How to Assess Your Product Packaging Life Cycle and Its Environmental Impact
Whether you already have product packaging that you have been using for years, are planning a redesign, or are searching for your first product packaging, you should assess the packaging life cycle. This helps you estimate the environmental impact of your product packaging, fitting in with your sustainability goals and methods.
What Is a Life Cycle Assessment?
With a life cycle assessment, you go through the entire life cycle of your product packaging. It starts with examining the extraction of raw materials used to create your packaging materials. From there, it looks at the production process. Next is to review the use of your product and the end of its life, such as whether it gets recycled or sits in a landfill.
Overall, your life cycle assessment looks at the energy, materials, and land use required for your product throughout its cycle, as well as the emissions and waste produced.
Why You Should Assess the Life Cycle
The most important reason to assess your packaging life cycle is to minimize your environmental impact. This will fit in perfectly with your goals to be eco-friendly and “green.”
The Phases of a Life Cycle Assessment
The traditional method of assessing your packaging life cycle goes through several stages.
Goals and Scoping
This stage outlines why you are performing the assessment and what you want to get out of it. This step helps you figure out what details to assess.
Life Cycle Inventory
This stage is when you gather information about the inputs and output within your packaging life cycle. It includes energy, chemicals, materials, water emissions, air emissions, and solid waste.
In this stage, you look at the impact your packaging has on the planet based on the data from the previous section. You will consider factors including pollution, global warming, human toxicity, acidification, use of natural resources, impact on habitats, and ozone depletion.
Finally, you have to analyze the impact data. This step entails figuring out how you will share the results with stakeholders and decision-makers.
After completing the assessment, you then use the information you gathered to make improvements to your packaging.
Tips for the Life Cycle Assessment
As you go through your life cycle assessment, keep the following advice in mind.
Choose a Wide Scope
While it is certainly easier to do a life cycle assessment with a narrow scope, it doesn’t provide as accurate of information. If you focus on just one aspect of your packaging or one way that it affects the planet, you will miss out on other important information. It is best to look at the packaging and its impact as a whole.
Reducing Materials Is Key
In nearly every assessment, it will become clear that reducing the materials you use in your packaging will be the easiest change you can make. This will also deliver the quickest ROI.
Some Materials Aren’t Always Bad
As you evaluate how your materials impact the plan, you need to avoid your ideas about what materials are “bad.” Maybe something is bad for the planet, but it is actually more sustainable because it reduces damage to products, which reduces waste. Or maybe it lets you transport more products at once, reducing fuel consumption. You need to consider the materials from every angle, without your preconceived ideas.