Are Bioplastics the solution?

Are you curious about bioplastic but unsure if they are actually a good solution for your eco-packaging?

You’ve probably heard the news that plastic is bad for our health and the planet and we need to find more eco-friendly ways to package our products.

Clever scientist guys and gals have come up with a few versions of eco plastics called bio-plastic. Sounds great hey?

But, what exactly is it?

I’ve asked this question myself and put my head down to explore bioplastics in more detail to come up with an easy to understand explanation along with considerations to what happens with these materials at their “end of life stage” when we no longer need them? Can they be recycled? Can they go in your home compost?

Let’s take a closer look.

But first, what are bioplastics?

Bioplastics differ from traditional plastics in that they are bio-based, biodegradable or both. This is a popular definition used by European Bioplastics but biodegradable and bio-based are not the same thing. Which means not all bioplastics are the same and to make matters more confusing some plastics termed ‘bioplastics’ contain ZERO bio-based material. Shocking (and super confusing) I know!

Not all bioplastics are the same

Before we continue, here are a few terms you should know:

  • Bio-based: Made either fully or partly from organic material ie. corn starch, sugarcane
  • Biodegradable: Breaks down completely within weeks into water and carbon dioxide
  • Compostable: Will biodegrade fully in a compost site leaving no toxic residue
  • Degradable: Breaks down into smaller micro-plastics

The term Bioplastic can be used for plastics made fully or partly from organic material (ideally food waste) such as corn starch and sugarcane that are used to make an organic resin material called PLA (poly lactic acid). These bioplastics look and feel like traditional plastic but the benefits for our health and environment far outweigh petroleum based plastics as they are non-toxic and decompose into water and carbon dioxide within weeks under the right composting conditions (ideally an industrial composting facility).

Okay wait. So if the term ‘Bioplastic’ can be used for plastics that are fully made of organic material OR partly made of organic material what is the difference?

1. Fully made of organic material, means they are 100% bio-based. These bioplastics will biodegrade fully under the right circumstances (ideally in an industrial compost facility). These plastics can not be recycled along side traditional plastics as they are consider contaminants in most recycling facilities (speak to your local council for more details on this).

2. Partly made of organic material, means they are mixed content bioplastic made partly from bio-based material and partly from petroleum based material. This means they are not biodegradable in a compost facility. However, depending on the percentage of bio-based material these usually can be recycled in a regular recycling facility because they are petroleum based.

3. Biodegradable Plastics, next we have the sneaky biodegradable or degradable plastics which sound eco-friendly but are far from it. These plastics are petroleum based plastic that breaks down quickly due to the chemical makeup (ask a scientist more on this, I’m just a graphic designer) So these types of plastics are neither biodegradable or bio-based. Rather they degrade down into smaller pieces of plastic called micro plastics which I guess depending on the rate at which they break down can be termed “biodegradable” in some places? I’m not sure but they are not bioplastics in my opinion and should not be termed as such because it’s confusing.

Here’s a little graphic that might make it more clear.


In my opinion starch based bioplastics are the winner!

Starch based plastics are made from 100% organic material and are the most planet friendly option because they:

  • Look and function similar to traditional plastics
  • Biodegrade fully within weeks into water and carbon dioxide under proper conditions
  • Remove the risk of toxic chemicals leaching into your products making them ideal for food and skincare packaging
  • Reduce our dependence on petroleum based plastics

However, even with all this greatness there is still a lot of work to be done to make bioplastics a complete circular solution to our plastic waste problem. Retailers and local councils need to advocate for an infrastructure where collection and disposal of bio-based plastics is both effective and efficient.

As technology advances and the demand for bioplastics grows I think it will become a more cost effective solution and replace traditional plastic packaging for good. Hallelujah to that!

What do you think? I would love to know.


