Mindful & Good Blog

Guide to Creating Sustainable CPG Packaging

We all know beautiful packaging when we see it. It has a special look and feel that catches our eye and pulls us in. We buy it. We get it home. We unwrap it. We discover a superfluous layer of packaging, unnecessary wisps of tissue, or extra air – sometimes sealed in more plastic. And then the thought hits us – as good as this package looked on the store’s shelf, we know it’ll spend the majority of its ‘life cycle’ rotting in a landfill or floating in our oceans.

In my career as a sustainability-focused designer, realizations like this break my heart. I know there’s a more sustainable way forward. Sourcing, designing, utilizing, and living with packaging must have a minimal environmental impact and footprint, for today and tomorrow.

Sustainable practices aren’t niche anymore — they must be the standard. For many in the food and beverage industry, that concept can feel intimidating as a process and expense. How and where do you begin? How does my production process impact my ability to commit to sustainability? How much will it cost our bottom line?

Working through these questions and living in this new standard where sustainability is non-negotiable starts with how we choose to think about the process by which we make packaging decisions. This will become your sustainable strategy. It will be unique to you, your work, your consumers, and your impact; the overarching strategy should be the same – critical and mindful thinking every step of the way.

Here are five ways to activate your sustainable packaging strategy.



When coming up the curve on the how and why of sustainable packaging, there’s a great place to start – the Sustainable Packaging Coalition® (SPC). In addition to their many resources, case studies, and best practices, SPC has developed and refined eight criteria points that address packaging specifically. Their goal is simple: more sustainable packaging on the market.

The criteria include:

  1. It is beneficial, safe, and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle;
  2. It meets market criteria for performance and cost;
  3. It is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy;
  4. It optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials;
  5. It is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices;
  6. It is made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle;
  7. It is physically designed to optimize materials and energy;
  8. It is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles;

The criteria are both common sense as well as a call to think bigger and more intentionally about the process. It is that level of mindfulness that will serve as the through-line for this process.



The most effective way to create sustainable packaging? Eliminate the waste that is created in the first place. It’s important to pay close attention to how packaging functions and how or what can be disposed of. Look at the entire supply chain, starting with where and how raw materials are sourced and the ways in which they are processed.

Here are several critical questions to consider when looking for opportunities to reduce waste:

  • Can the packaging be smaller, lighter, or made from fewer materials?
  • Can our new packaging be fully recycled?
  • Can our new packaging be made out of 100% recycled content, such as post-consumer waste or post-consumer recycled?
  • Can our new packaging be completely home or industrial compostable?



In order to consider the full life cycle assessment (LCA) for a project or a package, our Mindful & Good team uses Cradle-to-Cradle design thinking. Through this process, we develop innovative and inventive approaches by specifying several criteria that are important to our sustainable strategy with clients: fewer materials, recycled and non-toxic elements, designed for reuse and the circular economy.

What that means is that our team thinks about how we can minimize packaging completely and select materials that are either recyclable or biodegradable. To do that strategically, we design backwards from the package’s final destination to package concepting – in that order.

One of the first questions we consider in thinking backwards is this: will it be compostable or put back into the recycling stream?

If compostable is an option, here are some packaging substrates that work:

  • Paper: Paperboard, paper wrapper made from recycled and/or renewable materials
  • Compostable Plastic: Plant-based plastic made of corn, seaweed, algae, wood cellulose, or sugarcane; AirCarbon, a new zero-waste plastic, is another option
  • Other Compostable Materials: Mycelium (mushrooms), hemp, wheat, or bamboo

If compostable is not an option or will not work, we consider packaging options that are recyclable, such as:

  • Paper: Paperboard, paper wrapper made from recycled and/or renewable materials
  • Glass: Material(s) made from recycled glass
  • Plastic: Material(s) made from recycled and/or renewable plastic
  • Metal: Material(s) made with aluminum



Unfortunately, it’s no secret – standard plastic is still the “cheapest” when it comes to packaging. Despite best efforts, there are far too many businesses and industries that depend on it – from corporations to small and local. Even farmers package produce, such as berries, using plastic clamshells and plastic bags to keep costs down. Over 63% of municipal waste consists of plastic packaging, and just 35% of that gets recycled. Even far less is composted.

It is important to innovate with new packaging formats designed to improve recyclability and ones that use recycled content as much as possible. Completely compostable or low to zero waste is even better.

There are many new alternatives to standard plastics that are plant-based, compostable, and biodegradable which we’re big fans of along with paper pulp, tree-free paper and algae-based inks and plastics.

Regardless of the packaging substrate used, it is of the utmost importance to encourage consumers to buy more sustainable packaging. How so? It’s all in the label, quite literally. The label (both copy and visual) is an important place to educate and explain the packaging’s sustainable attributes and how to dispose of it. (Yes, even if it’s *gasp* plastic. Just make sure that plastic is made from post consumer recycled material as much as possible.)

