The SeaHive Guide to Plastic-Free Packaging: Minimizing Your Carbon Footprint

There’s a lot you can do to broaden your company’s environmental responsibility beyond just eliminating plastic in packaging. Below are a few areas where you can reduce your footprint.

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Design Considerations

  • Think about ways to minimize the overall size of the product that requires packaging. For example, with the Pakt One, we found a way to fold the bag so it fit neatly into a much lower profile box. Many bags are packaged with stuffing so that they look good on retail displays. By flat packing the Pakt One each bag required a third of the space of a stuffed bag which meant we could fit three times as many bags in a shipping container. This meant the ocean freight carbon footprint was also slashed by approximately two-thirds. The bonus is that cargo shipments like that are generally charged by volume so we were also cutting the freight costs by two-thirds.

  • Instead of picking a box size from a supplier’s catalogue, design your own box to the dimensions of your product. Brown cardboard boxes are very inexpensive and you’ll increase the number of items that can be shipped at once if they are sized as small as possible. This reduces the total amount of fuel needed to get your product to the customer. And your product won’t be clanging around in a laughably-sized box (hint, hint Amazon).

  • Pick packaging that is lightweight, reusable, and recyclable. Avoid using mixed materials as they’re harder to recycle. Plastic films with multiple layers of paper, plastic, and foil are hard to process. Bonded packaging (the paper envelopes with plastic bubbles inside) is also difficult to recycle.

Choosing Locations

  • Try to pick suppliers that are close to your factory. If your 3PL is close to your factory, that is great too but only if it is also central to where your products will be shipped. The goal is to reduce total shipping distances, and therefore the total fossil fuels needed to transport all the materials involved in your business.

Shipping

  • Plan ahead! When you ship the product from the factory to your 3PL leave enough time so you can opt for sea shipment over air. The emissions are lower and it is much more cost-effective.

  • Again, if your 3PL is located centrally within the territory that you ship the most product it will save on total distance shipped, cutting emissions.

These are just a few ways you can be more environmentally responsible when developing and shipping a product. We’re constantly learning more and will be updating you as we make more packaging and learn from our experiences. Please reach out if you have any questions about how we designed, sourced, or shipped our products. We’re happy to help you switch to plastic-free packaging any way we can.




The SeaHive Guide to Plastic-Free Packaging: Picking a 3PL That Can Support Your Plastic-Free Vision

Packaging is the major generator of plastic waste, responsible for almost half of the global total.  It’s important to pick a 3PL that shares your values on avoiding plastic packaging from the start. You’ll have a much smoother experience getting your product to customers if communication is strong and everyone is on board with packing and shipping plastic-free.

The front of our educational insert, which seemed a bit like a joke when plastic was thrown in.

The front of our educational insert, which seemed a bit like a joke when plastic was thrown in.

Every 3PL will tell you they can avoid plastic for your products because they want your business. The reality is that warehouses have a lot of clients and there is high staff turnover. We experienced this with our first 3PL when they intermittently added plastic air pockets to boxes on accident. Pakt customers were pretty confused seeing the educational inserts reading “Did you notice your bag didn’t use any plastic packaging?” after removing the snake of plastic pillows from the package. After this mess and a few other challenges we decided to switch our 3PL. If you want to make sure you never have any slip-ups you can seek out a company that doesn’t use any plastic at all. If you’d like a recommendation, just send us a message.

A Pakt customer posted on socials that she got something rather unpleasant along with her bag.

A Pakt customer posted on socials that she got something rather unpleasant along with her bag.

If they aren’t a plastic-free 3PL make sure they can meet your requirements prior to agreeing to do business. This may mean a dedicated plastic-free zone or table in the warehouse and consistent training for employees. We even bought our own paper tape machines for our first 3PL in hopes that would help. Tour all the 3PLs you are considering to fully understand how they will keep their promise of plastic-free packaging before you make a decision.

There will always be challenges in shipping products but not having to worry if your products are arriving plastic-free will take a lot of stress out of the process.

The SeaHive Guide to Plastic-Free Packaging: Getting Your Factory to Package Plastic-Free

You’ve made your product. You’ve designed plastic-free packaging. Now it’s time to combine the two at your factory.

We needed to pack and ship 10,000 duffel bags from our factory in Vietnam. We were shipping some to our 3PL and some directly to consumers. Most high-end bags are shipped inside a plastic bag to protect it. A bag...in a bag. They might be further “protected” by air pockets, packing peanuts, or other filler. This strategy didn’t make a lot of sense to us so the first step was to design a box that would fit the Pakt One bag precisely without extra space. The only other thing inside was a brief educational insert calling out our plastic-free packaging. We sealed the deal with paper tape.

Tons of Pakt One bags in their SeaHive boxes.

Tons of Pakt One bags in their SeaHive boxes.

We knew how we wanted the final packaging to look so we went to our factory in Vietnam to hand off the directions in person. It was more about what not to include than what to put in the box. Factories are used to the status quo--plastic, plastic, plastic. We spoke with our factory’s manager, Claire, who translated all directions to workers.

“We need to make sure there is no plastic used in our packaging.”

“No poly bag?” asked Claire.

“No poly bag, no plastic tape, or any other plastic.”

“Ah, no plastic. Okay!” Claire then turned to her team to repeat the instructions in Cantonese and Vietnamese to make sure everyone in the room understood.

Left and Middle: SeaHive and Pakt founder Malcolm Fontier in Vietnam with Claire showing the packing steps on the packaging prototype.  Right: Claire making what became her signature “X” move

Left and Middle: SeaHive and Pakt founder Malcolm Fontier in Vietnam with Claire showing the packing steps on the packaging prototype.

