Packaging 101: The Complete Guide

Britt Martin, Arka's Partnerships lead, blends e-commerce expertise with sustainability advocacy, nurturing startups as a Founder in Residence at NYU.

Creative Eco Friendly Packaging Ideas

With creative sustainable packaging, there are plenty of eco friendly packaging ideas and designs to choose from, so you can select the ones that are suitable for your products. Here are 20 sustainable packaging design ideas to get inspired.

Eco-Friendly Bioplastics Packaging

Eco-friendly bioplastics are very similar to plastics, but unlike real plastics, they are made with natural biomass sources such as milk, wheat, and meat protein. It’s a good alternative to plastic because it doesn’t contribute to greenhouse gas emissions or accumulate plastic waste, typically taking 20 to 500 years to decompose. This type of packaging is suitable for food wraps for products such as meat and fish.

Eco-Friendly Bioplastics Packaging


Compostable Packaging

Compostable packaging is a type of packaging that decomposes in a way that is kinder to the environment. Compostable packaging is made from plant-based and natural materials, so when it breaks down, it generates nutrients that enrich the soil. It takes three to six months to dissolve and can be added to a compost heap. Compost packaging comes in different forms, such as cardboard boxes, paper, and wood pallets.

compostable packaging

Credits: Mildlee

Recycled Cardboard Boxes and Paper Packaging

Recycled cardboard boxes and paper packaging are made from packaging that can be reused repeatedly or recycled. Recyclable cardboard boxes and paper packaging can be remade into boxes and paper to be reused, which adds to the circular economy. This is particularly handy for businesses that specialize in storage and removal services.

recycles cardboard boxes for packaging


At Arka, we also offer top-notch sustainable custom boxes for any niche; whether you need custom cosmetic boxes or shoe boxes, we can help! Our high-quality packaging options enhance brand awareness and customer trust. You can also ensure your products are delivered safely by using our eco-friendly custom shipping boxes! Let’s create your perfect packaging today.

Minimalistic Eco Friendly Packaging Ideas

Minimalism has become an important topic over the years because some people desire to use less and avoid acquiring more stuff they don’t need. So considering creative minimalist packaging ideas will help your brand stand out.

Minimalist eco-friendly packaging ideas and designs significantly cut down on storage space and material costs, saving money and reducing waste going to landfills. Also, minimalist packaging designs are simple and showcase product and brand visibility in a way that catches the customer’s eye.

minimalist eco-friendly packaging

Credits: MURRE

Innovative Filling Materials

When sending out your products in sustainable packaging, adding filling materials that protect the product from damage and enhance the unwrapping experience makes sense.

However, this can be incredibly wasteful and take up too much space, so it’s important to use eco-friendly filling materials that protect the products without taking up too much space. Examples of innovative filling materials include packing chips from corn, wood wool, hemp fleece, wrapping paper from waste paper, recyclable paper, carton, shredded corrugated cardboard, and cardboard nets.

wrapping paper for packaging

Credits: Pixpine Mockups

Anti-Microbial Packaging

Anti-microbial packaging kills and prevents the growth of microorganisms. This type of packaging is commonly used for food products, like meat and fresh fruits and vegetables. This is because it helps to extend the shelf life and enhance the safety of perishable products - preventing food poisoning and reducing food waste.

arka sustainable packaging

Sustainable Labels and Inks

When designing your sustainable packaging, you must ensure that you’re using labels and inks that are recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable. These are normally made from eco-friendly materials that are safe and kinder to the environment compared to alternatives, which contain harmful chemicals damaging to the environment. Sustainable labels and inks are made from soy, algae, vegetable, water-based substances, and recyclable paper.

custom stickers and labels by Arka

Edible Packaging 

Did you know that some eco-friendly packaging design options are edible and safe to eat? By consuming edible packaging, you can eliminate waste from going to landfill. Edible packaging is made from natural, plant-based materials such as grains, seaweed, rice, and proteins and comes in the form of straws, coffee cups, spoons, cupcake wrappers, and candy wrappers.

Edible Packaging

Credits: Notpla

Biodegradable Packaging Ideas

Biodegradable packaging uses materials that gently return to the earth. These are crafted from gifts of nature like cornstarch, sugarcane, or bamboo, stepping in as greener alternatives to the usual plastics that don't break down. 

