Packaging 101: The Complete Guide

Meet Kyla Moore, the dynamic project coordinator at Arka, who is driven by her passion for sustainable packaging. She is dedicated to assisting businesses.

What is Sustainable Packaging? Key Benefits and Challenges

Sustainable packaging is defined as packaging made of different renewable, reusable, and biodegradable materials. Its purpose is to reduce the usage of single-use plastics as part of packaging as much as possible. Also, it helps businesses reduce their carbon footprint and become less harmful to the planet Earth.

Entrepreneurs interested in sustainable packaging must understand all the advantages and challenges. The biggest advantages of sustainable packaging are:

• Doing a good thing for the environment: No, not everything is connected with profit. Entrepreneurs are doing something very powerful for the planet Earth. More precisely, they are leaving a safer planet for future generations.

Cost-Saving: Sustainable product packaging often costs less, especially if businesses order larger quantities. For instance, with Arka, the price of each package goes down if a bigger number of them are ordered.

Better protection: Sustainable packages are strong and durable. That ensures a lower return rate appeared due to product damage during transportation.

Brand awareness: Sustainable packaging is easily customizable. With Arka’s help, businesses can deliver different shapes, sizes, and designs. All these elements can make the packages unique. Plus, they can tell a story about the company and the values it supports. These are all the factors that influence better brand awareness.

Amazing marketing tool: Packaging can be your salesman! With appropriate customization and design, you can boost the product's value and convince people to buy it. You can highlight there more details about the products and benefits it can bring. It is probably the best “offline marketing tool” you can use!

sustainable bath bomb packaging

Credits: Curtis Shain

As we said, sustainable packaging solutions come with certain challenges as well. The most common ones are

Supply chain complexity: the intricate coordination required among diverse stakeholders, materials, regulations, and logistics to achieve environmentally friendly outcomes successfully can be challenging.

Consumer education: educating consumers and explaining why sustainable packaging is essential will take time. Also, you will need to invest more time and effort to explain how sustainable packages should be handled and reused)

Infrastructure and recycling facilities: organizing the entire recycling procedure can be challenging)

How to Identify Sustainable Packaging

If you are wondering how to spot a sustainable packaging material, here's how to know. The material must meet the following criteria:

• The packaging materials are safe, healthy, and beneficial for individuals and communities.

It must meet the market criteria for performance and cost.

The process of sourcing, manufacturing, transporting, and recycling must involve renewable energy.

The manufacturing process involves clean production technologies and best practices.

Sustainable packaging materials have a physical design that optimizes materials and energy.

The materials are not toxic to humans or the environment.

Regulations and Standards for Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging regulations have become stricter than ever before. Issues like global warming, climate change, air pollution, and other things have made officials on that move. One of the crucial certificates entrepreneurs should have in mind is FSC certification. The good news is that Arka is FSC-certified, which is another reason you should contact us!

Exploring Sustainable Packaging Materials

If you want to use the benefits of sustainable product packaging, then you need to choose the best options wisely. The good news is that there is a diversity of packaging materials in front of you. Yet, they are beneficial for different purposes and types of products. We would like to explore 5 of them and let you decide which suits your business.

Recycled Paper and Cardboard

Most packages in the United States are made of some type of paper. As you can probably guess, most of them are in cardboard form. Entrepreneurs often decide on that packaging type because it is recyclable and biodegradable.

Apart from that, they are extremely durable and safe for products. Paper sustainable packages come with kraft paper infills and molded cardboard box custom inserts. That makes them amazing for different sorts of fragile items.

Last but not least, they are extremely affordable. With larger quantities, you can really reduce the price of each paper or cardboard packaging. That way, eCommerce businesses can ensure better profit margins and do something great for the planet at the same time.

sustainable packaging

Credits: Serhii Shakh, Kima


As we said, one of the purposes of sustainable packages is to eliminate single-use plastic completely. Yet, using plastics is sometimes necessary, which is why entrepreneurs should focus on eco-friendly alternatives. One of them is bioplastics! A good replacement is biodegradable polymers made of natural and synthetic materials. Apart from that, you can also use seaweed packaging. It is completely biodegradable, and it can be decomposed naturally.

bioplastic packaging


Mushroom Packaging

Most entrepreneurs do not know that mushrooms are a popular sustainable packaging choice. They are usually combined with other eco-friendly materials to gain strength. It is worth mentioning they are easily customizable. Manufacturers can easily mold them into any possible shape. They are an amazing layer of protection for smaller products.

Life Elements mushroom packaging

Credits:, Life Elements

Plant-Based Fibers

There are multiple reasons why plant-based fiber packaging is a good choice. They are sustainable, functional, and biodegradable. They can easily break down under the right conditions, making them less harmful than other options. Plus, they are eye-pleasing and can be used for various packaging designs.

plant based fiber packaging

Credits: Alexander Rotker

Compostable Packaging

Compostable sustainable packaging solutions offer a variety of options. They are usually the number one choice for the food industry. They are often made of organic materials such as cellulose, bamboo, and even corn. It is 100% clear why compostable packaging is the perfect alternative to harmful packaging materials!

compostable packaging

Credits: Marcell Viragh

Carbon Neutral Packaging

In carbon neutral packaging, all the carbon emissions related to the production process of the packaging are first calculated and then compensated for by a carbon offset project. For example, this can be a forest conservation project. In a project such as this, the trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while also providing benefits to local communities.

