Eco Packaging Materials,
Options And Sources

Why Has Eco Friendly Packaging Become So Important?

On the surface, it seems like the packaging of products that you buy is not not much of a big deal. However, whether it is made from eco packaging materials that are friendly to the earth or the common traditional material, packaging has a huge amount of influence over what and why you buy things.

Just as the clothes you wear express who you are, so does packaging tell you about a product, what it's for, why you want it and what values the company has. According to "retail anthropologist" Paco Underhill, everyone cares what the box looks like, even the people who say they don't!

After all, when you're in a store surrounded by thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of products, how do you know what to pick? Unless you want to take half the day to do your shopping, you'll make quick decisions with very little information. The package is your biggest source of that information, and how it makes you feel when you glance at it, your first impression is the most important one.

Businesses that do not invest in eco friendly materials may find themselves losing out on market share as society becomes increasingly aware of the importance of eco friendly practices. The more companies invest in an eco friendly package design, the more likely they are to attract customers who care about the environment, which these days includes the majority of us!

What Makes Packaging Eco Friendly?

Eco packaging materials reduce impact on the environment in many ways. Here are some of the traits to look for:

  • Recycled materials.
  • Annually sustainable materials , such as corn, cotton, or bamboo.
  • Biodegradable materials , such as unbleached paper or clam shells.
  • Recyclable materials , such as corrugated paper and glass.
  • Reusable materials , such as glass bottles.

Popular eco friendly packaging products include:

  • Recycled cardboard boxes
  • Biodegradable bags and boxes
  • Compostable food containers

Many metals, plastics, and paper are recyclable. Biodegradables are wonderful in locations with community composting, or if they are otherwise ending up in the hands of someone who will be able to successfully compost them. Biodegradable packaging and other products that go into landfills do not degrade and are therefore not truly eco packaging solutions.

Foam peanuts and bubble wrap, on the other hand, are both particularly eco-Unfriendly—stay away from them if at all possible. Starch peanuts, which are discussed below in the Shopping for Eco Friendly Packaging segment of this article, are a fabulous eco friendly packing alternative.

The most eco-unfriendly aspect of most packaging is not the material it's made out of or even whether it's reusable/recyclable/biodegradable, but how much material it uses. Product packaging for small items is often five (or more) times larger than it needs to be! The main reason this happens is so the package will be large enough to catch your eye and probably to take shelf space away from competitors.

Do you see the trouble with this, like I do?...

Bigger boxes mean bigger shelves, which means more store space and that means more utilities and resources to keep the store running. The ripple effect seems to go on-and-on. A larger box also means larger cartons to ship the product in, larger storage facilities, etc. It all adds up! So, going to a smaller box size as well as carefully selecting the material is a powerful eco friendly packaging decision for businesses to make.

Eco Friendly Packaging Design

There are many types of eco design for packaging, but the pinnacle of eco friendly product packaging design is waste-free packaging. Inventive waste-free packaging includes containers that are incorporated into the final product, such as the box that holds the lighting system offered by lite2go, which transforms into a lampshade.

Another elegant example is the HangerPak, by Steve Haslip, created for packaging t-shirts, his origami-like cardboard box can be transformed into a sturdy cardboard hanger. Both Dell and HP have designed minimal packaging for computer shipping in recent years, proving that eco friendly retail packaging is possible for virtually any product.

As elegant as waste free design is, however, it's simply not practical for every product. The Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company produces EcoPak, an eco friendly cosmetic packaging product which can be used to contain many kinds of beauty products, including oil based products, without any plastics or glass. Their design uses 80% post-consumer recycled content and won the 21st DuPont Award for Packaging Innovation's Noteworthy Accomplishment.

Another brilliant innovation in eco package design comes from Newton, a running shoe company that designed a form-fitting package for running shoes from molded recycled cardboard (think egg carton). To improve upon their already-great design, Newton bypassed conventional paper stuffing inside the shoes for a pair of socks in one shoe and a reusable bag in the other.

Last but not least, eco friendly CD packaging as well as eco friendly DVD packaging made from near-paper thin (but strong!) cardboard is now available. It was used with great success, for instance, for the Canadian release of the DVD, Evan Almighty.

Shopping For Eco Friendly Packaging

The following list of companies includes the most popular manufacturers and distributors of eco packaging in the USA today. Whatever your eco friendly packaging needs, one of them is sure to fit your needs:

  • - designs, develops, and distributes point of purchase packaging products for the jewelry, cosmetic, accessory, and clothing industries. Their eco friendly jewelry packaging products are made from eco friendly "tree free papers" including recycled plant fibers such as scrap cotton and pineapple leaf. Not only does the company produce eco packaging, but they pride themselves on creating fairly paid jobs in Bangladesh, India, and Thailand.
  • - offers natural, classic, and elegant eco friendly gift packaging. Their eco gift packaging products include handwoven boxes, envelopes, and bags using natural and organic fibers. Their eco packaging design relies on the warmth and deep colors of grasses and leaves found in the tropics. Fibers such as seagrass, bankuan, raffia, pandan, and burlap are handwoven into elegant boxes, bags, envelopes, and other gift packages.
  • Nashville Wraps - offers a wide variety of ecofriendly packaging supplies, from recycled paper bags to Chinese takeout boxes to economy value packaging. Their services include custom printed packaging and quick turnarounds on specialty orders. You can order a paper catalog from their website, or shop online for eco friendly shopping experience from start to finish.
  • StarchTech, Inc. - offers biodegradable packaging materials created from industrial grade starch. Both water soluble and compostable, starch packing peanuts are cost competitive with petroleum-based products. They work particularly well for products that require static-free protective packaging materials. There is no food value or sugar in starch packaging, so they do not attract pests.
  • Plus Packaging - specializes in 100% eco-friendly biodegradable plastic bags, available in many different styles. Their eco friendly plastic packaging products are made with bio-based materials and swelling agents that expand the molecular structure of the plastic when exposed to heat and moisture (as in the composting process) that allow the bio-active compounds in the bag to metabolize, neutralizing the plastic.
  • Barr Display - specializes in eco-friendly retail displays and store fixtures, all made in North America. You can also purchase used store fixtures and displays at their Orlando showroom for reuse.