Researching sustainable packaging? This database advises on materials and their disposal

Conceived as a graduate thesis back in 2017, the relaunched Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide features over 140 entries of sustainable material options.

8 November 2022

Design studio Guacamole Airplane has just relaunched its Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide. If you’re not familiar, it’s a free resource offering breakdowns of sustainable materials – both common and cutting edge – for those undertaking packaging projects. While the database has existed as a research guide in various forms since 2017 (when it was conceived as a graduate project by studio founder Ian Montgomery), a new version boasts vital changes. Crucially, the new guide offers actionable information on not only how to design with each material, but how to dispose of them.

The revamped database features over 140 total material entries – from polybags for clothing to alternative inks and innovative reusable e-commerce shippers – breaking down each into a few categories. For example, a user looking to find out more about speciality papers can compare a selection of suppliers and products. If you were to click on Notpla – a paper, coating and edible film made from seaweed – you will find information on the “look and feel” of the material, its sustainability, disposal methods and design considerations. The latter helps users understand the strengths and limitations of each material. In the case of bioplastic Notpla, the site suggests additional consumer disposal information in branding so that it doesn't “end up in the wrong waste stream”, as well as a takeback programme.


Guacamole Airplane: Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide (Copyright © Guacamole Airplane, 2022)

According to a release from Guacamole Airplane, these design considerations are based on its years of experience in sustainable packaging; many materials are vetted by the studio team through their ongoing material experiments.

Studio founder Ian Montgomery says the Supplier Guide was created with the specific information that designers and users would need to “immediately start making sustainable choices”. Ian adds: “With the rise of ESG and environmental awareness, there are just too few comprehensive lists out there that allow you to compare, explore and learn about sustainable packaging options. We think this is a pretty exhaustive list of what is out there.”

However, Ian also attests that sustainable practices are about much more than your materials and supplier. “In order for sustainable packaging decisions to have a meaningful benefit, there needs to be a strategy at work.” The relaunched tool hopes to serve as a jumping off point for deeper engagement. “We definitely don’t want this to encourage surface-level sustainability, but rather we want to give people the tools and knowledge to start thinking differently about how they can adopt sustainability in their product design, shipping, supply chains and beyond.”

GalleryGuacamole Airplane: Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide (Copyright © Guacamole Airplane, 2022)

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Guacamole Airplane: Sustainable Packaging Supplier Guide (Copyright © Guacamole Airplane, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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