Package perfect

Monday, 23 July 2012

Package perfectIn many ways the world we live in seems to have become more concerned with outward appearances than with substance, and the elaborate packaging in which most of the products on our store shelves is presented is one of the most obvious indications of this trend.

Packaging is of course necessary and functional – it protects products and allows for longer shelf-life, thereby safeguarding our health and raising our standard of living. It adds enormously to convenience, a priority in our fast-paced lives. And we, as consumers, require that it also be appealing, eye-catching, recognisable and attractive. In the beauty industry particularly, packaging can make or break a product.

Traditional plastic (cheap to produce and highly effective in protecting most products) is manufactured from non-renewable resources like oil, coal and natural gas – a definite no-no in ecological terms. It also seems to last forever, which is another major problem for our precious threatened environment. Packaging – most especially plastic packaging – makes up nearly a third of all non-industrial solid waste in most developed countries.

Clearly, caring about our planet means caring about what’s on the outside as well as what’s on the inside of the products we buy. The simplest and most environmentally-friendly option is to choose goods which come with minimal packaging. Those fancy boxes with pretty ribbons and jewelled decorations may catch our eyes and call to us from store shelves, but it’s worth stopping to consider how much of that elaborate excess will be going straight into the trash. Major cosmetic companies are beginning to reduce the weight and slim the shape of their bottles, tubes and jars, retaining the same volume of product content, while pharmaceutical manufacturers are working towards eradicating outer cartons and separate leaflets by displaying necessary information directly on bottles and jars. As eco-savvy consumers, we need to support such initiatives.

Another simple and fairly obvious way to reduce ‘packaging footprint’ is to buy products like shampoo, bath oil and body lotions in bulk and decant them into smaller re-usable containers. Instead of buying endless plastic bottles of water, rather carry a refillable glass or metal bottle – the healthier as well as the more environmentally-friendly option. And as your grandmother might have mentioned, you can even wash and re-use plastic bags and aluminium foil! In fact, with a little creative thinking, many packaging materials can be put to new use rather than just becoming garbage.

Which brings us to the question of recycling. Technically, many packaging materials are recyclable, but it is of course up to us to see that they are in fact recycled in the correct way. We need to get into the habit of organising our garbage into separate bins for glass, plastic, aluminium and paper and then taking these to designated areas for collection.

PET SymbolBioplastic symbolWhen choosing products to buy, remember that glass is the most eco-friendly form of packaging. It is endlessly recyclable and, compared to plastic, paper or metal, is the least toxic and the least damaging to the environment, as well as being highly effective in keeping contents dry and air-free. PET plastic, identified by the PETE 1 symbol and used to package food, drinks and other products, is recyclable, though it is manufactured using petroleum and other non-renewable resources and is therefore not sustainable practice over the long-term. A recent development is bioplastic, created using renewable resources like corn, tapioca, potatoes, sugar and algae, and totally biodegradable, compostable and recyclable. Identified by the BioPlastic symbol it is at least a step in the right direction.

Recycle SymbolTo be environmentally responsible, we need to pay attention to product labels and know how to read and interpret them. The inclusion of the now-familiar recycling symbol on a label indicates either that the packaging is recyclable or that recycled material has been used in the manufacture of product and/ or packaging. But the symbol alone can be misleading; you should be a little suspicious, use your common sense, and read the whole label carefully. Buzz-words like ‘organic‘, ‘eco-friendly’, or ‘sustainable’ may not actually mean very much – packaging should be using renewable, biodegradable or compostable materials and if so, the label will probably specifically tell you. You can also visit a company’s website to check their commitment to environmental concerns. One brand whose eco-credentials are beyond question is The Body Shop, whose organic cruelty-free products are minimally packaged in sustainably recycled plastic containers.

We all want products which will help us look gorgeous, but increasingly we want those products also to be good for our bodies and good for the environment. Being conscious and mindful in the choices we make – including packaging – is one small step each of us can make towards caring for our planet.

Image: Shutterstock.com

Written by

Fiona Rom, freelance writer and editor, believes that beauty and wellness have much to do with your state of mind, and that a sense of humour is your best defence against almost any challenge the world throws at you. Fiona on Google

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  1. Firefly

    Lovely!!! Once again, let’s all spread the green love xxx

    6 years ago •

  1. Chicara

    I could definitely care more and worry more about all the things I do to help the planet. I also love that The Body Shop is eco-consious

    6 years ago •

  1. shell bell

    Our planet belongs to the future… We need to make sure it gets there

    6 years ago •

  1. Guccigirl

    Thank you! wish more people would pay attention to issues like packaging.

    6 years ago •

  1. Botes

    One small change every day and we cn all contribute to a greener lifestyle, very informative article

    6 years ago •

  1. M.Ross

    We only have one earth! I know I personally need to make more of an effort! It’s my responsibility!

    6 years ago •

  1. Zu

    The Body Shop is one if not THE PIONEER when ot comes to this matter. It just makes me feel good whenever i avail their products making me feel that i contribute to the awareness of ” eco friendly” thing.

    6 years ago •

  1. Mpbutterfly

    Fantastic and informative article!

    6 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Stewart

    I try to recycle but it’s hard work! And very disheartening when you try and do your best and see someone else not making the effort.

    6 years ago •

  1. joubert

    That’s the way to go, just a pity not everyone is doing the right things to save our planet.

    6 years ago •

  1. Alexander1

    Will look into doing these changes from now on :)

    6 years ago •

  1. Crystal

    learnt a lot from this article – thank you

    6 years ago •

  1. Lady-T

    We really need to save our environment for the next generation, more of such articles need to be shared all at schools, workplace, entertainment areas and mostly at home

    6 years ago •

  1. Maddy

    quite informative artice. Its time everyone became conscious of what we use and where it ends up.

    6 years ago •

  1. Sam

    That you for an informative article. We all need to take responsibility in reducing our carbon footprint.

    6 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    Very formative atticle, lets take care of our planet.

    6 years ago •

  1. Humphreys

    If we all take accountability for saving the environment we can make a difference. Each one does their part and we can contribute largely to save our planet

    6 years ago •

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