Many consumers are concerned not only with the environmental impact of the products they purchase, but also the packages that contain them. Even if certain goods are eminently eco-friendly, the fact that they are sold in packaging that is non-recyclable and responsible for massive pollution and waste during manufacturing sort of cancels out any good that might otherwise be done by choosing such products over their competitors. Okay, that’s not entirely true since other products may be doubly offensive to the environment because of both their products and their packaging. But when it comes to securing the greenest products on the market you want to know that the companies you choose to support with your consumer dollars are looking at the impact of every portion of their operation and trying to find ways to make the entire process more sustainable. So here are just a couple of things you’ll want to look for when it comes to the packaging for the retail products you buy each day.
The best possible packaging is no package at all, but this is more easily accomplished with some products than it is with others. For example, you can probably purchase clothing in a retail store and walk out with it in your own reusable bags rather than taking the non-recyclable plastic ones they offer their customers. But you can’t exactly go to the grocery store and get meats or cereals without any type of packaging. You can, of course, go to the meat counter to get your cuts wrapped in butcher paper instead of situated on Styrofoam boards wrapped with plastic. And some alternative stores have grains and cereals in giant bins so that you can pour or scoop them into your own bags. But since you have to accept that there will be retail products that simply come with packaging whether you want them to or not, it behooves you to learn a little bit about how to spot less harmful options.
The first thing you can look for is the recycled symbol (the green triangle, green arrows, or the recycling symbol with a number in the middle) found on some packaging. These stamps can be used to indicate either that something is made with recycled materials or that it is itself recyclable. Both make the packaging more eco-friendly than competitive products that do not have such logos. Unfortunately, this symbol cannot tell you the percentage of recycled materials used, although you may see packaging that bears guarantees like 100% PCW (post-consumer waste) or 100% recycled paperboard, both of which tell you exactly how much of the packaging comes from recycled products.
Of course, in lieu of these indicators you will simply have to rely on manufacturer guarantees that recycled materials have been used in the creation of packaging, and many websites now list this information (especially if the products being sold are also green). You may want to be wary here since you have no real way to verify the veracity of such claims, but you can hedge your bets by opting for packaging that is also recyclable, such as paper or cardboard.