How sustainable can packaging be?
When fashion companies send out products, they have to be packed safely and securely so that the clothes arrive in the perfect condition they left the factory in. The job of packaging is to protect from damage and to provide an ‘unboxing’ experience – displaying the items in an aesthetic and memorable way.
This means the use of separate materials – that are durable, strong and protective of whatever is inside the package. For sustainable fashion companies like the ones that use Collé Group, we can’t simply choose the cheapest option. There are many additional aspects to look at.
Sustainability is something that plays into every stage of the supply chain, with packaging as well as the fashion product itself. Whether it’s being mindful of where the raw materials have come from, who made the packaging, the carbon emissions of its creation or how it will degrade, many things must be considered to ensure genuine sustainability.
Where possible, the most sustainable options are the ones with a climate positive impact, either in using waste resources (like recycled items) or another initiative like carbon offsetting.
So what are some important sustainable qualities to look for?
- Use of environmentally friendly materials
We all know about the problems of plastic by now, so when you’re sourcing packaging, it’s probably best to avoid plastic as an option. Paper and cardboard are great, especially when made from recycled materials.
Sometimes packaging is made from natural plant materials like bamboo or potato. Some of these are very renewable and organically produced, but like with cotton, conventional methods can be resource intensive and deplete the local environmental quality and biodiversity.
Packaging that operates on a circular model is great because it reduces waste by recycling old materials into new products, which can then be recycled and the process is repeated. Materials are kept in production and their lifecycles are extended and there is less waste sent to landfill.
However, it can take a lot of energy to recycle products and if they are plastic they can only be repurposed a number of times before the quality disintegrates and they become waste.
Even when something is sourced sustainably, a big concern comes with where it goes at the end of its life. The quality of biodegradability is great for sustainability because it means the product naturally degrades into the environment in a nontoxic way.
Keep an eye on the conditions of this though, often ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ are slapped onto products as buzzwords when really they only have these qualities in certain conditions. Genuinely biodegradable packaging is often made from plants, which can revert back to the soil in the same way other plant waste does.
How to find the right packaging for you
Consider your needs in terms of product, shape and method of delivery. If you are shipping products overseas, they might need to be more tightly packed for safety. If you’re packing soft clothing, you might just need wrapping not a box.
Contact the packaging manufacture to ask them important sustainability concerns such as their CO2 emissions and where their raw materials are sourced, and discuss and negotiate bulk orders with them.
Evaluate a budget and choose something that fits within your means. Sustainable initiatives are usually more costly to take advantage of, but a genuinely sustainable brand must try to extend this to all elements of their production process and cannot hypocritically choose the cheapest and probably least sustainable packaging option.
Packaging is not a passive experience for the consumer, they can see exactly the elements used and have to actively dispose of it themselves. Using sustainable packaging is an important way to show that your company has genuinely considered sustainability in every area, and it is not just greenwashing.