Many companies are powering sustainable shopping experiences for their customers. Various algorithms are in place that enable you to calculate all emissions that unavoidably arise (folding boxes, shipping bags etc.) when producing your packaging products thus enabling you to practice sustainable packaging. These emissions can be compensated with a carbon offset project such as planting more trees thus neutralizing the effect on the environment.

Compostable Shipping Mailers

Adding compostable shipping mailers to your sustainable packaging strategy will help you cut down a lot of waste in the shipping process.

The compostable shipping mailers are self-sufficient, in the sense that they prevent you from using any extra packaging material or plastic wrapping for your product.

They’re also made out of materials that can easily be recycled, composted, or reused when they’re done with their job. That way, you don’t have to worry about wasting your money on new shipping materials everytime you ship out a product.

Arka’s home compostable poly mailer is made from renewable bioplastic film. The mailers break down into healthy compost leaving no microplastics and conform to all major compost certifications including OK Compost Home and AS5810.

4 Tips for Businesses to Adopt Sustainable Packaging Solutions

We are sure that most people are impressed by the benefits of sustainable packaging. Yet, switching to new types of packages at once isn’t as easy as it seems. Entrepreneurs must pass through a couple of steps to successfully make the changes. Here are some of the main goals you need to pass through:

Analyze the disadvantages of your current packaging: You should not switch to eco-friendly packages just because of the available benefits. It is also essential to understand why the packaging you are currently using is bad. Analyze how the newest changes can improve your business. That way, it will be much easier for you to pick the right sustainable packages.

Adjust the pricing of the products: How much the packaging will cost you depends on the type of packages you choose and the quantity you order. Remember that you will also have additional costs for the packaging customization. All these factors influence your profit margins. Entrepreneurs need to adjust their pricing to ensure the same or better profit than before!

Redesign the packaging: Sustainable packaging is more flexible regarding customization. You now have the freedom to redesign your packages completely! The question is - how will you do that? It is essential to understand what your target audience expects. You can directly ask for feedback/opinions before making the main decisions. Also, you can analyze your competitors and find inspiration there.

Collaborate with packaging suppliers: Collaborating with sustainable packaging suppliers is the easiest way to handle all the changes. Arka is a FSC-certified packaging manufacturer that can offer various packaging options. We can offer different designs and packages made only of eco-friendly materials. You can contact us for more information!

How to Choose The Best Sustainable Packaging

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with choices when switching to sustainable packaging. Here are a few important things you should keep in mind.

1. Consider The Post-Purchase Experience

Using cardboard and paper saves you money, but you also need to consider your customer’s post-purchase experience to ensure they shop from you in the future.

For example, 75% of U.S. consumers prefer paper packaging to plastic packaging. Using paper when possible for packaging your products helps you meet customer expectations and make a good impression.

2. Ensure The Packaging is Durable and Compact

Using sustainable materials can be a little tricky when shipping items like electronics. If the packaging isn’t durable, your customer will receive a damaged product. You’ll lose reputation and incur reverse logistics costs and lose potential referral sales that could’ve come from the upset customer.

You have quite a few biodegradable options to consider depending on the weight and size of the product. Mushrooms and molded pulp are often used for packaging electronic items. For example, Dell uses cushions made from mushrooms as an alternative to petroleum-based foams for select shipments.

You also want packages to be compact. Large boxes cost more to ship, cause customers inconvenience and result in wasted packaging material.

You might need to stuff a package with protecting material when shipping fragile objects in a cardboard box. However, it’s important to hit that sweet spot between stuffing and overstuffing to keep the package compact.

3. Choose Manufacturers with Sustainable Practices

Do your due diligence before choosing your manufacturer. Learn about the manufacturer’s production processes and practices. In addition to using sustainable materials, the manufacturer you do business with should ideally have a strategy in place to minimize their ecological and carbon footprint.

Sustainable Product Packaging in Various Industries

It really doesn’t matter in which industry you are involved. All industries are suitable for sustainable packaging solutions. However, the change of this type is most expected to be made by businesses in:

Food and beverage industry: kraft paper containers, custom food boxes,

Personal care and cosmetics: papers and cardboard, custom cosmetic boxes,

biobrush sustainable packaging
Credits: EIGA

Electronics: paper tape, biodegradable packing peanuts, custom mailer boxes, molded pulp,

Ecommerce and shipping: paper and cardboard, custom shipping boxes, mushroom packages, etc.

Final Thoughts

Every entrepreneur must know all the highlighted information about sustainable packaging. Some amazing benefits are available for every business owner. Yet, they will be available only if entrepreneurs switch to a new packaging form correctly. Apply all the tips we provided, and contact Arka if you get stuck during the process. We will be more than happy to help!

FAQs on Sustainable Packaging

Is sustainable packaging more expensive than traditional packaging?

The answer is - it depends. Some sustainable packages are more expensive compared to traditional ones. However, that’s not always the case. Ordering larger quantities of sustainable packages can significantly reduce the price.

Are sustainable packaging materials as durable as traditional materials?

Yes, and certain pieces of research confirm they are even more durable. It is essential to match the packaging with the right type of product. Some are suitable only for smaller items, while others can be used for heavy goods.

What are some future trends in sustainable packaging?

Reusable and recyclable packages will certainly remain a trend in the future. We believe smart sustainable packages will also become a number one option. They will be much more practical compared to the packages we have today, thanks to the involvement of advanced technology.

Can sustainable packaging help reduce food waste?

Yes, sustainable packaging can reduce food waste. For instance, studies confirm that only switching to sustainable packaging designs can divert more than 1 ton of food waste annually.

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