Iconography and/or certifications like How2Recycle can be powerful ways to tell the story of the package itself, what it is made out of, and if it can be composted at home, composted in an industrial facility, or recycled are key.



The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a new approach to the planet and values-based decision-making. It opened consumers’ eyes to how, when, and why we invest time, energy, attention, and money into causes that matter to us today and for generations to come. For many people, reducing their environmental footprint came high on the list. McKinsey research found that households used lockdown as an opportunity to change their behavior and reduce pollution – with 60% going out of their way to recycle and purchase products in environmentally friendly packaging.

There is hope. This is the right time to begin these conversations with your teams, partners, and consumers. Today’s consumer is growing more aware of packaging’s environmental footprint. This rising public awareness is sparking responses from legislators around the world. If there’s any place to start though, it’s how we bring the topic of sustainable packaging to our consumers – how we begin the conversation, educate on the process, and make affordable and accessible options available.

We only have one livable planet, every person and company has to play a part in preserving it, to be mindful and good stewards for the next generation.

Looking for Sustainable Packaging Design? Contact us at Mindful & Good or check out our recs below.


Better Packaging Mailers, envelopes, labels, shipping supplies & more

EcoEnclose Custom mailers, boxes, labels & more

Elevate Packaging Pouches, bags, labels & more Elevate Packaging

Elk Packaging Custom pouches, wrappers & more

Epac Flexible Packaging Custom pouches, bags & more

Green Cell Foam Packaging material made from US-grown corn

Guacamole Airplane Open-source database of sustainable packaging suppliers

Lumi Mailers, boxes, tape & more

Mohawk Renewal & Mohawk Loop Paper stocks for packaging & print materials

Mushroom Packaging Packaging material made from hemp hurd and mycelium

Neenah Conservation & Neenah Environment Paper stocks for packaging & print materials

Noissue Boxes, bags, mailers, tissue, tape, stickers, & more

Pure Labels Compostable stickers & labels

Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) Membership-based collaborative including sustainable packaging resources and guidance

Sway Seaweed-based flexible packaging

Waste Not Open-source database of sustainable suppliers


This article was originally written and published for our friends at Foodbevy

Stand Together To Demand Change

Enough is enough. While there is no perfect action right now, we know any action is better than no action. Educating ourselves on the reality of racism, challenging people in power, attending peaceful protests, donating to causes fighting injustice, raising up the voices of people of color, loving each other – these are all actions that make a difference.

We know it can be overwhelming to know where to begin, so here are some resources that we found helpful. Join us to take action to better understand ourselves, love our neighbors and stand together to demand change.

Change Policy
Want to advocate for policy change in your city? Campaign Zero launched #8CantWait: 8 policies that, when combined, have the power to reduce police violence that results in death in our major cities by up to 72%. They don’t need Congress, or an executive order. Mayors and police chiefs can implement them immediately. We just have to ask them to.
Step 1: Go to and search for your city. The website will show you which of the 8 policies, if any, your city has implemented, along with contact info for your mayor.
Step 2: Call or email your major asking them to ensure that all 8 policies are implemented in your community.

If you can, please donate with us to:
Black Lives Matter

Our Client Family Doing Good

We are proud to help our client family as they forge forward with their socially conscious businesses to offer support for those impacted by the coronavirus and their continued support to the community as a whole. Below are some of their stories we’d like to share.



Photo credit: Nourish


In addition to their daily operations, our friends at Nourish are working with the national organization Frontline Foods and World Central Kitchen to feed our healthcare workers and first responders with as many meals as possible. Want to make sure our frontline workers are getting the nourishment they need to do their heroic work? Donate at All funds donated to the cause will go directly to feed people on the front line of this crisis.



Photo credit: Muddy River Distillery

Muddy River Distillery

Muddy River Distillery shifted production to create clean, non-toxic hand sanitizer for first responders and now have it available for the whole family. You can visit them at their distillery Wednesdays & Saturdays 12pm – 5pm for curbside pick up. Visit for more info.



Photo credit: Rivendell Farms

Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas

Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas has put together a map of emergency food sources for the Charlotte area. Resources include drive-up distribution points, free lunch program locations and resources for seniors and children. To access the map please visit



Photo credit: Eight + Sand Kitchen

Eight + Sand Kitchen

When you spend $25 or more, you will be passing on a donation of 15% directly to their team members who are suffering with lay offs and/or extremely reduced hours and need help during this time. The more you spend, the more assistance you provide. More at



Photo credit: Freshlist


For a way to support local farms, farmers and food artisans, Freshlist has launched an online market. You can order anything from farm fresh meats, eggs, cheese and produce to meal kits and premade vegan meals. Order for pick up at designated locations around Charlotte or for delivery at



Photo credit: PCG

Piedmont Culinary Guild

Piedmont Culinary Guild and their Executive Director, Kris Reid, have been working hard to stay up to date on the most current information regarding COVID-19 to share with the community and help to support farmers, farms and the F&B industry. Visit for more information or consider donating to them so that they can continue to offer support to maintain our local food system.