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

Australia Bushfire Emergency – How You can Help

I’m not sure another opinion is needed in this disastrous time so I am going to keep this brief and just share links for charities accepting cash donations.
At this time they are saying cash is best as they can allocated it as needed. Donate what you can, every little bit helps. My heart goes out to all those directly affected by the fires.

Red Cross Disaster Relief & Recovery Fund

St. Vincent De Paul Society, Bushfire Appeal

Salvation Army, Disaster Appeal

NSW Rural Fire Service

Victoria County Fire Authority

Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund




There are so many more but these were listed as the top local charities accepting donations at them moment. Stay safe everyone.

Plantable Gifts

I’m dreaming of a Green Christmas. In light of the global movement towards less waste more nourishment what better gift to give this Christmas than plantable gifts! A waste free gift that keep on giving. Perfect for anyone in your life really because, who doesn’t like plants and the satisfaction of watching a bud turn into a bloom?

Here are five of my favourite Australian companies who offer beautifully designed plantable gift ideas with sustainable business efforts to match. Many of them also offer custom corporate gifting ideas!

1. Sow ‘n Sow

First on my list is Sow ‘n Sow. Based here in Queensland Australia these guys have the most gorgeous selection of eco-friendly gifts which creatively combine greeting cards with a packet of seeds to cleverly form ‘the gift of seeds’

I’ve bought a few of these myself for gifts and stocking stuffers.
The packaging is designed with bright botanical illustrations printed on recycled kraft paper and tags. They also offer custom design services for corporate promotions and special events. CHECK EM’ OUT!!

2. Bean Me Up

Advertised as ‘the gift that keeps growing” Bean Me Up magic beans are laser engraved beans and once they are planted, grow into a leafy green plant with the laser engraved words or images still in tact! How cool is that?!

They also have Bean Kits which come complete with tools, eco pot, soil, beans and all you need to get growing.
I’ve bought a bunch of these for teachers gifts this year so the kids can plant them in the school garden and watch them grow together.

3. Sara’s Garden

Sara’s Garden is an Australian owned family business committed to bringing you eco-friendly living gifts. They offer a selection of unique gifts and favours such as herb kits, potted plants, terrariums, loose leaf teas and gift packs. All of their plants are hand-potted and their products are a combination of organic, recycled and recyclable materials sourced from Australian companies.
They specialise in corporate gifting, weddings and events so are a perfect options this Christmas if you are still looking for clients gifts or corporate partner gifts!


LVLY is a business built with the purpose of making people’s day. If you are going for cute, playful and a little bit cheeky, then these guys have you covered. They are an online flower and gifting service that does things a bit differently. “You won’t find red roses, ugly arrangements or highly flammable teddy bears here.”
You can choose your playful message, customise your bouquet and have it delivered the same day. Check out their LVLY flower jars, a bouquet of beautiful posies in a mason jar with a range of different quotes to choose from to suit your recipient. They also offer custom printed flower jars – personalised with a company logo, name or special message. How perfect would those be for corporate gifting, workshops or your next event!

5. Throw Some Seeds

Last but definitely not least, Throw Some Seeds. This is your one stop shop for green gifting. An online marketplace of beautiful, functional and ethically aligned products made by local Australian makers.
They have it all your eco friendly gifts from seeds, gardening gifts to natural body products. “Inspired by our love of nature, we began Throw Some Seeds, a little eco friendly store with a conscience.”

I’m currently loving these guys for their cute seed kits and Lil’Bit Bee Seed Bombs. “Whether it’s seeds of change, seeds of inspiration, or seeds for growing food, we hope you’ll always have reason to throw some seeds.”

40 Life Lessons

This week I turn 40! urgh. Seriously, how did that happen? It feels like just yesterday I was 20 and carefree backpacking around SE Asia full of curiosity, big dreams and a desire to save the planet.

Well, I’ve learned a few things in my 40 years on earth. I’m still curious and have a desire to save the world but my curiosity at the moment is more along the lines of googling “what do owl legs look like?” (google it, so hilarious) and where can I buy metal straws. Sad but true.

