11 Brands Committing to More Responsible Packaging
Cardboard boxes and plastic packaging piling up? These major home and food brands have made a pledge to more sustainable packaging.
With more and more shopping online, the cardboard and plastic are piling up. Online orders — especially amid the pandemic — have been a convenient and low-risk way for me to buy essentials for my family. However, I can’t help but notice the excessive amount of packaging I go through and the huge boxes I receive for tiny, single-item orders. Why does a pack of pens need extra plastic bubble wrap and a giant XL box? It’s unnecessary and wasteful, especially when you consider the environmental impact that comes with those cardboard boxes and plastic mailers. In 2019, Amazon emitted more than 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, and that’s just one company.
As we go into the holiday shopping season, I’m trying to be more mindful of packaging and do what I can to reduce my own carbon footprint. I’ve started to combine my Amazon orders and opt for no-rush shipping in an effort to help reduce fuel use by delivery trucks and planes. Prime members have a free option at checkout to combine multiple orders into one box and also select a specific day of the week to receive streamlined orders. In addition to consolidating boxes, the materials of those mailers matter. Several big brands are cutting out harmful, excessive materials altogether and making the switch to more eco-friendly, sustainable packaging, from Celestial Seasonings phasing out staples and strings in their tea bags to prAna spearheading a “Responsible Packaging Movement” for the apparel industry. We’ve rounded up major brands in home, food and fashion committed to better, smarter packaging below. Take a look at what these companies are doing and feel better about your impact on the planet when you tap that order button.
One of the biggest culprits of single-use plastic is likely under your kitchen sink. Plastic soap and cleaner bottles might not seem like a lot, but they add up. By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. That’s a startling reality, but companies like Grove Collaborative are hoping to curb that by going completely plastic-free. If you’re not familiar with Grove, it’s a great place to shop for cleaning products, from all-purpose cleaner to foaming hand soap. Everything is vetted for harmful chemicals so you can feel good about using the products in your home. Today, the company is plastic-neutral, which means it offsets its plastic footprint, but by 2025, Grove will be plastic-free. The brand already has a great reusable soap system with apothecary-style glass dispensers and spray bottles, but now the soap and cleaner refills come in recyclable aluminum and glass bottles.
While vetting chemicals in a spray bottle might seem obvious, there are other items in your kitchen that could be emitting harmful amounts of carbon dioxide: your cookware. Plastic, nylon and other cheap synthetic pans praised for their non-stick abilities are often loaded with toxic chemicals and dyes. Caraway is changing that with a line of pots and pans featuring a mineral-based ceramic coating that releases up to 60 percent less carbon dioxide. In addition to health and safety, the brand was also built on sustainability. The company uses recycled cardboard with zero plastic bags for packaging, low impact print dyes and 100-percent, biodegradable cork trivets.
We love sending bouquets as gifts, and we definitely have our favorites for fast shipping and beautiful arrangements. But oftentimes floral deliveries come with tons of plastic packaging. This is typically done to protect petals in transit, but there does seem to be an imbalance of trash for one pretty bouquet. If you’re tired of cutting through plastic zip ties and bundles of plastic sleeves, try Teleflora. The online flower service is a bit different because they partner with local florists around the country. Your flowers don’t travel as far and you’re supporting small businesses in your community. What sets Teleflora apart from other floral deliveries is that there’s very little packaging — if any — because the arrangement arrives at your door already assembled in a vase. And the vases are so unique, from Delft-inspired teacups to mercury glass centerpieces.
Amazon has a (literal) weight of responsibility for its carbon emissions, and it's trying to cut down and lighten its load with fewer boxes. How many times have you ordered something from Amazon that already comes in a manufacturer’s box only to be wrapped and shipped in another box? It’s comical how many boxes within boxes I receive. To curb this, Amazon partnered with Procter and Gamble to create eco boxes for a common item with single-use plastic: laundry detergent. P&G designed a box that both contains and ships the detergent with no extra packaging or plastic bottles. It’s like boxed wine for soap! And the carton even features little fold-out feet to elevate the container for pouring. The line currently features several Tide options as well as Gain.
Amazon is also addressing another pain point with packaging: toys. If you’ve ever tried to cut into a new playset, you know. Toy packaging is excessive and infuriating. So, Amazon partnered with Hasbro to create “frustration-free” packaging. These toys and educational sets come without the box-in-a-box black hole or plastic zip tie hell. These items are also perfect for holiday shopping as your kiddos won’t have to wait to play with unwrapped presents.
My happy place is a good book and a hot cup of tea, but I never realized that this cozy ritual was producing waste that couldn’t be recycled or broken down over time. Individually wrapped tea bags can’t be recycled like other paper wrappings because they’re coated with plastic, and tea bags are problematic, too, with strings and metal staples. Celestial Seasonings is combatting this waste with pillow-style bags. By eliminating strings, staples and wrappers, the company prevents 3.5 million pounds of waste from landfills a year. And as for the boxes of tea, those are made from 100-percent recycled materials and can be recycled over and over again.
PVH, the parent company to Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and other brands, is committed to better sustainable packaging. The company has incorporated more non-plastic packaging materials and PVH’s overall packaging is now 74 percent recyclable. This year, PVH expects to reduce plastic use by 68 tons. In addition to apparel, Calvin Klein has a new collection of cotton bedding for fall that looks super modern and could easily be mistaken for West Elm. We love the cream, striped duvet and shams.
The company’s tagline says it all: Clothing for positive change. There’s a commitment to quality at prAna, from organic cotton to recycled wool to responsible down fill. Yes, the jackets, yoga pants and the like are pricey, but you get what you pay for. And what you pay for is ethically sourced, fair-trade clothing that lasts for years and years. The company takes packaging just as seriously. In the last decade, prAna has eliminated more than 17 million poly bags from the supply chain. Now, the brand is pledging to completely eliminate plastic from its consumer packaging by 2021 with its Responsible Packaging Movement, and it’s pushing other apparel brands in the industry to do the same.
Fast fashion has a lot of problems, one of which is the packaging. Online brand ASOS is combating that by pledging to ditch excessive plastic wrapping and reduce plastic by 50 percent on its in-house brand which makes up nearly half of the company. The brand’s shipping boxes are already composed of 100-percent recycled materials, and their iconic black and white plastic mailers are made of 65-percent recycled materials, though ASOS is transitioning to 90 percent this year. If you’re not familiar with ASOS, your teenagers definitely are. It’s a great place to shop for holiday gifts and stocking stuffers for high school and college kids.
While recyclable boxes and cartons are commonplace these days, oftentimes you can’t recycle interior food packaging — even if it’s made from paper or aluminum — because it comes into contact with food. Food waste on materials automatically means the item will be rejected when sorted at a recycling processing plant. That’s why all those grease-stained pizza boxes have to go in the trash. But Alter Eco has cut out the problem entirely with the world’s first compostable, non-GMO, non-toxic candy wrappers for its chocolate truffles. So, instead of throwing away these wrappers, just toss them in your compost bin!
Adventure apparel brand Toad&Co already has great recycled cardboard boxes and paper mailers (which can be used in compost and garden mulch!) but the company is pushing forward with even more sustainable packaging: a reusable mailer. Like reusable shopping bags, these mailers can be used over and over again. They’re even made from recycled billboard vinyl.