Whether it’s delivery boxes or detergent bottles, doesn’t it often feel like the buildup of packaging is relentless? And nearly 80 million tons of it end up as waste yearly in the U.S.
That's why, every year, the GH Institute and Made Safe team up to host our annual Raise the Green Bar Summit, a daylong event designed to help companies create more sustainable products and practices for you. Not only are brands (big and small) prioritizing efforts to recycle, reuse, and reduce waste, but consumers are asking us more and more about good-for-the-planet buys.
This year, our sustainability experts scoured the market to find the products that use less “stuff” to deliver the goods. Check out the winners of our first-ever Sustainable Packaging Awards below.
Meet the Judges
How We Tested
After narrowing the field, the Good Housekeeping Institute experts and industry leaders evaluated toys and personal care and cleaning products from more than 80 brands. We rigorously assessed the products' packaging on factors such as materials, recyclability, design, innovation, functionality, and minimalism.
What makes packaging sustainable?
While there is no one set definition of this, industry experts define sustainable packaging as one that has minimized its footprint in terms of carbon, water, and chemical use, along with its overall waste. This is the general framework that our panel modeled their judging criteria on. We evaluated the sustainability and functionality of the products' packaging based on the following:
- Materials: This was a multi-part category. We looked at whether the packaging was made of recycled content (the higher percentage the better!) and if it could be recycled curbside. The type of material was also important. The best ones: Clear glass (colored glass can’t be recycled), cardboard and uncoated or unwaxed paper, and aluminum. An item earned more points if its packaging didn’t use mixed materials, since that can make it more difficult to recycle.
- Minimalism: The less extra stuff, the better. That goes for secondary packaging, inserts, pumps, or droppers (as long the the product was still easily dispensed), and coloring on the box, bottle or label. We also awarded more points for lighter materials, since that means they would have less CO2 emissions during production and transportation.
- Efficiency: Above all else, the packaging has to work. We gave points for packaging that protected the product during shipment, on shelves, and all the way to your home. It also had to help successfully dispense the product, without spilling or affecting the dose.
- Innovation: This was all about the wow-factor. We appreciate brands that take risks and champion new ways to produce sustainable packaging. Points were awarded for using innovative packaging concepts, renewables in manufacturing, vegetable or soy-based inks, plant-based plastics, along with whether the item could be refilled.
- Design: Last but not least, the product should still be appealing to consumers with easy-to-read labels and a functional form.
Why is sustainable packaging important?
The simple answer: To preserve our planet! Discarded packaging creates an overwhelming amount of waste (nearly 30% of municipal solid waste is packaging and containers) and contributes to a massive carbon footprint. And just making sure that packaging is recyclable isn’t enough. A shocking 91% of plastics aren’t recycled, and nearly 25 million tons of it are dumped into the ocean each year. In part, we believe that's because what can and can’t be recycled is confusing and regulations can vary wildly from place to place.
Our experts test thousands of products every year, and of all the things that come into our Labs (and all the packaging we have to throw away and recycle), we know that the majority of consumer goods are over-packaged. The global problem, along with our first hand experience, is why we launched our inaugural Sustainable Packaging Awards to recognize products that have a minimalistic approach to product packaging, use recycled and or recyclable components, and champion innovation.
Best Bath & Body Sustainable Packaging
Best Beauty & Skincare Sustainable Packaging
Best Home Care & Toys Sustainable Packaging
These products deserve a special shout-out for packaging innovations that move the sustainability dial in the right direction.
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