Here are my top life lessons thus far:

  1. I’ve learned to trust my gut instincts. There is something inherently smart about our senses.
  2. I’ve learned that hugs feel good and can solve most arguments.
  3. I’ve learned to take care of my skin. Wear sunscreen, moisturize and don’t pick pimples. That is my one beauty tip if I was to have one. Well three actually but .. skin care, do it.
  4. I’ve learned that good friends are hard to find. Hang on tight when you find them.
  5. Being a parent is both the hardest and the most rewarding job in the world. It’s a daily mind game!
  6. I’ve learned that sleep deprivation (of a newborn) is no joke. It’s complete torture.
  7. I’ve learned to trust my body. It is an amazing machine. Listen to the signs. Feed it, water it, move it and rest it.
  8. I’ve learned that old wounds take considerable effort to heal.
  9. .. which brings me to #9, Forgive and let go.
  10. I’ve learned that feelings are fluid. They come and go. They do not define you.
  11. I’ve learned that life is good, then it’s great than it sucks, then it’s good again. Ride the waves.
  12. I’ve learned to smile at strangers. (I inherently squint even in the dullest sunlight and this makes the corners of my mouth turn up and strangers think I’m smiling at them. They smile back. It’s funny.)
  13. I’ve learned to never judge. You don’t know what others are dealing with.
  14. I’ve learned that education does not equal success.
  15. I’ve learned to say sorry and that it sucks to go to bed angry.
  16. I’ve learned a simple picnic in the park equals a perfect day.
  17. I’ve learned that family is priority. Hands down.
  18. I’ve learned to challenge my fears and that I’m capable of so much more than I thought.
  19. I’ve learned that true friends will stand the test of time and distance.
  20. I’ve learned that doing craft with small children is unbelievably stressful.
  21. I’ve learned to take breaks.
  22. I’ve learned how to make a dang good play doh with Jello powder! (curious? message me for the recipe!)
  23. I’ve learned that you can’t hard boil eggs in the microwave. Those babies will blow the F’ up and stink up your kitchen.
  24. I’ve learned that emotional self care is a must. Without it I crumble.
  25. I’ve learned comparison is the thief of creativity.
  26. I’ve learned to never stop wanting to learn.
  27. I’ve learned to speak up for what I believe in.
  28. I’ve learned that gifts don’t buy love. Hug and play with your children. Listen and be interested in them that’s all they really want.
  29. I’ve learned that dogs can sense feelings. My pup (10 years young now) cuddles by my side when I’m sad and runs away when I’m angry.
  30. I’ve learned that laughter make everything better. I need to do this more. A good belly laugh feels amazing.
  31. I’ve learned that the grass is not always greener.
  32. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to trust it will all work out.
  33. I’ve learned to find peace in my own skin.
  34. Going back to the comparison thing. Comparison is a creativity killer. This keeps coming back to me lately. I’ve learned that worrying about Instagram “likes” and the addiction to attention this platform creates is a real mind-mucker-upper and total creativity killer. From now on I’m refocusing my energy on honest true creativity and connection.
  35. I’ve learned that I’m not as patient as I thought. Two kids under 4 have worn me very thin in the patience department. V.E.R.Y thin!
  36. I’ve learned that I swear a lot more than I thought. Maybe as a result of #35?
  37. I’ve learned that I have a tendency to talk very mean to myself yet would never say these things to my kids or friends. Positive self talk is a work in progress.
  38. I’ve learned that I love sleep. Like I LOVE it soooo much!!
  39. I’ve learned that laundry will never be finished. It’s a never ending battle.
  40. I’ve learned that life is short. We don’t get out of this alive. So try to make it count. This can be hard in the day to day and often hits home when something significant happens in our life. But seriously it’s so short in the grand scheme of things. As Oprah once said, “the only moment you have for sure is right now.” Man, I love that woman! x

If you have made it this far, thank you for reading my 40 lessons. I hope this resonate with you and bring some sense of clarity to your day as they did to mine. Turning 40 has been a very reflective time forcing me to look back at the 40 years past and hope that there are 40 ahead. Getting older really does force you to look at what kind of an impact you want to make in this world with the unknown time that you have.

