Posted on February 14, 2024 by Dennis Salazar

DTC Packaging – Can Sustainability Go Too Far?

You have probably tried unscrewing the cap on a new plastic bottle of water but found the bottle so soft and pliable that water spurts out the open top. Or a plastic bottle that is poorly molded and over filled so the bottom is no longer flat and cannot stand upright without tipping over. I really try to avoid plastic water bottles but for the sake of hydration, there are times when it is a convenient option.

As a packaging professional and a green minded consumer, I believe some plastic bottles have crossed a very thin line. In an effort to make their packaging more economical and earth friendly, some water selling companies have inadvertently also made their bottles less consumer friendly.

Does our packaging cross that line?

My water bottle frustrations made me question whether or not the packaging that we design and provide our customers with is still effective as well as eco-friendly? Are our customers able to store, pack and ship the e-commerce packing we make for them, and more importantly, is their customers’ experience as positive as possible. Unfortunately, consumer surveys don’t always tell us what we want to know. Consumers may tell us that they don’t like the plastic bottle, but rarely do they tell us why. Are they just another plastic bottle hater or have they discovered that effective/sustainable line has been crossed?

This is why we rely on thousands of applications we have successfully completed as well as extensive in-house review and testing to help avoid creating any disappointing mailer boxes or envelopes. Here are three questions we ask ourselves to avoid a design failure:

Is the size of our packaging, correct?

Right sizing is one of those design terms that has been around forever. The driver in most cases is economics because the smaller the box, the less material is used, and the lower the cost. The fact is that the benefits of making any package as small as possible go well beyond sustainability and/or economic benefits.

Designing a box for a tight fit eliminates product movement and, in some cases, can eliminate product to product damage. In addition, “minimal sizing” and reducing packaging square inches, is surely an inbound as well as an out bound cost savings.

Is our packaging end user friendly?           

We always have to keep in mind that we have two very different customers for every packaging we manufacture. First of course are the people who trust us by giving us an order for the packaging they need to fill DTC orders. As mentioned above, our customer is concerned about shipping cost inbound to their packaging facility and outbound, to their customers. They want packaging that can be formed, packed and sealed quickly, and easily, by any skill level at their packaging location.

Our second customer (our customer’s customer) is the end user, the recipient who receives our packaging. Here the challenge is to avoid shipping damage but also making the product easily accessible. In other words, a box that is easy to open and does not require power tools for product extraction. Easy but not too easy is always the goal.

Have we made the packaging as green as possible?

Not every account and customer we have is focused on sustainability, but gratefully, most are. Our standard response when asked if we make eco-friendly packaging, is “how green do you want it to be”? Everyone’s definition is a little different and the cost, as well as the requirements, vary a great deal. What makes us unique among e-commerce packaging companies is our ability to understand sustainability, and design to the desired goal. If you want or need FSC certified board, we got it. If you want 100% recycled content or curb recyclability, we can satisfy that requirement as well.

Our exclusive approach is creating minimalist designs and delivering the smallest boxes possible without sacrificing security or esthetics. We have also redesigned boxes that others have produced, to help our customers save on both packaging materials and shipping costs.

We rarely turn down a project and we are always willing to have a conversation. We want to help our customers understand ALL of their options before making what can be a sizable investment in the new or redesigned packaging. Call us at 630-551-1700 or contact us through this web site. The experience of our people is measured in decades and the quality of our work is reflected by the people we have worked with. Check out a few examples on our gallery.


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