Why Does Sustainable Packaging Matter?

Even though its been proven many times that being sustainable business is important, there are still many skeptics and critics to the sustainable practices that some companies use. This leads many people to wonder, does sustainable packaging matter?

To answer that question, we found and posted a wonderful opinion blog by Dennis Salazar. Salazar is the president and co-founder of Salazar Packaging and has written many blogs on the topic of sustainable packaging in his own blog, Inside Sustainable Packaging (we suggest you check it out!).

In the packaging industry we understand that being sustainable is important, but not all consumers understand the significant impacts that being sustainable has on a company.


Image Source: Sustainable is Good

The company that shipped this package to our office will remain unnamed because I have written about them before and after a while it starts looking like I am picking on them. The truth is that this post could probably be written about any number of companies who profess to be green and claim to be tirelessly working to protect the earth.

Words to Green By

As a young packaging professional, one of my favorite mentors had two favorite sayings that he often combined together: “Do What Makes Sense” and “Be Brilliant on the Basics”. His philosophy was fairly straight forward and simple – if you use your head and do the little things right on a daily basis, you usually come out on top. Baseball games and business are typically not won by crowd pleasing, memorable grand slams. More often than not, the difference between winning and losing is decided by singles, and doubles combined with a large dose of hustle.

The “Little” Things Add Up

With all that in mind, I am always critical of all the companies who are always quick to grab the sustainability headlines but continue to do, REALLY dumb green things on a daily basis.

Here is what I see when I look at the packaging shown in the photograph:

  • Most obviously, the box is at least six times larger than necessary for the order and product it contained. Why aren’t they right sizing? End result – WASTE!
  • 3” plastic tape to seal the top of the box – most of the world uses 2” tape. Why are they using 50% more tape than is normally necessary? End result – WASTE!
  • Standard corrugated box with probably 30 to 40% recycled content? Why aren’t they using a box with a higher or ideally100% recycled content? End result – WASTE!
  • Auto Lock bottom on box bottom sealed with tape. (now I am getting really packaging geeky on you) One of the features of an Auto Lock bottom box is that it does not require tape. Yet they feel it necessary to seal it with more 3” tape. There is something definitely wrong with this picture. End result – WASTE!
  • One air pillow for void fill – that single pillow does absolutely no good so you know, end result – WASTE!

What is the cost of NOT doing the little green things well?

It is very difficult to estimate without a complete analysis (which BTW I have offered to do for this company for free) but conservatively, I can guess their packaging cost is probably 20 to 30% higher than it really needs to be. That same percentage probably applies to unnecessary packaging materials used and additional post consumer waste being created. This does not even begin to cover the cost of transportation, space, fuel, energy, and all the other things that factor in.

Not doing the little green things well is VERY expensive to all of us. So next time a package like this arrives, I urge you to complain. It does matter and it is important but it will never be important to the companies doing the shipping until we let them know.  If they are not willing to do it for the bottom line, perhaps they will bother when it impacts their top (sales income) line. That is a good reason to bother.