The word ecofriendly is bandied about quite a bit these days, but what does it mean exactly? Smart Design conducted research last year regarding consumer understanding of the environmental impact of differing packaging materials. And, as it turns out, different people have different ideas as to the sustainability of certain materials.

In the eyes of 64 percent of respondents, aluminum cans are more eco-friendly than plastic bottles–24% thought they were identical in ecoconscious value. Yet virgin aluminum requires large amounts of electricity to create—more than any plastic. But photos of sealife entrapped by floating plastic make an impression.

In the eyes of the experts, a material’s environmental impact can be defined by carbon footprint, water consumption, and waste production.

The word ecofriendly has become a marketing buzz word. Companies that sell baby food pouches advertise their products as sustainable because they generate one-tenth of the greenhouse gases as glass jars, but pouches can’t be recycled. The aluminum can industry promotes the fact that aluminum holds the highest post-consumer content—but it takes energy to produce them.

People also don’t show knowledge of innovative packaging, like paper fiber bottles and compostable plastic bottles. Companies build brands around this confusion—which is why the implementation of marketing and branding standards is needed in this situation. Brands who do produce ecofriendly products and packaging are sure to find a new, younger and more loyal audience.

In Europe, the EU Ecolabel is bestowed upon products and services adhering to high environmental standards during the entire product life cycle—from the extraction of the raw materials, to production, packaging, and transport, through use and recycling. It currently has been assigned to about 40,000 products and services.

A well-designed label, applied with consistency, can help customers make true sustainable choices.

Programs that have worked well in this area are Energy Star—a voluntary program operated by the Environmental Protection Agency that helps consumers comprehend which products (and buildings) are energy-efficient. In 2019, about 2,000 manufacturers and 1,850 retailers partnered with Energy Star to create and sell millions of Energy Star-certified products across more than 75 residential and commercial product categories. And as technology evolves, so do the standards.

Another voluntary standard to look at is LEED—the standard for “green buildings” released by the U.S. Green Buildings Council. Under this system, your building can be certified, or garner a Silver, Gold, or Platinum certificate. The ability to compare two “sustainable” products or packages is important—and encouraging of corporate competition.

The product labels of the future could include the carbon footprint, water use, how long the package takes to degrade if not recycled.

The ultimate ‘smart brands’ are those who work with consumers to define—and realise—the concept of ecofriendly.

Source: Fast Company.Com