by Megan Plaksiy
A recent intern at PeakBiety branding+advertising, Megan Plaksiy, wrote her thesis at the Art Institute of Tampa on sustainable packaging. We found the information interesting and valuable and wanted to share it. Here’s an excerpt.
Packaging in the modern world has changed the way companies focus on sustainability in an effort to minimize their overall carbon footprint. Companies are following the demands of stakeholders and investors, looking to “be green” and “do green,” by decreasing pollutants, lowering their carbon footprints, producing eco-friendly goods, reducing energy use, exploring alternative energy sources, and creating processes that augur for a long-term sustainable enterprise. The term “sustainability” has spilled over to the consumer world, leading to a global movement in reducing carbon emissions and preserving the planet. When searching for a potential company to do business with, consumers will often research the company’s green efforts, selecting the “greener” brand. This is the leading reason why corporations have begun to choose their materials wisely, constantly making sure that their products are as environmentally positive as possible. Eventually, every aspect of modern packaging ends up being impacted by one of the many sustainability precepts. Designers often collaborate on defining the best way to create an environmentally sustainable package.
Traditionally, packaging designers contemplated technical performance, expenses, presentation and regulatory compliance with national and international law when designing a package. Modern designers must now also consider what type of packaging the product will use right down to the materials and their ingredients. What sounds like a simple choice is not an easy task. Just because the designer thinks a certain material would be ideal for a particular product, it does not mean that when the development phase rolls in, the manufacturer will have the necessary resources to purchase such a material or if its attainability is even possible and sustainable at all. To distinguish the significance of design-phase decision-making, packaging professionals measure the environmental effect of their package designs against other common uses and agree thereafter on the best possible solution. Creating a completely and perfectly sustainable product can be very challenging. Every single phase must be considered right from initial idea to final distribution. The challenge of sustainability is that there are so many pieces to the puzzle of what makes a product or material sustainable.
Communication and informational flow play a great role in packaging. Not only does the consumer need to be informed, so do the warehouse and the distribution chain. However, due to the lack of information known about sustainable packaging by designers and businesses, many misconceptions exist. Packaging is considered to be a part of the product through the whole entirety of the supply chain, meaning the design of the packaging influences the information, features, functions, and cost aspect of a product. With this, packaging is an essential part of the product-selling process and is responsible for bearing information to consumers. There is an overload of recycle/sustainable symbols in the industry that are specific to either one particular subject or material. There needs to be a simple approach for designers, businesses, and consumers to differentiate a package’s sustainable metric between countless packages on the shelf today.
Purpose: To educate and inform designers, companies and consumers about the materials and frameworks which are currently in the industry for sustainable packaging, so that designers, companies and consumers are able to clearly distinguish sustainable metric for packaging.
Solution: Produce a manual informing designers, companies and consumers about the sustainable options that are currently available within the industry to educate them about the options available. Include the top sustainable and traditional materials to allow designers to be informed of selection available to them before the implementation stage is encountered. Present case studies about current sustainable packaging solutions that are being developed and implemented in the industry today, to show designers possibilities available to them. A framework for sustainable practice would allow the designer and consumer to quickly acknowledge the sustainable metric when comparing packaging. Showcase sustainable packaging through various advertising platforms such as iAd, will allow information to expand to an increasingly diverse body of users.