Being eco-friendly has become a buzzword for both companies and consumers. It indicates a person or a company is making changes to try and have less of a negative impact on the world around us. One popular place for companies to make changes is in their packaging — but what is eco-friendly packaging, and why is it so important?
What Is Eco-Friendly Packaging?
To understand what eco-friendly packaging is, let’s break down the word. “Eco” means earth, and we’re pretty sure everyone is familiar with the word “friendly.” Eco-friendly items are designed to provide us with the creature comforts that we’re familiar with, without being harmful to the environment.
Traditionally, companies have put packaging together without much thought to where it would go once it got to the consumer. Plastic, styrofoam and other items might protect their products, but they’re not terribly eco-friendly. Today, the shift toward an eco-friendlier world means businesses are looking for alternatives to protect their products without relying on traditional materials.
Why Is Eco-Friendly Packaging So Important?
According to the EPA, we throw away 77.9 tons of packaging every year — that’s nearly 30% of the total waste the country generates annually. With so much packaging ending up in landfills every year, sustainable and biodegradable options need to be more available. Even if we don’t manage to recycle everything, things like plant-based materials don’t need to be recycled. Since they are made from organic matter, they decompose like any other organic waste once they reach the landfill. You can even take them and put them in your compost pile rather than adding them to the waste your home naturally generates.
The problem with plastic, which tends to make up the majority of packaging materials, is that it never actually decomposes. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that eventually become what are known as microplastics.
When you opt to purchase from companies that use eco-friendly packaging, you aren’t generating as much household waste. This helps you reduce your overall carbon footprint — and helps to ensure garbage doesn’t end up in other parts of the environment, like rivers or the ocean. You’re also making a statement that the status quo is not okay. When companies that use eco-friendly packaging start gaining a larger customer following, it can encourage other companies to follow suit with their operations.
Looking Toward the Future
In addition to the immediate impacts and benefits that eco-friendly packaging provides, we also have to look toward how it will affect the future. In everything we do, we’re leaving a legacy for the generations that will follow us. We have to decide soon whether we want that legacy to be one of sustainability or one that will look a lot like the planet at the beginning of the Disney film “Wall-E.”
Switching to eco-friendly packaging might cost a little bit more now, but so too did all new technologies when they started to emerge. The difference is that paying a little extra now means that we can protect the world later and that, by itself, is worth any expense. Besides, while the technology is new, it’s pretty cool to say that you’re drinking a soda from a bottle that’s made from plants.
Emily is a sustainability and eco-friendly living blogger.