“Sustainable.” It’s a word that you hear all the time. On social media. On the news. It’s become a buzzword that has transformed how we go about our everyday lives in a multitude of ways. But what does it actually mean? And, how does it relate to you and your skincare business?

Studies have shown consumers care now more than ever about the effects their decisions and behaviors have on our planet. Waste, pollution, climate change, water scarcity, deforestation, global warming… just a few to name off an ever-growing list of environmental concerns that plague our world today. And the public, including consumers, is taking notice.

Consumers aren’t only focused on their own choices – they’re also becoming more aware of everything around them. This includes everything from the brands they purchase to the companies they choose to do business with. And, also, how products in their households are made, and their consumption of those products. Packaging, specifically, has had a significant impact on our environment. Packaging alone accounts for 40% of all plastic usage, with only 14% being properly recycled. As pollution of our oceans, lands, and air continues to escalate, consumers are looking for products, companies, and business owners they can trust to make positive efforts towards saving our planet. This includes sustainable packaging in our niche of the skincare and beauty industry.

So, what exactly is it to be environmentally sustainable?

Environmental sustainability: A state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future.

Essentially, sustainability is an effort to live life or do business in a way that is friendly to the natural environmental and is sustainable for the planet as a whole. The overall goal being to protect the earth’s ecological balance.

2017 alone presented a huge trend of eco-friendly and sustainable packaging becoming a priority in the beauty marketing segment. Big brands such as Garnier, Dior, Lush, Tata Harper and more have all made conscious, deliberate efforts to incorporate eco-responsible packaging. International studies by Unilever have found that over one-third of consumers prefer to purchase from sustainable brands, or brands they perceive as making an effort to do environmental good.

With the world of “green living” being so expansive and encompassing, it can be intimidating as a small business owner to know where to start. Will it cost more? Will I be able to find sustainable packaging suppliers that fit my needs? Will I be able to make effective changes? Where do I start?

One of the first areas we can evaluate is the one part of our business that has been proven to be one of the highest contributors to global pollution: packaging. With so much information available today, it can be cumbersome to dig through. Below, we’ll go over some popular “eco-friendly” and sustainable options that you can consider utilizing in your own skincare businesses. I’ve also provided a quick reference rating guide that rates each option in terms of their overall “greenness,” price, and availability.

Here are my top 4 sustainable packaging options for herbal skincare:

1. Bamboo

These frosted glass jars with bamboo lids are available on Amazon.

Little known to many, bamboo is actually classified as a grass. Due to this distinction, the plant has fast-growing qualities (it’s one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, in fact!) that earn it a reputation as a favorable option for renewable or sustainable packaging materials. Bamboo also has a naturally high strength-to-weight ratio, providing the material with a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete. In short, bamboo is a reliable, strong, and green option for packaging. Bamboo is also biodegradable and compostable – making it not only strong, but also a fantastic option for being environmentally conscious.

Bamboo has become a material of choice in the cosmetic industry, with a wealth of packaging options increasing each year. Online retailers provide attractive options such as canisters, jars, tubes, bottles, and more for filling and selling product. Just be aware that many of them still have plastic inside, so look for recycled or otherwise sustainable plastic, or glass insides to your bamboo bottles and jars.

  • Green Rating – ★★★
  • Price Rating –
  • Availability Rating –

1 = lowest score; 3 = highest score

2. Recycled Cardboard

Cardboard lip balm tubes of many colors are available on Amazon.

Most all modern garbage companies, for both households and businesses, have evolved to include a curbside cardboard pick-up due to the high-commodity usage of the material. Cardboard, along with paper, can be recycled to be redeveloped into a number of different products, so even if you can’t find recycled cardboard for all of your sustainable packaging needs, regular cardboard packaging is still an eco-friendly option. Over half of cardboard recycled will be used to make new cardboard boxes, with the rest being downcycled into thinner paperboard material. Utilizing recycled cardboard in your product packaging is not only helping the environment by incorporating a recycled material into your business practices – but also serves as a positive contribution post-sale, as recycled cardboard is biodegradable, compostable, and/or recyclable on the consumer-end.

Creative uses of recycled cardboard have expanded with the increase of needs in the “green living” space. Adding to the list of regularly found recycled products, such as shipping boxes, businesses can now find jars, tubes, and a multitude of shaped containers that are now available in recycled cardboard material for cosmetic products.

