The quality of what you buy matters.
When you shop, you trust the packaging to guide you to the best product. Non-GMO, organic, 100% recycled, all natural, whole grain, no preservatives, free range. The list goes on and on.
The organic, whole food, eco-friendly marketplace is being turned on end again as brands are turning their focus to what’s on the outside of their products: the packaging.
The buzzword to start listening and watching for is “zero-waste packaging”.
Brands are finding innovative and revolutionary ways to ditch their wasteful packaging and instead use materials that are recyclable, biodegradable, and sometimes even edible!
Companies are seeking to use raw materials capable of emulating sustainable natural cycles. Ecologically-positive packaging is designed to be void of toxic chemicals and where all discarded materials are recovered to become resources for others to use. Thus, keeping them from being burned or buried.
However, zero-waste packaging is just as much about the consumer as it is the the product.
In order for most zero-waste packaging cycles to function, you must do your part. You must help close the loop, ensuring a waste-free cycle of reuse.
When you throw away less, you reduce your environmental footprint and feel better for creating a greener home for you and your family.
At R&B Printery, we strive to be an environmentally-conscious letterpress printing studio. We’re always looking for ways to offer our clients greener, more sustainable options for greeting cards and stationery.
We’ve done some of our own digging into zero-waste packaging and decided to share what we’ve discovered.
5 Eco-Savvy Shopping Habits You Can Easily Start Today
The spirit of the zero-waste movement is to eliminate throw away packaging.
You may be asking yourself, “How do I eliminate waste when everything I buy comes pre-packaged in cardboard, metal, plastic or glass?”
Simple recycling is a great way to start. This helps divert waste from landfills.
But, there are other just-as-easy solutions you may not have heard of. Let’s take a look at a few.
1. Rethink your own packaging.
How do you get the stuff you purchase into your home?
Rather than placing your newly bought items inside another paper or plastic bag, try one of these eco-wise tips:
- Bring your own canvas shopping bags
- Decline bags from the retailer for items you can easily carry
- Skip the extra packaging for larger bulk items
- Purchase loose fruits and vegetables, not those packaged in plastic
If you don’t use it, you can’t waste it!
2. Purchase items packaged with post-consumer recycled waste
Let’s face it, it’s hard to eliminate packaging altogether. So what can an environmentally conscious person do?
Part of the zero-waste packaging movement is getting manufacturers and retailers to change how they do business. We, as consumers, can support those manufacturers who are making strides to incorporating post-consumer recycled goods in their products or packaging materials.
Paper, Glass, Metal and some plastics can all be recycled and turned into new usable products and packaging. This is called “post-consumer recycling.”
When deciding between two similar products, look for those packaged using 100% post-consumer recycled waste. The higher the percentage, the more waste was saved from the landfill and reused in the product’s packaging.
At R&B Printery, all of our note cards and envelopes are made using 100% post-consumer recycled, environmentally-superior papers.
Rather than using new, virgin raw materials, buying post-consumer recycled packaging and products helps create a market for recycled materials.
3. Look for new wording in eco-friendly packaging
There’s more to green packaging than recycled.
As technology and the field of agro-science has expanded, so have the options for innovations in packaging.
As you shop, look for product packaging labels with the following words:
- Sustainable: uses renewable resources, like plants, but also can mean green-wise sustainable growing practices.
- Cradle-to-cradle: these products mimic natural cycles where non-harmful materials can be continuously recycled and reused without degrading their quality.
- PLA plastics: packaging similar to that of plastics can now be produced using sustainable, less toxic plant-based materials.
- Biodegradable: if these products do make it to a landfill, they’re more likely to readily decompose.
- Compostable: throw this type of packaging into your backyard compost bin for easy disposal, thus returning nutrients to the soil.
At R&B Printery, we use a 100% compostable and biodegradable, plant-based biosleeve for our greeting cards and stationery product packaging.
4. Recycle the uncyclables
What do you do with packaging that your local recycler won’t recycle?
What if there was a way to recycle all your uncyclables? A place that would take all your throw-away packaging and turn it into something useful?
Well, there is. Say hello to TerraCycle®.
TerraCycle is an acclaimed international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products.
Here’s how it works (Download the TerraCycle Quick Guide):
- Select from one of over 40 Brigade Programs ranging from candy wrapper and drink pouches to plastic storage bins, shoes, and diaper packaging to cosmetics and beauty packaging.
- Collect it, store it till you’re ready, and then box it for shipping.
- Create an account to easily print a pre-paid shipping label to mail all your collected items to TerraCycle.
TerraCycle makes zero-waste packaging a cinch. Just purchase the products you always buy, save the packaging and just mail it in. Free of charge! They take care of the rest.
5. Be on the look out for innovative packaging!
What if a package wasn’t really a package?
To vie for your attention and lock you in as a customer, some companies are taking it a step farther and are revolutionizing the way we think about product packaging.
Take a look at some of these innovative ways companies are packaging their products:
- Seventh Generation™ detergent packaged in recycled, paper pulp containers
- Self-contained, dissolvable packaging for Tide® detergent Pods®
- NIVEA® bar soap packaging dissolves completely in the shower
- WikiPearl™ bite-sized natural, edible and healthy packaging
- Package-free grocery ZERO Market coming to Denver, Colorado
Becoming an eco-friendly shopper is a process. But it can begin with just making one small change. And then another. And another.
The more you put into practice what you are learning, the more of an impact you can make.
Here’s What To Do Next
Take another look at the 5 eco-savvy habits above.
They’re actually listed in order of ease with the easiest, most conventional at the beginning.
Where can you start? Keep some canvas bags in the trunk of your car? Start a bin specifically for TerraCycle?
Here’s the secret to all of this: Your dollars equate to votes. Manufacturers respond to demand. It’s called purchasing power. You can help create a demand for it by letting manufacturers know protecting the environment is an important value in your family.
Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Caden Crawford.