Current Trends in Sustainable Packaging Design

Posted on October 11, 2016 by Ash Bennett

There’s a growing movement, in hospitality and other industries, towards ‘green’ businesses—those that focus on sustainability and sustainable packaging. Many cafés and restaurants now define themselves not only by how their food tastes but also by where it’s sourced from, how it’s packaged, and the ethics behind its production.

To reflect this, aesthetic is also changing. Many cafés now favour earthy colour schemes of green and brown, with indoor plants and recycled-paper menus and placemats. However, you don’t need a permaculture garden or a vegan menu to show commitment to the environment. Even if you don’t define your business as sustainable, you can run it using eco-friendly alternatives. For example, you can update your waste management and packaging.

not so sustainable packaging - Recycling - cans

Plenty of new or revamped design trends are coming out of sustainable packaging, and ideas will continue to grow. But what are some of the top trends at the moment?

Trends in Material

Sustainability aims to reduce landfill and maximise resources. Its designs therefore look at the materials that make up packaging—not just where they come from, but also how they can be put back or reused.

Plastics and foam, which contain chemicals and don’t degrade easily, are the villains of sustainability. More and more, people want biodegradable alternatives. Think wood, paperboard, plant fibers—materials that are compostable, ethically sourced, recycled, renewable. Alternative plastics are being created from natural resources such as sugarcane, cornstarch, and even seaweed.

Different materials have different effects on the environment, so it’s worth researching the options. When you look into recyclable packaging, check which codes your local council can support (since they may not be able to recycle certain types of plastic). Think about the practicalities of which materials you use, and also how they can add character to your café. Your packaging contributes to the feel of your business; you may find that paper straws and unbleached serviettes, for example, suit your look.

Trends in Creativity

There’s plenty of scope for creativity in sustainable design, in both look and structure. Recent ideas include packaging that is edible, or chills food, or unfolds into a bowl, or decomposes at the same rate as the food it contains. Some innovations may seem like gimmicks or fads, but they demonstrate the creative thinking central to sustainability.

Eco-friendly design tends to look streamlined, minimal. It advertises its aversion to landfill and clutter by paring back to essentials. Sustainability’s look is often a mix of nostalgic and futuristic, of nature and technology. But eco-friendly packaging aims to be practical as well as stylish—easy to use and easy to dispose of. Creative innovations are a way of making sustainability appeal to consumers, who often find its potential inconvenience off-putting.

What Do These Trends in Sustainable Packaging Mean For Your Business?

So these are some of the current trends—but how do they affect you?

You don’t need to overhaul your business to keep up with design trends or packaging changes. Indeed, many of the more experimental trends won’t be readily available for a while. But there are plenty of ways to ‘go green’ through tweaks in how you run your café or restaurant.

Source locally and ethically. Look for recycled and renewable packaging. Choose the compostable options: unbleached serviettes, paper bags and straws, plant-fiber plates and bowls. Choose cardboard instead of plastic. Where possible, recycle your rubbish. None of these decisions will inconvenience your customers or make your life harder, but they will impact your business and the environment in a positive way.

Sustainable packaging - vegetables

Sustainable packaging is still in its early stages. Through trial and error, designers and suppliers are figuring out the most effective approaches. This means that you have flexible options when deciding what works for your café or restaurant.

Instead of being intimidated by sustainability, focus on its possibilities. Keep watch online for the latest design trends, and support innovation where you can.

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