The idea is to create packaging that nature can easily absorb, leaving behind no harmful traces. Embracing this approach is more than a trend; it's a thoughtful step towards lessening our environmental impact, offering a kinder choice for everything from our daily food packaging to the boxes we use for shipping.

biodegradable packaging ideas 

Biodegradable Films and Wraps

Biodegradable films and wraps are commonly used for food and are sustainable alternatives to using plastic. They are safe to use on food (so there’s no risk of chemical cross-contamination), and they biodegrade quickly, reducing waste and carbon emissions. There are different types of biodegradable films and wraps:

• Green cell foam packaging: This is made from corn and is completely compostable.

 Biodegradable air pillows: These ‘pillows’ are compact and take up less space and storage. This biodegradable packaging option doesn’t use any plastic and is recyclable.

 Biodegradable packing peanuts: These are different from standard packaging peanuts. Biodegradable packing peanuts protect and store products; they decompose and are compostable.

 Cornstarch-based plastics: Cornstarch-based plastics look and feel like real plastics but are biodegradable and compostable. This cornstarch packaging type is made from plant-based materials.

 Plant-based films for wrapping products: Made from natural and plant-based materials, these are used for wrapping products such as food.

biodegradable wraps

Water-Soluble Packaging

Water-soluble packaging dissolves in hot water and is made from toxin-free, bio-based materials (such as polyvinyl alcohol) that are environmentally friendly. This type of packaging is suitable for specific items, like laundry capsules.

water soluble packaging

Credits: Avocado_studio

Eco-Friendly Tapes and Adhesives

Instead of using standard custom tapes and adhesives, you can use eco-friendly ones. These custom tapes are made from recycled and bio-based materials and can be used to seal recyclable cardboard and boxes for storage.

custom tape

Plantable Packaging

Plantable packaging is a green and zero-waste option that can be placed into the soil to grow plants, herbs, flowers, and vegetables! This is designed with recycled paper embedded with seeds so you can plant it and watch it grow. 

Plantable packaging comes available in the form of lightweight and weightless items, such as small boxes, shredded box fillers, and product wraps and toppers. This recyclable packaging design idea is an excellent option that helps increase customer trust.

plantable packaging

Credits: Evoware

Sustainable Glass Packaging

Glass is reusable, recyclable, and refillable, which is great for circular packaging and economy - reducing waste and saving natural resources. In addition to this, many industries are committed to decarbonizing glass production by the year 2030.

sustainable glass packaging


Lightweighting is defined as the process where packaging materials are designed and produced to be lighter than their conventional counterparts while still providing the same level of performance. The purpose of this is to lower costs, decrease resource consumption, reduce carbon footprint, and decrease fuel use by transporting fewer materials.

Lightweighting packaging

Credits: Heinz

Upcycling for Creative Packaging

Upcycling is a fantastic way to reuse by-products, materials, and unwanted products and turn them into items of greater quality and artistic value. You can also upcycle items for creative packaging by reusing packaging and adding your own packaging ideas and designs.

cornstarch packaging

Credits: Nayana Gupta, Bizongo

Corrugated Packaging

Corrugated packaging is cardboard packaging that is thick and heavy and contains parallel ridges and grooves. It’s strong and durable, which is great for packaging and storing sensitive and perishable items to protect them from damage and expiration. They can be reused and recycled over and over again.

corrugated packaging

Credits: CURVD®

Smart Packaging

Smart packaging is intelligent packaging. It uses technology and enhanced functionalities to help the user and boost customer experience.

Smart packaging is sustainable and eco-friendly because it can be used to help expand the shelf-life of perishable items (such as foods, beauty products, and pharmaceutical products) and prevent waste.

smart packaging

Credits: Lesha Galkin

Mushroom Packaging

Mushroom-based packaging is created by using the natural binding strength of mycelium, which is the root structure of mushrooms. It’s a plant-based option that is kind to the planet, and lightweight. This compostable packaging option is breaking down without causing pollution or increased carbon emissions.

mushroom packaging

Credits:, Life Elements

Reusable Packaging Ideas

It’s important to select reusable packaging ideas that can be reused over and over again, thus reducing waste. Examples of reusable packaging ideas are corrugated packaging, mushroom packaging, recycled cardboard and paper, and recycled plastics.

reusable packaging


FSC-Certified Sustainable Packaging

Opt to use sustainable packaging that is FSC-Certified. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is a global non-profit organization that promotes responsible forest management. Its labeling guarantees that the product or material used in packaging has been responsibly and sustainably sourced.