  • Green Rating – ★★
  • Price Rating – ★★★
  • Availability Rating – ★★★

1 = lowest score; 3 = highest score

3. Glass

Cobalt blue glass bottles are an easily accessible and attractive sustainable packaging option for your herbal skincare products.

Glass is universally one of the most eco-friendly product options available. It holds the unique quality of being “infinitely recyclable” – meaning it can be recycled over and over and over again, without any negative secondhand effects; such as a decrease in material quality or strength. Glass is also non-porous and impermeable, meaning there is no risk of an interaction between the packaging and the material the glass holds. Glass also has a zero rate of chemical reactions, ensuring that whatever is kept within glass packaging have no negative interactions with the material that would affect taste, aroma, or flavor. This is why glass is the number one option for food and beverage packaging. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ranked glass with a status of “GRAS” – or, generally recognized as safe – which is the highest of FDA standards.

Generally, due to the weight and fragile nature of the material, glass can be considered one of the more difficult and expensive options (especially Infinity or Miron glass), in terms of both product cost and shipping costs. However, one way to combat against this (and a common strategy in the beauty industry as a whole) is to incorporate “refill” programs when utilizing glass packaging. More details about this can be found below in our “Think Outside the Box” section.

  • Green Rating – ★★★
  • Price Rating –
  • Availability Rating – ★★

1 = lowest score; 3 = highest score

4. Recycled plastics

The majority of recyclable plastic bottles still end up in landfills because they are not recycled properly or at all.

Recent Earth Day Network studies have discovered that since plastic was developed in the 1950’s, over 8.3 billion tons of the material has been produced. Unfortunately, 91% of this material is not recycled – even though recycling plastic saves twice as much energy than disposing of it does.

Understandably, there will be times when you may find plastic is unavoidable. Even when we have the best of intentions, sometimes budget, availability, or other outstanding factors can get in the way. However, know that the market is now growing rapidly with recycled plastic options to help control the rapid spread of plastic pollution. While you may not be able to avoid utilizing the material – purchasing plastic containers that are certified as eco-friendly or 100% recycled can still assist in making a difference! These are not as easily accessible in small quantities, but I predict that will change as awareness and demand continues to increase.

  • Green Rating –
  • Price Rating – ★★★
  • Availability Rating –

1 = lowest score; 3 = highest score

Thinking outside the box

Sustainability doesn’t only encompass the materials we utilize for packaging – there are also a ton of other creative ways to accomplish a more sustainable brand. Even the smallest considerations can make a huge impact and contribute towards positive change in the greater world around us.

Here are a few other ways to consider making your products more “green”:

  • Product design – Even details that may seem minor can have a large impact on the overall sustainability and “green footprint.” There may be creative ways for you to change the size of your packaging, for example. Or, changing the shape of your product to achieve more efficient shipping.
  • Selecting “green” partners – Do your best to work with companies or manufacturers who utilize materials from renewable or sustainably-managed forest sources, or are known to make an effort to incorporate eco-friendly practices.
  • Recycled paper – Packaging is only one part of the many pieces that are involved in your business. You can also utilize recycled materials in other areas – such as the paper you use to print invoices, packing slips, and more!
  • Minimize additional elements – As small as they may seem, any additional paper included with your product (leaflets, corrugated information cards, cellophane wrapping) all product excess waste on the consumer-end. Re-evaluate your current product materials to determine if there is anyway to condense or combine to decrease your carbon footprint.
  • Refill programs – Refill programs, most commonly coupled with glass packaging, have become very popular in the beauty industry. Brands such as Blackstones in NYC, M.A.C., fragrance brand Thierry Mugler, LUSH, Kiehl’s, and more. Consumers are encouraged to bring in their empty bottles to either recycle or refill. This not only reduces waste – but can also save your costs on additional packaging for repeat customers!

Is sustainable packaging something you think about for your products?

What solutions have you found either for your herbal skincare business, or for your at-home needs? Please share in the comments below!

Need more suggestions for where to purchase sustainable packaging for your herbal skincare products?

I offer a comprehensive list of preferred suppliers for both raw ingredients and packaging supplies to my Create Your Skincare students. Our next semester of Create Your Skincare Professional Edition starts soon!

Click HERE to learn more and schedule your complimentary Skincare Business Consultation today.

*Plastics photo credit J. MacPherson via Flickr

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