Today’s consumers are aware of the effect humans have on the environment. Many are concerned about global warming, a catastrophe that scientists say will be irreversible if we don’t take action within 10 years. People turn to sustainable companies as a way to mitigate their roles in the crisis.
Beyond the products themselves, buyers are interested in eco-friendly packaging, materials that are safe for the environment, produce little to no waste and are potentially reusable or biodegradable.
To protect the planet, learn how to identify eco-friendly packaging — materials that are safe for the environment, produce little to no waste and are potentially reusable or biodegradable.
How to Identify Truly Sustainable Brands
If you want to protect the planet, learn how to identify sustainable packaging and brands. Keep in mind that you may have to research each company — many like to use green buzzwords like green, organic and eco-friendly without actually following through on their promises. To ensure you’re spending wisely, keep the following tips in mind.
Stay Away From Plastic
Each year, around 18 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean — the equivalent of five shopping bags full of the material along every foot of the coast. This number doesn’t even account for what’s sitting in landfills. Of the plastic produced, 40% is for packaging used once and then discarded.
If you want to help the environment, stay away from plastic packaging and opt for eco-friendly materials instead. Options to look for include paper, glass, cork, bamboo, seaweed, hemp, palm leaves and more. You can also consider recycled materials, such as cardboard.
Consider the Amount Used
Many companies are guilty of wrapping their products in an excessive amount of packaging. Is it necessary to have multiple layers of paper, plastic and cardboard between the item and the consumer? While some are needed to ensure the product doesn’t get damaged during transit, others are merely adding to the waste problem.
Look for brands that use their packaging in smart ways, reducing bulky materials. You can also choose businesses that allow you to bundle multiple items together, cutting down on the amount of packaging needed for one shipment.
Avoid Dyes and Acids
Truly sustainable brands will avoid dyes and acids that can leach into the environment and harm people, animals and ecosystems. Coal tar dyes, for instance, are a mixture of petrochemicals linked to cancer in humans. Formaldehyde, which is a preservative, is also a known carcinogen.
When choosing paper packaging, look for materials dyed with something non-toxic, like soy, instead of petroleum-based ink. You should also make sure it’s acid-free, as this substance can seep off the paper and onto products. To ensure environmental viability, opt for paper that’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.
Choose Biodegradable Options
A few natural and biodegradable plastic packaging options are available. Corn foam, which replaces styrofoam, is biodegradable, compostable and even edible. Mycelium, the compressed roots of mushrooms, is fully biodegradable and can substitute materials like cardboard, particleboard and plywood.
One company, CompPlast, makes reusable and compostable polybags from cassava root, vegetable polymers and natural resins. These bags are entirely non-toxic and degrade at a rate of 91.5% within 241 days. Other brands jumping on the eco-friendly bag bandwagon are TIPA and Wave.
Choosing to buy products in sustainable packaging is one way to avoid harmful chemicals and cut back on the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills.
How to Encourage Brands to Go Green
As a consumer, you have substantial power to inspire organizations to take on green initiatives. Become an advocate for the environment with the steps below.
Speak With Your Wallet
Brands rely on people to purchase their products and services. The best way you can encourage a company to make sustainable choices is to stop giving them money. Instead, look for alternative organizations that speak to your values.
Start a Signed Petition
A petition outlines the changes you want to see from a company, such as a reduction in plastic use or a switch to renewable energy. Once you have the wording down, get as many signatures as possible, and send it to the brand in question.
Write About the Benefits
Businesses are all about concrete advantages, especially when it comes to money. Write a carefully crafted letter to your favorite non-sustainable brands about why green initiatives are the right choice. For instance, they may attract more customers, boost profits or reduce operating costs.
The Future of Eco-Friendly Packaging
According to one survey, 83% of respondents believe it’s important for brands to design products meant to be reused or recycled, and 72% said they’re buying more eco-friendly items than they did five years ago. This push towards sustainability is not merely a trend, it’s a complete shift in consumer behavior.
The desire for eco-friendliness extends beyond the product itself to the packaging, as well. Today’s shoppers have options when it comes to the materials they buy, with plastic becoming a thing of the past.
About the Author
Emily covers topics in sustainability and green living. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks.
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