Photo credit: Sweet’s

Sweet’s Syrup

Sweet’s All Natural Elderberry Syrup is packed with antioxidants and vitamins that boost your immune system and help prevent and ease allergy, cold and flu symptoms. Especially in times like these, boosting your immune system and staying healthy is incredibly important. Sweet’s donates a portion of their profits to local causes and initiatives including providing school lunches for kids in need and the Isabella Santos Foundation. You can order online at or around several retail locations throughout the Southeast.



Photo credit: Inizio Pizza

Inizio Pizza

Inizio Pizza was able to provide 100 pizzas to Charlotte’s medical professionals and hospital staff thanks to Caroline Elliott’s #CLTStrong campaign which is supporting local restaurants as well as frontline workers during the current crisis. Inizio is continuing with business and supporting their staff and the medical community as much as they can through these trying times. You can order online for curbside pickup (or delivery through one of their partners). More at



Photo credit: The Chef’s Farmer

Dogwood Meadows Farm

Dogwood Meadows Farm is a third generation family-owned farm in Gastonia and farmed by Jamie Swofford (The Chef’s Farmer). They offer sustainably grown produce including a Quarter Bag CSA available for pick up each week at Free Range Brewing. Follow them and learn more at



Photo credit: Milk Glass Pie

Milk Glass Pie

Milk Glass Pie has launched #FrontPorchPie, a weekly delivery of freshly baked pie delivered to your door (or front porch, if you will). The pies are made from scratch using all local ingredients from local farms and often sell out. Buy a pie for yourself or a neighbor (while respecting social distancing of course) and share some goodness and pie love in the world. Visit to order.



Photo credit: Pure Intentions Coffee

Pure Intentions Coffee

Pure Intentions Coffee is offering bulk coffee delivery directly to your doorstep to help you get through your day working from home. They’re also offering online classes. Pure Intentions Coffee is a big supporter of the community, serve on several nonprofit boards and work hard to train and support their staff as well as many F&B folks in the region. Check them out and support this small business as they support and fuel Charlotte. More at

Our Mindful & Good Manifesto

The world needs more good. Design with purpose. Be a force for good. Practice gratitude. Start a real and rich conversation. Get clear on how you define mindfulness. Practice a morning meditation. Bring thoughtfulness into your work. Create a better world. Live a life of purpose. Let that pedestrian cross the street. (We promise you won’t be late.) Use the word ‘design’ as a noun and a verb. Move the plants to a sunny spot in the house. Reduce the climate impact of your work. Be here now. Walk in faith. Evolve. Drive positive change. Bring your own container. Listen to your intuition. Focus on sustainability. Find crisp, clean fresh air. See the glimmer in everything. Respect the bike lane. Speak your new favorite four letter word – hope. Believe in Mother Earth. Invest time each year in causes and initiatives that light up your soul. Run outside. Let it go. Ask yourself – can I reuse or recycle this? Know that mindfulness is personal. Walk there. Grow herbs on your kitchen window sill. Make someone’s life a little easier today. Unplug. Read the label. Look at the world with bright eyes and genuine spirit. Ask yourself – do I really need to purchase this? Purpose and passion work together. (They actually ignite each other.) Open the window, and take a big, deep breath in. Gift yourself a digital detox. Travel off the grid. Find your middle path between minimal and modern. Seek innovative practices in mind, body and spirit. Eat local. Seek magic. Do good. We’re all in this together.

We are Mindful & Good.
Sustainable Design That Ignites Positive Change.

We Are Mindful & Good. Sustainable Design That Ignites Positive Change.

Even during these uncertain times, we’d still like to honor the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and celebrate our studio’s 20 years in business. So we’re excited to share our rebrand and new name with you.

Since our founding in 2000, Rachel Martin Design has evolved. What started with founder and design director, Rachel Martin, is now a powerful and strategic team of collaborative partners who work with clients of all shapes and sizes. We thought it just the right time to rename our studio to align with our overall mission of sustainable design for mindful and conscious brands that use business as a force for good.

We are still the driven, inventive and strategic design studio you’ve come to know and love over two decades. We just have a fresh name to match our spirit.

We’re excited to share this new chapter with you and invite you to explore our new website, follow us on social media @mindfulandgood and reach out with any questions or just to say “hello”.

We appreciate you and look forward to continuing our good work creating a better world together.