Eco-friendly packaging has become critical for both brand owners and their customers. A recent study shows that the youngest generation of shoppers is more inclined to purchase environment-friendly products, enough so that they would consider abandoning brands they think are not environmentally conscious. Fortunately, there are plenty of eco-packaging options out there, and plenty of ways to implement them without sacrificing the quality of the packaging.

There are a few ways companies are reducing their carbon footprint and, especially with the help of various partners and suppliers, these considerations don’t need to stand in the way of attractive, effective packaging. Here they are:

Paper Over Plastic

Irrespective of the industry, one of the first steps in developing eco-friendly packaging is conscious material selection. Although plastic sometimes feels unavoidable, an eco-friendly paper is always better because it is naturally biodegradable & renewable. Furthermore, water-based lacquers and adhesives can go a long way in reducing your plastic output.

When designing paper-based packaging, it’s still important to vet suppliers to ensure paper is sourced through sustainable processes. One of the easiest ways to do this is to inquire about a supplier’s certifications—third-party organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) offer certifications of a company’s sustainability practices.

Safe, Non-Toxic Dyes

If paper or paperboard is bleached and dyed using chemicals, it is harmful to both the environment and the people handling the product. Therefore, biodegradable food packaging died with non-toxic alternatives is becoming more popular. Many brands are now turning to soy-based dyes, or neutral-colored, undyed packaging, both of which eliminate some caustic chemicals from the manufacturing process.

Biodegradable plastic

Biodegradable packaging materials and plastic do not sound like they go together, so it is surprising that biodegradable plastic is becoming the newest trend in the recyclable packaging industry. The eco-friendly plastic can break down in sunlight, since it is not made of petroleum. Instead, biodegradable plastic is manufactured using plant by-products. It might not be as long-lasting as regular plastic, but biodegradable plastic substantially reduces packaging waste.

Synthetic Alternatives

When it comes to eco-packaging, there are many options to replace non-recyclable materials. Besides paper and cardboard, which are biodegradable and water-soluble, glass jars are an innovative biodegradable cosmetic packaging option that is quickly gaining popularity. Glass jars are made of naturally occurring ingredients like sand, limestone, and soda ash, and are increasingly being considered for product containers. They are non-reactive substances as well, so buyers can reuse it for almost any purpose after their purchase.

Using sustainable packaging materials, while desirable, can be difficult. Plastic wrapping has always been the easier option, which is partially why the need for alternatives has become so prominent. However, business owners are beginning to learn that more sustainable options exist, are viable, and are not as costly as previously imagined. Sustainable packaging projects may require a bit of research and creative thinking, but can ultimately be tremendously beneficial to businesses. To learn a more about innovative packaging, and to see how certain industries are wrestling with the sustainability question, take a look at this recently released industry guide here.

By Mel Beck

Sam Beck is a writer and musician living in Brooklyn, NY.