Sustainable Events

What is the last event, trade show, sales conference, seminar, street fair or music concert you attended? Think about the number of people who attended. Think about the waste that was generated. Eeek! You can only imagine!

As you already know, waste reduction is one of my favourite things to talk about these days. So when I came across the article in ABC News about Ekka last week and the “240 tonnes of waste produced from the 10-day event”, I knew I had to write my next blog post about waste-free events.

Imagine this; you attend a large expo or music concert where there is ZERO single use plastic packaging, the food vendors serve meals on compostable plates and with bamboo cutlery. Stallholders hand out quality, reusable promotional items that you actually will keep and there is not an overflowing garbage bins to be seen, only compost and recycling stations. This is the dream of a zero-waste event and it is feasible.

Event coordinators, marketing managers, venue managers and council officers can advocate for low waste events by implementing policies that encourage sustainable practices by stallholders and attendees at their events.

Here are five things you can do to ensure your next event is a more sustainable one.

1. Clear Communication

So you’ve decided to implement policies for a low waste event. Excellent, but stallholders may be confused about your policies. To gain commitment plan ahead and send out a pre-event info pack educating all stallholders and sponsors about your low waste event policies and ideas. This can be sent as an email .pdf document, a series of email newsletters or as an ebook.

2. Eco Packaging

Packaging is typically the most common type of waste at events but there are many ways to reduce packaging waste. For example; food vendors can use sauce pumps, biodegradable plates, cutlery and serviettes. Mandate a zero tolerance to single use plastic straws, packaging and water bottles. This is actually more cost effective for food vendors as it costs less to provide less cutlery and packaging.

3. Clear Signage

Clear and eye catching signage is essential to ensure compliance of recycling and composting. Ensure you plan the number of bins and location appropriately and always have the bins as stations not stand alone bins. It is also wise to have a waste manager to monitor bin usage and empty or coordinate extra bins if required.

4. Promotional Items & Show Bags

Stallholders and exhibitors hand out promotional items with the goal of getting their brand in front of as many eyes as possible. Often these are gimmicky, plastic items that go straight in the bin or sit in a desk drawer. With the growing concern and awareness around single use plastic there is a huge customer demand for businesses to adopt more sustainable options. By giving customers eco-friendly promotional items you are sending an important message that you care about the planet and stand out as a symbol of social and environmental awareness.

According to a survey by Nielsen, “81% of global consumers say it’s extremely or very important for companies to implement programs to improve environment.”

Add to that, “38% said they would pay higher than average prices for products made with sustainable materials.”

Custom printed, reusable items are an effective way to get your brand logo seen on a regular basis which is an excellent marketing opportunity for businesses who care about the environment. Curious about what eco-friendly promotional items you can offer? Download my top picks list of waste free promotional items (and contact me if you need help designing them. wink wink.)

Download my Top Picks for
Waste-Free Promotional Items

5. Review & Rave

After your event don’t forget to review what worked and what needs improvement so you can make changes for the next event. Take note of the achievements in waste reduction and rave to your stallholders and sponsors about the impact their efforts had. The positive encouragment will surely trickle down to business and lifestyle changes.

Sustainability is not just for the “eco-sector” or big businesses with money to invest. Developing a sustainability policy is something EVERY. SINGLE. BUSINESS large and small should adopt. It’s both economically and environmentally wise and a good marketing opportunity for businesses to stand out as forward thinking.

