Eco-Friendly Packaging Ideas: The Comprehensive Guide

Postal box with eco friendly messaging
We use packaging for basically everything. Without the necessary protection, the parcels we ship, the food we eat and the gifts we give and receive would be damaged in transit. 

This creates a problem: with so many packaging materials being used, where does it all go when we’re done? If it’s single-use or plastic-based, most packaging ends up in the landfill. Britons throw away nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year. The need for eco-friendly packaging in the UK and beyond is not just a market trend but a necessity. 

Well-designed and durable eco-friendly packaging can stand you in good stead to drive sales, increase customer loyalty and save the planet. With more customers shopping with sustainability at the forefront of their minds, it’s time to switch to eco-friendly packaging. 

Environmental concern is a top priority for modern businesses

Here are some reasons why:

  • A recent study has revealed that 85% of consumers have become “greener” recently in their purchasing habits, especially among the younger generations. In addition, people are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
  • In fact, 65% of consumers actively seek to purchase from purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability. 
  • Increasingly more consumers believe that brands should be focused on planet-positive change.
  • A new report commissioned by the WWF shows a 71% rise in online searches globally for sustainable products in the past five years.

Being eco-friendly can have a significant impact on your business’ success. In the current era of environmentally-friendly attitudes, those that don’t consider their impact may not survive. There are many ways green businesses can ensure they maintain their eco-friendly operations, but what about when it comes to eco-friendly packaging?

We’ll look at eco-friendly packaging, why it’s necessary and how you can incorporate it into your packaging processes for a planet-positive future. 

What Is Eco-Friendly Packaging?

The clue’s in the name. Eco-friendly packaging is any form of packaging that’s recyclable, biodegradable or compostable — made out of recycled materials or renewable resources. Eco-friendly packaging should be manufactured with the lowest possible impact on energy consumption and aims to lessen the number of materials used in packaging processes, e.g. plastic-based void-fill or bubble wrap. 

Why You Should Use Eco-Friendly Packaging

One of the reasons you should choose to use eco-friendly packaging is because of increasing consumer interest in sustainable products. But, this isn’t the only factor nor necessarily the most important one. 

The reality is that much of the packaging we come into contact with serves a finite purpose, yet most of it takes years to degrade. While some may be reused, they’ll eventually perish, and the remnants of the plastics used to create them never disappear entirely. Plastic remnants eventually disintegrate into microplastics, which pose numerous threats to animals and ecosystems — even recently discovered in human blood

As non-biodegradable items slowly decompose –– a process that can take centuries –– they leak toxins back into the earth’s soil while contributing to a global waste problem. We’re stuck with a sizable issue without more eco-friendly packaging ideas and innovations. 

How to Be More Eco-Friendly with Your Packaging

You can start reducing the amount of waste you produce and help protect the environment with some of our eco-friendly packaging ideas. Whether you’re a business owner looking to tap into the lucrative eco-friendly market or an individual looking for a sustainable way to pack your presents, you’ll benefit from these inventive ecological solutions.

Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials 

Our plastic problem has become so acute that the UK government has already introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) to combat the use of plastic in manufacturing. The government is also looking to eventually ban single-use plastics entirely, following the plastic bag charge’s success in reducing polythene bags’ usage. So, by switching to eco-friendly packaging, you’re also saving money.

Consider using reliable and durable materials –– like cardboard –– that are better for the environment. Cardboard shipping boxes will protect any shipment from harm and degrade naturally in no time at all. Made from recycled materials, they boast considerable environmental credentials, and being strong and versatile.

Ingredients UK Corrugated Shipping box

Another sturdy and sustainable material for your eco-friendly packaging is Kraft paper, made from wood pulp — a renewable and natural resource. Kraft paper isn’t bleached, which usually reduces the paper’s strength. Our Kraft SOS paper bags and twisted handle paper bags are made from 88-100% recycled materials and can be recycled, reused or even composted after use.

Your business may require plastic packaging as part of its process. So how can you use plastic and retain your eco-friendly stance? Easy. You use bioplastics.

Bioplastics are created using materials such as vegetable fats, oils and corn starch, which makes them 100% biodegradable — unlike traditional plastics. By using bioplastics, you can maintain the use of essential plastic packaging while cutting down on your environmental impact.

At Packaging Supplies, we use Ingeo™ Bioplastic PLA, sourced from plant-based resin to make our compostable mailing bags. And, the best part is, they won’t last forever. 

Eco-Friendly Packaging Designs

In terms of packaging aesthetics, custom designs with ink and dyes look brilliant — but it’s better to use eco-friendly water-based inks when printing your designs. 


Traditional inks are, by definition, non-biodegradable. They also release toxic fumes into the atmosphere during printing, and discarded ink cartridges can pollute water and soil.

Colouring your items is an important marketing technique. Branded, eye-catching packaging is essential to drive sales and establish customer familiarity and trust. 

Dr Paw Paw drawer cartons

We use water-based ink at Packaging Supplies, which offers an eco-friendly packaging solution. It allows for the same sort of vibrant colours and powerful branding on product packaging as you’d get with standard dyes and inks but it is instead water-based, which means it doesn’t contain those nasty chemicals that are harmful to the environment. 

Don’t Use More Packaging Than You Need To

It might seem obvious, but you should consider how much protection your shipment needs. If it’s a valuable item, take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn’t get damaged by using eco-friendly void fill. You could also use sustainably sourced and 100% biodegradable double wall boxes, which offer more protection to guarantee the safety of your item in transit.

Use the Right Size Box for Your Parcel

Using oversized boxes will mean your precious product will bump against the walls of your shipping box, which is likely to cause damage. A larger box also means more space to fill with protective packaging, which creates more waste. Our eco-friendly cardboard book wrap mailers and twist wrap book boxes have a multi-depth feature so you can pack products of varying sizes. This doesn’t just save money on void fill but also the cost of ordering large quantities of different box sizes for various products. 

Pick the appropriate eco-friendly box, and your package will reach its destination safely, soundly, and without unnecessary waste.

Related: Low-Volume Packaging That Packs A Punch

Don’t Use Too Much Tape

Since you’ve picked the right box for your package, don’t ruin it with metres of plastic-based tape. You’ll undo your eco-friendly efforts as most kinds of tape are not recyclable. Stick to your sustainable principles (figuratively and literally!) with eco-friendly paper tape that can easily be recycled without having to be removed before disposal. This will save everyone time and effort, including the recycling facilities that will eventually process and recycle your packaging.

Custom Eco-Friendly Packaging

How many times have you received an item packaged in a box far too large for its needs? This small problem has big ramifications when you consider it’s quite commonplace. So much packaging is unnecessary. The larger the packaging volume, the greater its impact in terms of manufacturing, use and disposal.

Invest in making your eco-friendly packaging custom-made. It’s straightforward to design and produce packaging that fits your products perfectly, ensuring minimal waste. 

Becoming more eco-friendly to protect the environment amid challenging times can seem like a daunting mission. Our old methods of unsustainable packaging won’t last forever, but you can rely on the creativity and ingenuity of environmentally conscious packaging designers to answer the call. With more eco-friendly packaging ideas and solutions available than ever before, businesses and consumers will continue to benefit from simple, effective and sustainable solutions to the world’s packaging needs.

Interested in going bespoke? You can talk to our in-house design experts at Packaging Supplies about creating a custom design for your eco-friendly packaging.