Density Matters: Sustainable Package Design

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More and more companies are building their brand image around values of sustainability, eco-friendliness, and respect for the planet. Others have their corporate hearts elsewhere, and there’s certainly no problem with having other priorities. But whether your brand has sustainability and green living at its core or not, it just makes good business sense to consider one fundamental aspect of package design: density. Read more…

Sustainable packaging design 101: packing density

To the average person outside the industry, package density sounds like it has something to do with how heavy the packaging materials are, so they might mistakenly assume that sustainable package design means reducing density, thinking this means using less packing materials (thinner cardboard, smaller plastic caps, etc.). The thought process itself isn’t entirely wrong, but there is a misunderstanding here of what the definition of packing density actually is.

Packing density has more to do with the product inside the package than the packaging itself. If you imagine a 3 foot x 3 foot x 3 foot crate that will be used to ship various units of your packaged product, would you rather be able to fit 10 packages inside the crate, or 100 packages?

cylinder packaging wasted space
Look at all that wasted space!

Clearly, putting 100 packages into that crate makes a better use of your resources. This is what we mean by package density: how many packages fit within a given volume. Increasing this density can make practically any product more sustainable and more profitable. Designing a package that fits snugly around the product with little wasted space is the most common way to increase package density, but the shape of the package may also play a role. For example, irregularly shaped packages that don’t fit together will necessarily have gaps between the units, while square or rectangular packages can lay flush against one another to make maximum use of the space.

hexagon packaging density

How increasing package density helps your business

When packaging density is increased, the number of shipping containers used can be dramatically reduced, and this can lead to six- or seven-figure savings over the course of a year depending on the size of the business. Your company is suddenly more eco-friendly because it takes less fossil fuel to move your product, and this resonates with customers, especially younger generations who are very motivated by a socially and environmentally responsible brand image. If a millennial feels like they are doing their part or making an impact by purchasing your product versus that of your competitor, that’s a win for you and for the planet.

Look at it this way: how annoying is it when you open the box for any product and find that the product only occupies half of the space inside the package?

packaging density wasted space

You don’t have to package everything in 100% post-consumer recycled, biodegradable materials printed in plant-based, non-toxic inks to take a step towards more sustainable packaging. Simply optimizing your package design for density will take you far in decreasing your carbon footprint and increasing your bottom line. And that’s good news for any business.