Right: Claire making what became her signature “X” move

She made a huge “X” with her arms to signal that no plastic was to be involved at any stage in packing or shipping. Even though going plastic-free isn’t the norm right now, our factory was more than happy to comply and yours likely will be too if you spend the time to communicate how important it is to your brand.

The SeaHive Guide to Plastic-Free Packaging: Designing the Packaging

The first product Pakt launched was the Pakt One travel bag. After they sold 10,000 units in an Indiegogo campaign we needed to figure out how to package and ship those bags across the globe. We wanted the packaging experience to be as beautiful, simple, and well-made as the bag itself.

The box is a simple tuck-top design that fits the Pakt One’s dimensions perfectly.

The box is a simple tuck-top design that fits the Pakt One’s dimensions perfectly.

We designed our packaging in-house to fit the Pakt One perfectly. Our founder and a few of our employees are industrial designers so we could do this ourselves. You have two main options for sourcing the packaging design and manufacturing. You can do it in-house if you have the resources: industrial and/or graphic designers. If you don’t, you can look to a packaging supplier who will design the packaging and then make it for you. If you are unsure of who to go with we can connect you with a company we highly recommend--just send us an email and we’ll make the intro. If you’re going the in-house route, once the packaging is designed you’ll send it off to a manufacturer to get samples made.

Brown craft paper printed with a single color wrapped around the bag, sealed with a paper logo sticker.

Brown craft paper printed with a single color wrapped around the bag, sealed with a paper logo sticker.

Your logo and other key info about the item will likely be displayed on the outside of the packaging. You’ve gone the extra mile by eliminating plastic and you’ll want to tell prospective customers--it’s a great way to showcase your brand’s ethos. SeaHive and Pakt wanted to shout it from the rooftops that our goods would be sent without any plastic. We created the SeaHive Seal to be displayed on the exterior of the packaging to communicate to customers that the items inside are packaged and shipped 100% plastic-free.

The seal is a way to help make a conscious consumer choice to avoid plastic packaging. Seals for organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade, and cruelty-free products are established indicators to help us align our values to our purchases. We hope the SeaHive Seal will be taken up by other brands who choose to protect the environment and pass on plastic. We believe it will convince potential customers to confidently buy products that don’t contribute to a global problem.

The SeaHive Seal, and all SeaHive branding, was designed by our friends  No Thanks  and is featured on our packaging.

The SeaHive Seal, and all SeaHive branding, was designed by our friends No Thanks and is featured on our packaging.

Once you approve packaging samples they can be mass produced and shipped to your factory. Your work doesn’t end there though. You need to insure your product is packaged correctly, without any plastic. In the next post we’ll look into how to we got our factory to go plastic-free. It can be a challenge but nothing that can’t be tackled with good communication and some great attitudes.

The SeaHive Guide to Plastic-Free Packaging: Why We Wanted to Avoid Plastic in Our Packaging

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More than 50% of all plastic thrown out is packaging. Single-use plastic has become a scourge on our planet in the past 60 years. It’s cheap to make and widely considered to be hygienic and time-saving. Unfortunately, one of the qualities that makes it valuable also makes it extremely detrimental to the health of the planet: its durability. Plastic is estimated to last anywhere from 450 years to forever. Nearly every piece of plastic ever made is still with us and every piece we manufacture adds to the problem. Creating it involves fossil fuels, which aren’t so great for our atmosphere. When plastics slowly photodegrade in landfills, rivers, and the ocean they leach chemicals into the soil and water, harming the health of our entire ecosystem.

A short educational insert we included with the Pakt One.

A short educational insert we included with the Pakt One.

SeaHive and Pakt founder, Malcolm Fontier, didn’t want to contribute to the creation of more plastic packaging, 32% of which ends up in the ocean. “Even as an environmentally-minded product company, it's easy to focus on your product and overlook the packaging. We wanted to show that going plastic-free and removing much of the environmental risk from your packaging isn't difficult and something any company can do.” says Fontier.


There is no such thing as a sustainably produced product but there’s a spectrum of environmental responsibility. Companies need to decide where on that spectrum they want to exist. The goal of Pakt is to have the lowest possible impact on the planet while making products that last a lifetime and don’t end up in a landfill--a goal your own company may share. SeaHive was able to help reduce Pakt’s impact from a packaging and shipping standpoint and we hope these guides pique your interest to reduce or eliminate plastic from your company’s packaging. Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter because next in our series we’ll dive into packaging design.

We’re Launching The SeaHive Guide to Plastic-Free Packaging

Here at SeaHive, we’ve learned a lot by creating plastic-free packaging for our sister company Pakt. We decided we wanted to share what worked for us with anyone who was interested. In the following series, The SeaHive Guide to Plastic-Free Packaging, we are going to explain the reasoning we went off the beaten path to use 100% plastic-free packaging, exactly how we did it at each step, and further ways you can reduce your environmental footprint as a company.

The frontside of a card we made explaining the SeaHive plastic-free packaging for Pakt bags.

The frontside of a card we made explaining the SeaHive plastic-free packaging for Pakt bags.

The goal of these guides is to help other businesses realize they can do this too – and help make the switch painless. Switching to plastic-free packaging doesn’t have to cost a lot and it isn’t as complicated as you might think, but every item packaged and shipped without plastic makes a difference. We encourage you to get in touch with questions and comments as you read these. We aren’t environmental scientists or packaging engineers--we’re just a small team of people who wants to keep plastic out of the ocean and saw an opportunity to start with our own products. This is what worked for us and we hope it inspires you to consider eliminating plastic packaging from your product line.