Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging is growing in popularity as manufacturers world wide develop new and innovative materials and “plastic alternatives” that are less impactful on our environment. But designing sustainable packaging goes far beyond just the materials. In this article I outline key considerations that can be made when re-thinking your packaging to design a more sustainable solution.

I focus on beauty packaging in particular as in my opinion bathroom and cosmetic packaging poses the biggest area for improvement. So, if you want to know how to make your beauty product packaging more eco-friendly, Let’s talk!


Considerations for eco-friendly packaging

Eco Minerals- Refill sifter jars

Refill service

Refilleries are growing in popularity for items such as cleaning products, bulk foods and beauty products. Companies such as Perfect Potion now offer in store refills for some of their products. This is a great way to encourage customers to re-use existing packaging and avoid it being tossed into the landfill. There are also some great examples of cosmetic companies such as Eco Minerals, Lush and Ecco Bella offering refills for compacts, eyeshadows, lipsticks and oils.

Aura-Therapy by Nancy J Design

Cut out the extra waste

When it comes to eco-packaging, size matters. Every unnecessary extra millimetre is wasted materials and resources. Cut out the extra waste by sizing your packaging correctly to fit the product it holds. Also, consider reducing or removing the extra layers and/or embellishments if they do not serve a functional purpose.

Ethique – 100% compostable packaging

Alternative materials

Due to the nature of bathroom and cosmetic products plastic is often the material of choice for packaging as it offers a waterproof case and is durable. However, many companies are already taking action and successfully launching products with more innovative materials. Some examples include Ethique, who package all their bar soaps and shampoos bars in cardboard packaging with zero use of plastic laminates and tape which means it is 100% compostable. Bar None is a change maker packaging shampoo in aluminium containers. Eco Store uses sugarcane to produce ‘plastic like’ shampoo and soap bottles. And last but certainly not least Lush Cosmetics has launched cork pots which are 100% natural, reusable and biodegradable.

Lush Cosmetics – Reusable cork pots

Give it a second life

As mentioned above return and reuse programs are a great way to ensure packaging can be repurposed or recycled appropriately ie. Lush has a great pot return program where they ensure used packaging is recycled and repurposed correctly. However, if this model does not work for your business maybe consider designing your packaging to function as a second use at consumer level and avoid it being thrown into the bin. ie. maybe the soap box can be repurposed into a soap dish. Get creative, I’m sure there are lots of ideas that will surface once you start thinking outside of the box. (pun intended)

Designed by Freepik

Consider the full life cycle

And this brings me to my last point, which is actually the first consideration that should be made when it comes to designing eco-friendly packaging. Consider the entire life cycle of your packaging including manufacturing, raw materials, consumption and end of life. Can you move manufacturing closer to home? What happens to this package when it is no longer needed? Consider more sustainable end of life systems like composting, recycling, reusing and returning is a smart way to shift the cycle to a more circular system.


Do you want more eco focused design resources? Follow me on instagram @nancyjdesign

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