article, you’ll learn more about sustainability and how to create the perfect packaging that meets industry standards and impress your target market.

What Does Sustainability Mean?

Sustainable Packaging

Sustainability is focused on preserving our natural resources for future generations while fulfilling our current needs. 

In the packaging industry, that refers to using sustainable packaging materials that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also means using green packaging that can help minimize waste.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition®, or SPC, provided the packaging standards that companies have to meet. You can refer to these standards while creating environmentally friendly packaging that meets your product’s functional and economic needs.

What Are The 3 Sustainable Packaging Options?

Sustainable packaging is packaging that you can recycle, reuse, or reduce. All three can help you meet business concerns with eco-friendly standards.

The goal is to ensure that the life cycle of the packaging won’t pose a threat to the environment. That means avoiding the typical plastic packaging that may be cost-efficient but damage our ecosystem.

Sustainable Packaging

While it may seem intimidating, especially for small businesses, it’s easy to comply with these standards. 

There are a lot of sustainable packaging companies that use clean production technologies and offer flexible packaging options. You can get a lot of input from them as you comply with the demand for more sustainable packaging options.

Recycle Packaging

Recyclable packaging uses recycled-source materials that can be broken down or used again for a different purpose. The most common material is corrugated cardboard. 

The other recyclable materials you can use to create sustainable packaging include metal, paper, glass, and even some types of plastic.

Reuse Packaging

This type of sustainable packaging can be used over a long time. It doesn’t always have to be used as it was initially intended. 

Sometimes, reusable packaging is turned into a decorative item or used for storage purposes.

This type of packaging is ideal for minimizing waste. It uses durable materials to maintain its shape and function for a long time.

Reduce Packaging

This sustainable packaging solution is simple. Instead of trying to minimize the effects of packaging on the environment, please don’t use it.

If the product can be sold even without individual packaging, then that’s what you should choose. Or if there’s no need for inner packaging or outer sleeves, don’t include it in your packaging solution.

What Are The Qualities Of Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials?

Sustainable packaging materials need to pass a specific life cycle assessment test. There are various packaging materials to choose from. 

You have to focus on sustainable materials that have a minimal ecological footprint. They should be long-lasting, processable, recyclable, renewable, and lighter.

Sustainable Packaging

The essential green packaging qualities will help you choose suitable materials.


An essential quality of eco-friendly packaging material is durability. This is a must if it’s for perishable or fragile products. 

Food packaging will require strong materials that prevent food waste or leakage.

You also have to remember that sustainable packaging is all about reducing waste. So if you want to encourage your customers to use your packaging for a long time, ensure it’ll last.


Eco-packaging uses raw materials that can be quickly processed. This means it doesn’t require a lot of energy or leave a lot of waste in the process.

Once sustainable packaging is used, it can also be quickly processed, so it’s converted into something else.

It’s best if you ask packaging manufacturers about this. They can help you understand how packaging materials are processed so you can make the right choice when presented with your options.


One of the most typical qualities of environmentally friendly packaging is using recyclable materials. This means you use paper, glass, metal, and other recycled materials as your product packaging.

Of course, you must ensure that the recycled packaging materials you choose will fit the product you’ll use them for. 

While you want to do the right thing to help the environment, you also want to satisfy specific product requirements and customer preferences.


Renewable packaging materials are usually “recoverable.” That means the packaging can be reused after it protects the product as it was delivered.

But even before that, the materials should be biodegradable enough to generate green energy or for composting purposes.

That’s how you can reduce the packaging’s environmental impact and ecological footprint.


Your packaging solution is deemed sustainable if you can make it as light as possible without compromising the product it’ll contain.

You see, a lighter package makes it easier to transport. Suppose your package will save space and leave room for other packages. This will save time and energy, which is good for the environment.

Keep that in mind as you decide on the packaging material you’ll create.

Tips When Designing Sustainable Packaging

Coming up with a design for your sustainable packaging goes beyond the decision to avoid using plastic packaging. It goes beyond choosing food packaging that’ll ensure no food waste or spoilage will happen.

There are a couple of things that you should consider before you come up with the right design that’ll make your packaging sustainable.

Sustainable Packaging

Check Out Customer Preferences

In general, sustainable packaging endears companies to their customers. They like the thought that the company they’re buying from is trying to contribute to saving the environment from harm.

But you still have to consider the specific market you’re trying to target. 

It’ll help you decide on the suitable packaging material that’ll impress the preferences of your ideal customers.

Research The Best Natural Materials

The thing about sustainable packaging is it’s constantly evolving. The concept and the general idea are still the same. But the options for environmentally friendly packaging are steadily growing.

Experts use technology to create more alternatives that can keep our natural resources safe. So keep an eye on these new developments. Some of the new materials may be the perfect option for your packaging.

Choose Corrugated Materials

Cardboard material is one of the most popular options for packaging sustainability. It looks like an incredibly raw material: the brown color and the texture of the cardboard packaging scream sustainability.

Not only that, but this sustainable packaging is versatile. You can be very creative in designing it to reflect your brand, the product, and your efforts to be more sustainable.

Minimize Space

Space can also be an essential consideration when it comes to sustainable packaging. 

As you know, sustainability is also about conserving energy. If one shipment can transport many packages, it lessens the power spent during deliveries.

