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  • Post published:08/05/2021
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Eco-Friendly Packaging Alternatives

After considerable research and a lot of time spent sourcing, you’ve curated a line of eco-friendly consumer products you know your target customer is going to be powerless to resist.

You were even able to create a free logo by coming up with a stylized twist on the recycling symbol, thus infusing your image with a poetic symmetry.

Shopping Cart

Everything looks great, until your first customer receives their order and flames you in social media for shipping your goods in Styrofoam peanuts rather than one of the eco-friendly packaging alternatives.

To avoid that mistake, consider one of the following options.

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts

Made from plant-based ingredients, biodegradable peanuts are water-soluble. In other words, they dissolve when they get wet. Where Styrofoam packing peanuts take many years to break down in landfills, these organic-based peanuts can be disposed of in seconds, leaving behind no harmful elements. Naturally, you’ll want to avoid using them with liquids, but they’re more than adequate for all other shipping needs.

Packaging chips made by bioplastics (Thermoplastic Starch)

Cardboard “Bubble” Wrap

Easily produced from recycled cardboard, this material works the same as plastic bubble wrap—though it does rob you of the joy of popping the little air-filled pockets bubble wrap contains. With bellows resembling those of an accordion, this material provides excellent cushioning for a wide variety of products.

Mushroom Molded Packaging

Mushroom roots (also known as mycelium) can be combined with cleaned and ground agricultural waste to create moldable packaging to cushion bottles or any other product with a distinctive shape. In addition to being crafted from a material that would otherwise be discarded, it biodegrades at a very rapid pace. In fact, once your customers have retrieved their items, this packaging material can be disposed of in their compost heaps where it will break down right along with all of the other organic material there.

A sample grown mushroom figure stands against one variety of Ecovative’s mushroom material.

Cornstarch Packaging

Another readily moldable material, cornstarch can be made to function much like plastic. This means it can also be used to create bottles, molded packaging forms, and a broad array of loose fill solutions. On the other hand, because it’s made from a substance also used for food, some argue its use could make food products made from corn cost more. Still, it’s far better for the environment than petroleum-based plastics and American farms grow lots of corn every year.

Reusable Materials

Plastic doesn’t have to be bad for the environment—if it’s managed carefully.

Granted, this puts the onus on your customers to handle it properly, so it gets reused as many times as possible. However, it also gives you the opportunity to reinforce your eco-friendly marketing message with inserts explaining the plastic is intended to be recycled.

Touting this on your e-commerce site, you can offer customers an incentive to send the packaging back to you for reuse. In some cases, this might even be less costly than buying new packaging materials.

It’s also a model the soda pop industry followed for years: paying customers to bring bottles back to the point of purchase for reuse. The auto parts industry also employs this approach, giving customers a refund of the “core charge” when they bring the old part in after installing a rebuilt part.

From mushrooms to cornstarch, a wide variety of organic materials are being pressed into service as eco-friendly packaging alternatives. Along with these innovations, good old-fashioned common sense is being applied to reduce the amount of packaging material finding its way to our landfills. Yes, these efforts can add cost, but many ecologically aware consumers have expressed their willingness to pay more to preserve the planet.

Photo Credits

Mushroom Packaging – Wikimedia Creative Commons

Packaging chips made by bioplastics (Thermoplastic Starch) – Wikimedia Creative Commons


Guest Author Bio
Jake Anderson

Awestruck by Star Trek as a kid, Jake Anderson has been relentless in his pursuit for covering the big technological innovations which will shape the future. A self-proclaimed gadget freak, he loves getting his hands on every gadget he can afford.



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