What Can I do?
Use less, both packaging and stuff in general.
Prioritize no packaging/ naked and reusable packaging solutions.
Require real solutions and reject false ones.
Embrace innovation and scaling up solutions.
Be a leader in business, government, your community, etc.
“We need to solve the packaging crisis. With continued leadership from businesses, lawmakers, advocates, and individuals, we can. And with approaches we have already and ones that are emerging, we can do it sustainably and equitably. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not we will.”
In this section you’ll find information and resources to guide companies, lawmakers and advocates, and individuals on sustainable packaging.
If you’re with a company, know your packaging and its impacts and push for the most sustainable options possible. Avoid false or questionable solutions. We can see from As You Sow’s scorecard that many major brands have a long way to go on packaging sustainability.
Key Questions and Other Resources for Companies:
For your products and services:
Is reusable or no packaging an option?
- Are you using reusable or no packaging options for your product now?
- If you are using reusable packaging, was it made sustainably, with high recycled content and non-toxic production, and is it easily recyclable at the end of life?
- If you are not using reusable or no packaging options, are others in your industry providing similar products with reusable or no packaging options that you could adopt?
- If they are not an option now, are there innovations you can help drive or markets you can help create to make the reusable and no packaging options work for your product?
If reusable or no packaging are not options at this time:
- Is the packaging you are using right-sized (no larger than it needs to be to prevent damage)?
- Was the packaging made sustainably, certified by a system advocates recommend (such as Forest Stewardship Council-US for US wood and paper products), responsibly-sourced, and non-toxic materials, or responsibly-sourced, non-toxic materials that would otherwise go to waste, e.g. waste agricultural residues
- Does the packaging contain a high-percentage of recycled content?
- Can most consumers and businesses easily recycle the package in recycling systems that are commonly available where the packaging will be discarded? Does the packaging have clear recycling instructions, such as the How2Recycle label?
- If the product is not recyclable, is it compostable in systems that are commonly available where the packaging will be discarded? Is the packaging certified as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute?
- If the answer is no to any of these questions, are others in your industry providing similar products in packaging options that are more sustainable that you could adopt?
- If they are not an option now, are there innovations you can help drive or markets you can help create to make more sustainable options work for your product?
For help learning about sustainable packaging solutions and for support transitioning to sustainable packaging choices:
Connect with and learn more from the Contributors to this site:
- Pack4Good campaign from Canopy
- Reusable shipping packaging resources from Use Reusables
- Resources about reuse from UPSTREAM
- 7 Tips for Developing Reusable Packaging
- 5 Easy Steps to Reduce Plastic and Benefit Your Business from the Product Stewardship Institute
Reducing waste, impacts, and toxins from food packaging and service ware in cafes, restaurants, and supermarkets:
- The Smart Supermarket: How retailers can innovate beyond single-use plastics and packaging from Greenpeace
- Restaurant toolkit from the Product Stewardship Institute
- Foodware cost calculator from the Product Stewardship Institute to project the money your business can save by reducing disposable plastics use.
- UPSTREAM maintains a directory of businesses that are bringing reusables into food and consumer products delivery. From reusable cups for take out coffee, to refillable grocery and cleaning products systems, to reusables for events and stadiums, exciting new reusable packaging innovations are being launched every week.
- Purchasing Recommendations for Sustainable Food Service Ware from the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council and the Center for Environmental Health
- PFAS-Free Paper Food Packaging Alternatives: A Resource for Restaurants and Retailers
- Guide for quick service restaurants on avoiding PFAS
- New guidance documents for grocery stores and quick-service restaurants and steps they can take to ensure packaging is PFAS-free, which points out the best choice is reusable materials
For businesses and organizations wanting to find responsible sources of paper and to calculate and compare the environmental impact of their paper choices:
- The Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Calculator lets you calculate the environmental impacts of your paper use and paper saving, and compare the impacts of different papers and varying amounts of recycled content
- Canopy’s Eco-Paper Database is the directory of North America’s Best Environmental Papers
- Learn about certification through the Forest Stewardship Council
For businesses wanting to work with recycled plastic:
Lawmakers & Advocates
If you’re a lawmaker or an advocate, be aware of the impacts of all types of packaging. Drive scaling up of and innovation in sustainable packaging. Avoid false solutions.
Key Questions and Other Resources for Lawmakers and Advocates:
Do the solutions you are advancing.
- Factor in the impacts of many kinds of packaging?
- Drive toward real solutions and oppose false ones?
- Prioritize increasing reusable and naked/no packaging options over other kinds of packaging?
- Rule out incineration, landfilling, and release to the environment as acceptable ends of life for packaging?
- Encourage sustainability innovation by companies and communities?
- Build on existing, successful examples of Extended Producer Responsibility and sustainable packaging?
- Connect with and learn more from the Contributors to this site?
- From Single Use to Systems Change: A Call to Action from Canopy, Break Free From Plastic, and Dogwood Alliance
- UPSTREAM’s Reuse Learning Hub
- UPSTREAM’s Policy Tracking and Model Policies
- UPSTREAM’S Model Single-use Foodware And Litter Reduction Ordinance
- The American Sustainable Business Council’s Principles to Inform Sustainable Packaging Recommendations
- Product Stewardship Institute’s Important principles of EPR
- Product Stewardship Institute’s Plastic Policies Library (Sample Policies to Prevent Plastic Pollution)
- Product Stewardship Institute’s Packaging and Paper Products Policy Guidelines for state and local officials
- Product Stewardship Institute’s EPR for Packaging Toolkit, which includes an in-depth EPR for packaging and paper products report
If you’re an individual trying to make a dent in this crisis through being thoughtful in your consumer purchases, that’s an important start. Now, consider how you can scale up your impact. The solution to the packaging crisis needs to be solved collectively. What companies do you shop with, who are your elected leaders that could take action on the issue, what advocacy groups could you work with?
- Switch to reusable and naked/no packaging options in products you buy regularly and/or buy different products/ from different companies that offer reusable and naked/no packaging?
- See how many major brands are doing on packaging sustainability? See Green America’s scorecard here.
- Contact the customer service department for the places you shop with this microsite and other resources to advocate for change when sustainable packaging options are not available for products? Example: Share this microsite and then call on your store to restart use of reusables and refillables during the pandemic with this sample letter that makes the case for why they should from Beyond Plastics. And, if you have an iphone, you can try the new Remark app, which makes it easy to give companies feedback on their sustainability. App users often get a response from the companies.
- Take your advocacy to social media on the company’s pages to point out how their packaging needs to change? Examples: Reward and encourage reusables at restaurants and stores with this restaurant action kit from Greenpeace and with this supermarkets action toolkit from Greenpeace. Push back on social media when you see companies saying they have achieved Circularity, as this is about how our whole system works not what one company does.
- Do online research on some of the companies you buy from regularly and look for information in the press and in advocacy groups’ websites on how the companies are doing on packaging and waste, environmental justice, and sustainability, for example, and get involved in the advocacy campaigns to make them better?
- Contact your elected officials to see if they are working on packaging waste reduction or Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging and how you can get involved?
- Sign up for more updates and resources from the Contributors to this site?
- Share this microsite with advocates, companies, elected officials, and other local leaders and ask them what steps they will take next?
Join us in the movement
for sustainable packaging!
We are grateful to the following organizations for their contribution to the creation of this resource
and for their ongoing work to make packaging more sustainable around the world.
Click To Learn More And Get Involved: