Recently a budding designer asked me about sustainable and luxurious packaging options, and it made me think about this important yet often overlooked part of the product offering. Packaging is an $11 billion elephant in the room, according to the Sustainable Packaging Association, and it is essential to communicating the brand’s sustainability commitment. Although brown boxes ‘with a past’ have by now become ubiquitous, there is still some work to be done by brands that want to channel eco-luxury in their packaging.
Who can deny the allure of a beautifully wrapped gift? Besides, exquisite packaging has long been considered part and parcel of a luxury product. However, a simple recycled cardboard box is hardly going to cut it when it comes to wrapping up a precious jewel or timepiece. Or is it? A carrier bag with the brand’s coveted logo is sometimes used beyond its maiden journey from the store (this, however, is not advised by GS). And of course our cosmetics—especially creams and liquids—need proper packaging, too.
Here are some examples of how to get wrapped up in green-and-glam style:
The most obvious choice for gift-wrapping is paper. While one can use recycling (e.g. old newspapers) or upcycling (e.g. hand-painted grocery bags) techniques, sometimes you may wish to purchase a brand-new eco-luxurious gift wrapping paper. One such gift paper that caught my eye is by Luxe Paperie, and is made from 100% post-consumer fibre and printed with vegetable inks.
“The Tiffany Blue Box is possibly the most desired and recognisable luxury packaging in the world,” Liz Walker, a freelance luxury marketing consultant, told in an interview with Raconteur.
And lo and behold, Tiffany & Co. says it is now making their iconic boxes green: “We work to ensure that our Blue Boxes and bags are sustainable by sourcing paper from responsibly managed forests and recycled paper. We seek to advance the use of sustainably sourced paper and wood-fiber materials used as part of our business, in order to reduce our environmental footprint.”
Genie in the Bottle
When it comes to cosmetics, bottles are the most common receptacles. They can be either made of glass (in most cases, a readily recyclable material) or plastics. Currently, bio-plastics represent just one per cent of some 300 million tonnes of plastic produced annually. However, not all bio-plastics are green by definition. To be truly sustainable, they need to be fully bio-based (i.e. made from something other than fossil fuels) and biodegradable (ideally, compostable).
Aveda, with its holistic philosophy borrowed from Ayurveda, has long been a frontrunner in sustainability in the beauty industry. It already uses 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials whenever possible, and has started to combine PCR with bio-plastic made primarily from sugarcane. What’s more, the company will take back any packaging that cannot be accepted by your local recycling centre. Simply genius.
The ultimate eco-wrapping is something that can be used after it had served its initial purpose — such as the Japanese furoshiki fabric wrap known to be in use for centuries and has recently seen a revival as the country’s ‘original eco-bag’.
These beautiful printed or hand-painted cloth squares can be considered a gift in their own right, and justly so. Unique and versatile, they make for a rather more creative wrapping compared to the run-of-the-mill plastic or cardboard variety. And they certainly offer an easy way to gift-wrap a bottle of fine wine or sake! My favourite is the Hanging Animal Furoshiki from Spoon & Tamago Shop.
Although there are occasions when a gift wrap is a must, the most planet-friendly choice is to use no or little packaging whenever possible. With this, it’s a wrap!