In this regard, it’s crucial to choose packaging materials that are just the right size for what your packaging needs. 

It shouldn’t be too big. But it shouldn’t look too cramped, either. 

Find the balance when minimizing the space the packaging will take up.

Meet Market Criteria

Packaging sustainability isn’t just about using more paper than plastic. There are specific market standards and regulations that you should satisfy before you can claim that you’re being sustainable. 

Make sure you do your research so you know how you can comply and be more environmentally friendly. 

Your research may also lead to new packaging options that could significantly impact the environment.

Stay True To The Brand

Although you want your customers to be impressed with your packaging and you want to meet industry standards, your brand should also be considered. 

After all, your packaging will always be an extension of your brand.

When customers see your sustainable packaging, they should be able to recognize your brand with it. That way, they’ll know you as an eco-friendly brand.

Examples Of Sustainable Packaging Efforts

In the past, the best and more cost-efficient option was always plastic packaging. 

Even if companies knew they had to stop using it to save the environment, the cost to be more sustainable was just too great.

But now, technology and research open doors for more alternative materials to be used as packaging. It’s easier to meet a more sustainable packaging design. 

Every day, a new raw material is discovered that makes sustainability more accessible and more economical for many companies.

Here are some examples you can use as you increase your efforts to be more sustainable.

Sustainable Packaging

Paper-Based Packaging

Cardboard material is considered the industry standard when it comes to sustainable packaging. 

It’s the best option as opposed to plastic because it can effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions and oil consumption by 60%. It’s biodegradable and easily recycled by up to 7 times.

It offers flexible packaging, which makes paper-based materials like cardboard ideal. You can turn it into anything you want – a box, bag, envelope – the material is incredibly versatile.

While it’s more popular than other sustainable packaging materials, it’s not entirely without fault. 

When it’s not managed well, it could lead to deforestation risk. Not to mention the fact that its life cycle has a considerable carbon footprint.

If you use paper-based packaging, make it reusable to minimize waste.

Biodegradable Plastics

While plastic packaging is the main thing that sustainability is trying to eradicate, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely out of the picture. 

If you’re being honest, there are packaging solutions that only plastic can meet.

This is why experts have worked hard to create bio-based plastics as an alternative. It still looks and functions like plastic. 

While it’s compostable packaging, it requires a particular type of industrial composting.

Just be careful about those who claim they have biodegradable plastic. Just because something is bio-based, it doesn’t always mean biodegradable packaging. 

Make sure you read between the lines and ask about the material’s life cycle before using it as sustainable packaging.

Recycled Air Pillows

Air pillows are a great way to cushion fragile products and keep them safe in transit. It also doesn’t take up a lot of space once it’s deflated after being used.

Although air pillows were initially made of thin plastic, it doesn’t pose a massive threat to the environment anymore. The creation of bio-based plastic converted this filler into more eco-friendly packaging.

This sustainable packaging is a welcome alternative to other fillers like bubble wrap or styrofoam.

Sustainable Packaging

Cornstarch Packaging

This sustainable packaging uses an organic material that’s created from corn grains. This makes it a compostable packaging that can replace plastic in many ways. 

It can be formed into molded forms, bottles, or film packaging.

The thing about this packaging is it comes from a raw material that humans and animals consume. That means it competes with the food supply. 

When that happens, it can affect corn pricing and the average consumer.

Mushroom Packaging

This packaging is formed after the fusion of agricultural waste and mushroom roots. This makes it compostable packaging. 

It’s petroleum-free and can degrade naturally – even faster than other packaging materials. You can even let it compost at home.

It’s a great alternative to cornstarch packaging because it doesn’t interfere with any food supply chain.

This sustainable packaging can take on any form. That makes it incredibly versatile. But it can only be used for small items for now. 

There’s hope that it can contain more significant products and packages in the future.

Organic Materials

Textile is one of the sustainable packaging materials that you can use. Although it’s fabric, it’s a durable material that can be reused – as long as your packaging uses the right design.

Among the organic materials, you can use include hemp, palm leaves, recycled cotton, tapioca, etc. 

These are all biodegradable, so you don’t have to worry about the environmental impact of using these as packaging.

How will you use them as packaging?

Your options include using them as a bag to hold products.

Or you can use the fabric as a cushioning material. These can protect your product from scratches.

It’s Time To Start Supporting Sustainable Packaging. Packoi Printing Can Assist.

If you haven’t joined the sustainable packaging bandwagon, now’s the perfect time to start. It’s not just good for the environment. This can also make your business incredibly competitive.

Your customers will appreciate your effort to help save the environment. And you’ll feel good about your contribution as well.

If you’re ready to switch to more sustainable packaging, Packoi Printing is here to help. We use eco-friendly methods to produce our packaging materials, and we can also assist you in identifying the best packaging options.

Get in touch with us now if you want to know more about our packaging offers. Share your ideas so we can work on a quotation for you.

Request Free Quote Now!

Share The Post Now:


Hey there, I’m Shelly!

I really enjoy the packaging and printing industry because my work makes my clients’ products more beautiful and enjoyable. If you have any questions about packaging and printing, feel free to contact me!

You may also find these topics interesting

Send Your Inquiry Now

Get Free Sample Now!

Free standard sample can be provided for your evaluation according to your requirements.