5 elements to consider when using sustainable materials for products and packaging 

This article is written for everyone who works with products, materials, and packaging. How can you make more sustainable choices? And what is important to know to make the most impact?

Element 1: Refuse, rethink, and reduce your material consumption. 

What can you leave out? You will have more impact if you refuse to use materials, even though they might be sustainable. Can you for example stop with single-use plastics? Or offer items per piece instead of a multi-pack? Also, rethink what you use and try to reduce it. Have you considered a completely different product like a soap bar instead of liquid soap? Or can you reduce the thickness, weight, or add-ons of a product?

Of course, it’s good to use sustainable, certified materials. But don’t overlook this first important step.

Element 2: Go for the circular option 

We all know that we must switch from a linear economy to a circular one. We can only do this if we start making circular choices. Go for recycled materials instead of virgin ones. And make sure your material and product are durable, repairable, reusable, and/or recyclable. No that’s not easy, transitions take time. But do take circularity into account when you have the opportunity.

Element 3: Try to avoid exhaustible and animal-based resources

Using materials that come from exhaustible sources, damages the planet in a way we can’t restore. And we can’t oversee the long-term impact. So if you have a choice, go for renewable resources. Preferably plant-based. As animal-based resources have a significant impact on the environment and animal welfare. 

Element 4: Certification ís better

Yes indeed, fraud does happen, also with certifications. And yes, certificates are issued by companies making a profit from them. And yes, a standard or audit is not watertight. But still, certification is better. Why? Because it currently gives the best guarantees you can get by independent third parties. Companies must improve their processes for people and/or the environment to meet a certification standard. If you used to buy conventional, uncertified materials, you will have a positive impact in your supply chain when buying certified, sustainable materials instead.

Element 5: Don’t forget the packaging

Packaging has a relatively big impact as it most often has a shorter lifecycle than the product it packs. So use the first four elements when choosing your packaging.

What is the material you use the most and how can you improve this from a sustainability perspective?