Cutting down on unnecessary waste and going plastic free and sustainable with your packaging is something many brands are embracing. It’s great to see eco-friendly print options become more widely available to small businesses. You can also make sure you aren’t adding to landfill and harming the planet when you send out your items or package them in a sustainable way.
If you are a sustainable, eco-friendly brand then it’s so important to make sure that your packaging and print materials also match your sustainable ethos. The suppliers you use can enhance this by making sure they are carbon neutral and use renewable materials.
So let’s start with the simpler items such as business cards, delivery cards and flyers. I get my business cards printed onto brown kraft paper by Hatch Print and I’ve had branded postcards made out of recycled coffee cups printed by Hatch too. Look out for the use of consumer waste as then you know that your items will be made from things that would have otherwise ended up in landfill.
CHOOSING A SUSTAINABLE AND ECO-FRIENDLY PRINTER
Usually a company will have a sustainable policy on their website (usually in the footer) so you can check what they are doing to offset the energy they use or the paper they waste. Try and find a local printer or one that is based in your country if possible to cut down on carbon emissions.
The days of chemical inks are hopefully coming to an end as printers move to vegetable-based and vegan-friendly inks. If you are a vegan brand then check with the printers that their inks are vegan friendly.
Digital printing is again more eco-friendly and several printers use techniques that reduce their water waste. And don’t forget to request that your items are delivered plastic-free where possible!
SUSTAINABLE PAPER OPTIONS
Brown kraft is often the most environmentally friendly sustainable packaging option as it hasn’t had to be dyed or bleached. This look works great for my organic feeling brand, however not for everyone, so you can also choose recycled paper stock or items printed on re-used, post-consumer waste.
With printing make sure paper is FSC approved and responsibly sourced. Fully recycled paper is a good choice or even better if you can match the item reused with something related to your brand. As an example, Moo do a range of business cards printed on reused t-shirts and if you are a fashion brand then this fits perfectly with your brand.
A little more expensive is seeded paper. This can be reused and replanted to grow flowers or herbs when someone has finished with your flyer or business card.
SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING TIPS
If you are sending out items in the post then you know how important it is to make sure the brand experience customers get when they receive your item makes them feel excited! However, getting things printed will involve waste and the use of natural resources, so how can you add branded items to your shipping process without compromising in your eco friendly ideals?
Biodegradable is often considered extremely eco-friendly but some items take so long to biodegrade that it can be misleading. Ideally you want something fully compostable or recyclable. Cornstarch is being used more and more as a replacement for plastic wrap however this isn’t as eco-friendly as it sounds so where possible it’s best to re-use paper such as newspaper, or recycled kraft paper to wrap your products in. If you explain to your customers that this is the most eco-friendly option then they will understand why you are using these materials.
If you are posting out delicate and fragile items in glass then you may have to use something a little more substantial. While I always suggest as minimal, recycled and paper-based packaging as possible there is an eco-friendly way to package fragile items. For this you can get shipping nuggets made from corn-based materials that disappear into water or naturally decompose.
Brown kraft boxes are the most eco friendly way to ship your products, but they can look a little boring and don’t give customers that authentic brand experience and feel for your brand personality. So how can you add to this?
Avery have a great range of compostable stickers made from vegetable-based adhesive which is recyclable. You could get your logo printed onto this or a lovely message or illustration. Most of the shiny, glued stickers commonly used aren’t recyclable or biodegradable so again check with the printer and explore their environmental policy.
COMPOSTABLE & RECYCLABLE SHIPPING TAPE
You can use this as traditional shipping tape as shown below to decorate your box. Compostable packaging is typically made from a number of renewable plant-based materials. To be certified home compostable, a product must break down in home compost within 180 days and 90 days in commercial composting conditions. This ensures products don’t end up in land-fill.
You can also opt for recycled tape made from fully-recyclable materials. I usually reccommend No Issue for compostable and recycled shipping tape.
STAMPS TO ADD TO YOUR SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING
Stamps are a great way of branding up items that are plain. You can get a stamp created of your logo, or an on-brand message and then stamp this onto your packaging or shipping boxes. Again try to source stamp inks that are vegetable based and cruelty free.
There are lots of people you can find to do this, and a quick search on Etsy or Instagram will give you a wide range of people creating hand-cut stamps. I recommend booloulewdesign who creates custom stamps that can be used on your packaging to add a branded, sustainable touch.
You can also find someone to create a letter-press or de-bossing stamp. De-bossing is one of the most eco friendly ways to stamp your logo or message onto boxes and packaging items. No ink is used at all and although the initial outlay to get your logo created as a de-bossing machine is higher you won’t have to spend anything after that.
COMPOSTABLE TISSUE PAPER
Finally, compostable or fully recycled tissue paper adds a feeling of luxury to your packages and gives that ‘wow’ feeling when opening them. Really think if this is needed and make sure it is printed on recycled materials. Again check out No Issue for this.
Overall really think if you need any branded item and make sure it is adding to your brand experience. If you can minimise, re-use and renew in any way then that reduces the amount of raw materials being used!
MY TOP SUSTAINABLE ECO FRIENDLY PRINTERS
- Hatch Print: vegan approved, great ethical policy, recycled coffee cup paper, biodegradable roller banners, seeded flyers and business cards. My favourite!
- Avery: great range of labels for your products, compostable and recyclable options
- No Issue: compostable tissue paper and packaging tape
- The Green and The Good: eco-friendly branded marketing items including cups, bags etc.
- Eco Enclose: water-activated compostable packaging tape
- Handy Tags: recycled swing tags
- The Cotton Bag Company: ethically sourced bags, fairtrade and organic UK based.
- The Tiny Box Company: recycled brown kraft shipping boxes
- Kilby Packaging: customisable shipping boxes
- Priory Print: eco-friendly range with a handy eco-score to let you know if the item is compostable, carbon neutral, responsibly sourced etc.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR PACKAGING SUSTAINABLE & ECO-FRIENDLY
- Choose an environmentally friendly print supplier and check their sustainable policy online
- Try to find a local printer where possible and check where they print items are printed to cut down on carbon emissions
- Choose recycled, post-consumer waste or reclaimed materials for your products
- Make sure your ink is vegetable based and cruelty free
- Request plastic-free delivery of your items
- Add compostable or recyclable branded stickers or tape
- Really think if you need to include this. Minimise wherever possible!
- Be creative and think of alternative ways to brand your items, can you re-use and renew?
If you feel your branding is letting you down then I’d love to help you create a meaningful and impactful brand experience so take a look at my branding packages here.
I’m Charlotte the founder of Creative Wilderness. I love to collaborate with forward thinking, purpose-driven people! I’ve worked with some of the leading ethical and sustainable brands, creating brand experiences that have helped them grow into successful, dream businesses.