What Does Sustainable Packaging Look Like?

How do you know the packaging your items arrive in is truly sustainable? And how do you choose the right packaging for your business? There are a few signs to look out for- explained here in this blog post...

When I started The Cornish Highstreet,

sustainability was one of the driving forces behind it (as this previous blog post will explain). So with every decision I made, the impact it had on the Earth was a high priority. Sometimes I will order something from an 'eco' shop and it will arrive in very 'un-eco' packaging. So how do we know packaging is truly sustainable? Well, we definitely don't claim to be experts, but these are some of the things we now look out for:

Boxes or Bags?

Generally a box is better than a plastic bag. I recently ordered an eco-friendly bathroom product that arrived in a plastic postal bag- disappointing. Some postage bags can be biodegradable, as they're made from plant-based products. However, this is where it gets a little more complicated- sometimes forests have to be cleared to grow the plants that make these 'plant-based products', so it's important to know where your bag has actually come from.

Similarly, some bags labelled 'eco' or 'biodegradable' are not as kind to the Earth as we think, and still take a long time to break down. To be on the safe side and to keep our products safe, we use boxes! Our boxes are sourced locally, just 5 minutes down the road from our seaside headquarters in fact! They're 100% recyclable and our supplier, Carter's Packaging Ltd. use a high percentage of recycled materials in their boxes.

If you're unsure whether to use boxes or bags for your business, or you're unsure how to dispose of your purchases' packaging, try to find out what they're actually made of first.

Business Cards?

Almost every shop, big or small, will have some kind of card that arrives in your parcel. These are a great way to say thank you to wonderful customers who support our businesses, but beware that they're not costing the Earth!

A great way to keep things eco is by finding a local printing company who use recycled or FSC approved paper. Our cards are from UsFor Prints, based in Newquay and use a mixture of recycled/FSC approved paper depending on the product.


Having eco-friendly boxes is great, but only if the tape is too! A box cannot be recycled if it has plastic tape on it. This can be incredibly wasteful and cause more plastic pollution. The best way to go is paper tape.

We use thick paper tape for our boxes and thin paper tape for our postage labels, so as not to waste anything. This is also sourced locally at Carters Packaging Ltd. so doesn't travel far to get to us!

What's Inside?

This is perhaps one of the most important ones- it's easy for the packaging inside to go unnoticed when the outside of the box is super sustainable. Generally, ditching the plastic (e.g. bubble wrap/polystyrene) and sticking to paper is the way to go. However, we've taken a slightly different approach!

As a small start up, we didn't have a big budget for sustainable, protective packaging like brown paper, card or packing straw. Instead, before we launched, we asked around our family and friends if they had any packaging they didn't use.

It turns out that for various reasons (moving house, receiving parcels etc.) our friends had all sorts of protective packaging that we could re-use! From bubble wrap to brown paper, scrap fabric to packing peanuts that dissolve in water, we had enough to last a while.

Now whenever we or a family member gets a parcel we keep the packaging to be re-used. When the time comes to invest in protective packaging, we will certainly be going for the sustainable option. But for now, what's more sustainable than stopping waste, re-using and re-purposing?

Little Added Extras

Small businesses will always go above and beyond to make you feel special, because well, customers are special! You choose to support independent creators from your own pocket and that deserves celebrating. It is a good idea, however, to be wary of what is actually in your parcel. Sweets in plastic packaging are a nice gesture, but could there have been a better option? (Maybe something in paper wrapping, like love hearts). We keep our extras to a minimum with a thank you note (on FSC approved paper), to keep it eco. Maybe you have a super, sustainable gesture idea for small business parcels? Let us know in the comments!

We hope this post has helped you to think about sustainable packaging options, whether you're a customer with a keen eye for sustainability or a small business owner looking to make some eco changes. These are by no means expert opinions, just our thoughts that we thought we'd share. You can find out more about our packaging here and in our FAQs.

Here's where we found our facts:

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