The Sustainable Packaging Movement

Submitted by Mary Meade on

Plastic pervades all aspects of our lives – from the wrapping on the food we eat to the microfibers that wash out of the clothes we wear. We are producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year and more than 8 million tons end up in the ocean each year. These plastics break down into smaller pieces, which are then consumed by marine life and eventually us when we put seafood on our plates. The packaging industry is responsible for 40 percent of plastic pollution and represents one-third of all trash, most of which are one-time use items such as saran wrap, grocery bags, and plastic bottles, but there is a sustainable packaging movement on the rise.

Why plastic?

Plastic packaging is cheap, resilient, and versatile. This combination makes it appealing to businesses as it extends shelf life, is customizable, and production does not profoundly impact profits. A business’ packaging is often the first interaction a customer has with its brand, and with more customers interested in sustainable packaging practices when making purchasing choices, unsustainable packaging is simply no longer a wise option.

Sustainable packaging is the way to go

Since packaging is a large part of brand recognition, businesses that ideate green packaging solutions demonstrate that they value sustainability to every potential customer. Conscious consumerism shows that customers respond positively–52 percent of consumers willing to pay more than 10 percent more for products with sustainable packaging–so businesses that invest in sustainability goals are more likely to meet the bottom line.

These statistics show that sustainability in a business’s overall value proposition is not a trend. The Green Business Network’s certified green businesses make sustainability a crucial value in their models. With millennials twice as likely to pay more for green products than older generations, the future of businesses hinge on their green value propositions. Green America’s Green Business Certification requires our business members to account for their products and packaging beyond their end use—meaning a product does not end in a landfill, but can be returned, recycled, reused or composted. Green Business Network members like Salazar PackagingBlue Sky Shipping, and Green Field Paper Company offer many sustainable packaging solutions.

Compared to five years ago, sustainable packaging is more important to half of all Americans, and consumers have become more interested in the life cycle of packaging than ever before. Although not all businesses package with sustainability in mind, the movement is gaining momentum as large corporations like FedEx and McDonalds transition to greener packages. It’s better for business, and better for people and the planet, too.

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