What is Sustainable Packaging and Why Does it Matter?

ThreeMain Bottles

Shop Sustainable, Save the Earth

When a product’s packaging is developed to improve sustainability, we consider it Sustainable Packaging. This is achieved through the increased use of life cycle inventory (LCI) and life cycle assessment (LCA) which guides the use of packaging and thus reduces the environmental impact and ecological footprint.

There are many key criteria in determining if packaging is sustainable. Below are some measures that we gathered from Sustainable Brands: 

  1. A packaged product’s distribution, warehousing, retail display, consumer interaction, and end-of-life management options.
  2. Packaging that is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle.
  3. Packaging that is physically designed to optimize materials and energy.
  4. Packaging that is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices.
  5. Packaging that is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy.
  6. Packaging that is made from materials healthy in all probable end of life scenarios.
  7. Packaging that is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles.

The standards above helped guide our company in our packaging journey. Find out how they impacted our decisions below!


ThreeMain’s Sustainable Packaging Journey:

From the inception of ThreeMain, we knew we wanted to go beyond just having great cleaning formulas. With 91% of plastic never recycled and the ocean being flooded with plastic waste, we knew we had to integrate sustainable packaging from the start across our entire supply chain. We didn’t want to overlook what has become a key factor in the world’s plastic waste crisis. So we began designing a packaging solution for our formulas that would have little to no impact on the environment.

We had heard about many notable brands partnering with NGOs to use recycled and recovered ocean-bound plastic to launch a single product or product line using ocean-bound plastic. So we thought, could we develop ALL of our packaging using this type of plastic? We went to work speaking with manufacturers nationally and internationally to find out, with a majority having strong concerns about achieving a bottle using 100% ocean-bound plastic, some were even concerned with reaching 50%. Plastic that is recovered can be contaminated and requires special licensing by the manufacturers and significant testing. As you might also know from the BPA disaster, most plastics have been associated with releasing toxins so companies and manufacturers have to be very careful when using plastic (although many aren’t as careful as they should be).

As we continued searching for a manufacturer, we also recognized that creating a single-use bottle may have its own challenges as far as sustainability. With recycling rates significantly low, would we really make a big impact by offering a bottle that wouldn’t be reused? What if we could design a bottle that people would be proud to have in their home that they could reuse with our formulas over and over again, and really decrease our impact on the environment?

We had to try.

So we decided not just to try but move full steam head. We went to work on designing a reusable cleaning bottle that would stick around long after the last drop of cleaning formula, a bottle that people would happily present in their home and replenish with our trusted formulas over and over again.

And what material would we use if we were steering away from plastic? At first, we considered stainless steel, but it was too heavy. How about glass those were already popular? Also heavy and could break easily. Plastic? NO way! How about aluminum, a strong but lightweight metal. Yes!

ThreeMain designed a lightweight bottle made from aluminum that was developed to be presented in our conscious consumers’ homes. Every bottle is both functional and a way for our consumers to talk about sustainability and the positive impact they’re trying to make in our environment. A conversation starter for conscious consumers who are going green, and a way for people to continue integrating sustainable practices into their everyday life.

For every cleaning formula we release, we’ll also release a reusable cleaning bottle specifically for that formula. With our reusable bottles, all of our triggers and pumps are also reused rather than thrown out.


So how do we ship our formulas then?

We knew we wanted to ship our formulas in a convenient manner for the consumer but also using a method that had a low environmental impact. Since people were already accustomed to flexible packaging, we decided to offer the same for our formulas. Flexible packaging would decrease the amount of energy, water, and plastic waste by 80% compared to the standard 16 oz plastic bottle. And we even recycle our flexible packaging for our customers.

With every delivery, you’ll receive a recycling shipping envelope and access to a complimentary shipping label. As you refill your bottles, store your used pouches in the envelope and ship it back to us to be recycled once it’s full.


When should a company integrate sustainable packaging?

In the beginning! The challenge we’ve seen with other companies trying to catch up is that this often becomes just a small segment of their company, one of many products, or sometimes just a campaign they release during an environmental initiative. By integrating sustainable packaging from the start, all of your packaging designs consider the environment, not just one aspect of the company or product line. Rather than asking ourselves "how can we add in sustainability?", we ask, "how will we make this process sustainable?". It’s not a piece of the decision, but rather what guides the decision.

Here are two recent examples of questions we asked ourselves when we were deciding on the shipping packaging.

”We need to securely hold our product in place while also allowing the consumer to have a positive interaction with the product as soon as they open their package. What sustainable packaging is available to achieve this?

“How can we ship all of our products using the least amount of packaging and little to no plastic fillers?”


We hope this will get you thinking more about sustainable packaging and how you can ask yourself these questions when it comes to the products you purchase and the packaging you use at home. Lead with sustainability, and you will win.


Want some more advice on how you can live sustainably? Read about why eco-friendly living is so important.