Take Action In August

This past month my family and I took part in the Plastic Free July Challenge, a global movement to reduce plastic waste. This challenge has inspired millions of people all over the world to #choosetorefuse by making small changes in their home, offices, communities and schools and collectively it is having a HUGE impact on reducing plastic waste.

According to, Plastic Free July participants contribute to a total saving of 490 million kg of plastic waste each year.

In my household we are far from perfect and have a long way to go before we can be a “zero waste” home but we made some significant changes this month creating serious momentum to reduce plastic in our home and daily lives.


  • Switched from bottled soaps to bar soaps
  • Eliminated cling wrap, replaced with bees wax cloth
  • Switched to compostable dog poop bags and bin liners (Rufus & Coco now avail. at Woolies!! YAY!)
  • We are buying milk in bottles and returning bottles to be reused. SUPER YAY! (Barambah Organics)
  • Clean Energy. With the installation of additional solar panels our house (and thus my studio) is now 100% solar powered!! SUPER DUPER YAY!

This challenge has not only helped us reduce our waste, it has made me a more aware consumer. Even though I am quite knowledgable about environmental issues there are so many sneaky plastics out there … hello tea bags. Yup did you know some tea bags have plastic in them? Crazy huh? Knowledge is power.

Plastic Free July has come to an end but it doesn’t mean we have to stop here. I will continue to look for ways to reduce our waste in my home and business and educate myself and my children on the impact it has on the earth.

I challenge you to Take Action in August and keep the movement going. Here are 5 things you can do right now to make your office more sustainable!

  1. Refuse single use plastics. Forks, spoons, coffee cups, bags, straws, food storage containers, take-out food packaging. Instead invest in good quality reusable products.
  2. Dispose of e-waste correctly. Batteries, electronics and old appliances do not belong in the regular garbage. Find an appropriate e-waste recycler to dispose of these correctly.
  3. Reduce Energy. Turn off appliances and lights when not in use. Install energy efficient appliances. Use green energy if possible.
  4. Reduce paper waste. Before you print consider if it can be reviewed on screen or filed electronically. If necessary to print, print double sided and black and white.
  5. Recycle but more importantly reduce. Recycle as much as possible but more importantly reduce your consumption and waste.

You will be surprised that making these changes can cost a bit more in the outset but in the long run actually saves you money and is better for the environment too. WIN-WIN. Show me what you are doing for Take Action August. Post a photo of your positive changes to Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #TakeActionInAugust and tag me @nancyjdesign.

A Designers Role in Consumerism

“We can’t consume our way to a more sustainable world.” – Jennifer Nini –

Welcome to my first ever blog post. WHOOP WHOOP! This is where I will talk about all things sustainability and design, showcase some of my recent projects and offer ideas on ways businesses can do better, choose smarter and design wiser.

I want to kick it all off by talking about the often overlooked role Graphic Designers play in consumerism and consumption. It’s no secret that we live in a consumerist world and often purchase based on wants not needs. Trends are constantly changing and advertising, billboards and magazines bombard us with messages to make us want more and be “better”.

Now, if you are thinking whoa hold up now.. this is all a bit too heavy for a Monday morning… Well, keep reading the story does get brighter.

A Graphic Designer contributes to consumerism by designing eye catching packaging, emotive branding and compelling advertising to help brands sell their products and messages.

A designer friend of mine once said. “I saw something I created rolling down the road and it made me realise, I create beautiful garbage.” YIKES! As a designer myself the reality of this sat heavy on me. It left me contemplating, what kind of designer did I want to be? What brands and companies did I want to align myself with and what messages did I want to put out into the world? 

“I cannot do everything, but I can do something.”

– Edward Everett Hale –

As a Graphic Designer I believe we have a unique opportunity to use our problem solving skills to offer better ways to package and sell products and can use our design abilities to send smarter messages, creating change in how we consume and interact in this consumerist world.

So this is where I begin my journey as a Sustainable Graphic Designer. Follow me here on my blog and get my latest posts sent straight to your inbox.