Thanks to our material offerings, how we ship, the facilities we use and our eco-friendly and sustainability credentials, Arka is FSC-Certified. Our products are made with a combination of FSC virgin fiber and/or recycled materials with controlled virgin fiber.

5 Eco-friendly Packaging Solutions from Arka

Arka has recently added a wide variety of eco-friendly packaging products to the product catalog. Let's dive into the world of eco-packaging, and see its benefits for your brand.

FSC Certified Custom Mailer Box + Inserts

Arka is a FSC certified eco-friendly packaging company. This means that Arka ensures that all its packaging products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. Our products are made with a combination of FSC virgin fiber, and/or recycled materials with controlled virgin fiber. 

An FSC certified custom mailer boxes are usually the preferred packaging choice for Direct to Consumer eCommerce businesses as well as subscription box businesses. This mailer style box adds the wow factor to your unboxing experience. 

Arka’s Roll End Lock Front with Dust Flaps and Cherry Locks (RELF) 32 ECT mailer can be used in almost every facet and genre of consumer goods. From beauty, cosmetics, cannabis CBD, food and beverage, electronics, apparel, books, office supplies, to even home goods. 

There are no die cutters, print plates or other tooling used for orders below 2500 boxes utilizing our digital presses to optimize our eco-friendly packaging practices. 

Custom Inserts 

You can add an extra touch of elegance to your customer’s unboxing experience by using Arka’s custom inserts. Now what exactly is an insert? In the simplest definition, insert is an add-on that you place in your mailer box, that secures the product and also creates a drastically more impactful unboxing experience. 

For the most part, the primary function of insert is to act like a personal bodyguard for your product. It protects and supports your products from the production stage, all the way to the unboxing stage. 

Lastly, you can also add informational content to your inserts for promotion purposes. It offers a sense of authenticity and provides your customers with a product that is sent with utmost care, thus building brand loyalty in the longer run. 

Honeycomb Paper Mailer

Arka’s Honeycomb Paper Mailer is a great eco-friendly packaging option for your fragile products as honeycomb paper interior provides a layer of cushioning. 

These are made from recycled paper and FSC-certified honeycomb which is compostable and curbside recyclable. The recycled paperboard provides a rigid structure that is both durable and waterproof. It is a perfect alternative to plastic packaging, making your eco-conscious customers happy while also protecting the environment. 

100% Recycled Mailer

Arka's 100% recycled mailers are made using a combination of post-consumer (70%) & post-industrial recycled (30%) LDPE and as the name suggests, they're also fully recyclable themselves.

100% recyclable packaging, drastically reduces carbon dioxide emission, consumption of water and oil and also prevents deforestation. 

Compostable Bubble Mailer

Arka’s compostable bubble mailers are the perfect eco-friendly packaging solution if you are looking to ditch non-recyclable plastic and are especially useful if you have a product that needs to stay water-proofed. 

Final Thoughts

Sustainability is at the core of many consumers' values. For businesses, this means adopting eco-friendly practices and using reusable, sustainable packaging ideas and designs. There are many eco-friendly packaging designs to choose from, so pick the one that’s right for your products, boost your brand’s identity, and help save the planet.

FAQs on Sustainable Packaging Design Ideas

Here are some frequently asked questions on sustainable packaging design ideas.

What are the business benefits of eco-friendly packaging ideas?

Using eco-friendly packaging ideas for your business will enhance your brand’s identity, save on costs and increase consumer interest in your brand.

What are some innovative sustainable packaging ideas?

There are many innovative sustainable packaging ideas and recycling packaging design options that you can implement in your business. These include plantable packaging, edible packaging, bioplastics, cellulose packaging, anti-microbial packaging, and compostable and biodegradable packaging.

What are some common materials used in sustainable packaging?

Sustainable packaging is designed with natural, plant-based, recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable materials. Examples of sustainable materials include cornstarch, rice, seaweed, grains, mushroom, grains, proteins, and bioplastics.

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