Is your sustainability plan missing a piece of the puzzle?

Sustainable design is here to stay, especially regarding primary and secondary product packaging. Brands are feeling pressure from consumers, retailers, and regional regulations to push the limits when adopting more planet-friendly business decisions.

California State Bill 54, one of numerous formally introduced pieces of legislation, requires that by 2032, companies make 100% of packaging and plastic foodware recyclable or compostable. These regulations shift the plastic pollution burden from consumers to the plastics industry and businesses.

Although there won’t be an overnight shift, incremental changes can add up over time, and we are honored to help move this initiative upstream. It is encouraging to see the integrity teams have demonstrated by taking what currently works for their business and re-opening the discussion for improvement. Understandably, it can be intimidating, and many brands might feel they don’t have the right resources/time to find a solution. That’s where a team of innovative, collaborative, and tactical industrial designers and engineers can help.

So, how hard can it be to find more sustainable solutions? Most brands will start to explore reducing size, eliminating plastic, using alternate materials, and increasing the reusability of their packaging. However, teams might not realize they are missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Crafting a sustainability plan that matches their business needs is critical.

Piecing it all together:

What might be missing? Pairing sustainable ideas with attributes that work for a business inevitably completes the puzzle. Attributes that build long-lasting, sustainable solutions can look like:

  • Keeping costs down
  • Optimizing for shipping
  • Optimizing for manufacturing
  • Not diminishing the brand
  • Keeping product security in mind
  • Building a user-friendly experience

Our process aims to match sustainable ideas with realistic business solutions. Variations between business models, such as scalability, cost, new/existing products, and the end user, will prohibit a blanket approach to achieving sustainable packaging. Design Central’s Managing Partner, Tim Friar, recognizes the importance of tailored solutions. “We focus on the process. There is no pre-set answer because each client’s needs are different.”

Tales of Success:

When P&G began exploring a more sustainable packaging design for their Febreze wall plug-in refills, they knew the switch from plastic to paper would be easier said than done. At the minimum, they had a standard for maintaining product security, manufacturing readiness, and cost-effectiveness. After exploring their current needs and priorities for the project, we tailored our approach to complement P&G’s focus. Skipping 2D sketches and moving straight to die-lines and 3D mockups allowed us to test security immediately. In addition, the final design worked with P&G’s current assembly line, aiding in quicker market implementation and faster environmental benefits. As a result, retailers and consumers will now find a more sustainable product on shelves. It is estimated that this packaging helps reduce millions of pounds of single-use plastics from entering landfills.

Despite the long list of criteria the Febreze packaging needed to meet, our team was eager to think outside the box. Design Central Industrial Designer Maria Basile puts it best: “Where a business might see constraints as limiting, it drives the creativity of an industrial designer.”

The Tide Eco-Box is another P&G example of a sustainable packaging solution made possible by considering multiple business attributes. Their team’s objective was to find a more sustainable shipping package solution that met e-commerce guidelines in a consumer-friendly way. With more than one attribute to cover, the Design Central team got to work immediately with product design and prototyping.

Throughout the process, we analyzed the journey from manufacturing to shipping and, eventually, the consumer’s laundry room. By thoroughly understanding the product lifecycle and building an innovative and collaborative dynamic with the P&G team, we achieved a more sustainable design together. Not only does the new design play a part in a more sustainable future with 60% less plastic, no requirement for a secondary re-boxing, and taking up less space and weight in delivery trucks, inevitably reducing the environmental impact of shipping (Business Wire), but consumers love it as well.

“Working with Design Central to develop sustainable packaging has been an inspiring experience as they are both grounded in current realities of where the works sits with sustainability processes and mechanisms, but they push the boundaries of possibility with their creative mastery. I am continuously impressed by how they integrate the hardest challenges into a range of feasible prototype solutions that always deliver consumer delight. The team at Design Central takes such care in deeply understanding the problem statement up front and asks probing questions to ensure they are always executing against a strategic framework." – Vanessa (P&G Design Director)

Overall, our collaborative mindset is at the root of everything we do.

In addition, Design Central team members are always looking for opportunities to learn and further their knowledge of the best sustainable packaging solutions that go above and beyond what’s expected. By gathering first-hand insights from those actively involved in a product’s lifestyle, we expand our understanding of the circular economy and what that means for brands. This education is manifested by building relationships with leaders in manufacturing and recycling facilities, attending tradeshows, and staying updated with industry standards, automated technology, and breakthrough research.

Interested in building a sustainability plan with Design Central? Contact Tim Friar: