As a society, we've just recently started paying attention to environmental issues. Just a few decades ago nobody was thinking about the planet or questioning product packaging and they certainly were not basing their shopping habits on it. Back then people celebrated what we now despise. PLASTIC. In 1907 Leo Baekeland gave life to plastic as we know it in his New York residence. It was a great success because of its widespread use, inexpensive production, and overall availability. What a great material, he thought. Let's fast forward a few decades to 2021. Plastic has become a curse word and there's a good reason for it. Today in “Understanding the basics” we'll be telling you all about the packaging we use for our products and why it is important for us that we're low waste and sustainable.
One planet, one love?
Sometimes it is difficult to feel empathy for anything other than a living being (a dog, bunny or a person). I know it's difficult for me to feel the same way about our planet as I do for my puppy or my family. I care deeply about family members, pets, and people in general, yet I don't necessarily feel the same way about the earth. And I think that's ok. I think not everyone can feel empathy for the planet but that doesn't mean we can't do what's best for it. Often I see low waste or sustainable lifestyle supporters be classified as nature loving hippies. Some of them probably are, but not all of us fit into that category. There is a growing community of those, who understand the climate crisis, the changing ecosystems our consumerism causes and therefore base their lifestyle choices on science and facts. Enter the MUNIO. We absolutely fit into the category I just described – fact-based, planet respecting, smart consumerism supporting, low waste people.
Right from the beginning, we knew that MUNIO would do things differently than what's the standard. See, the home and living industry alone uses 142 billion units of plastic each year. We absolutely did not want to add to these numbers. We drive so much inspiration and ingredients from nature - how could we pollute it at the same time? Our approach has always been to do no harm and to use the best, whether it's ingredients or packaging. Since this blog post dives into the specifics of our product packaging, let's put it under the microscope. First off – candles.
Toss the plastic, wrap it in fabric
We offer two types of candles. Our Naturella collection features pillar candles that don't require any vessel for storage. However our newest collection – Vitale– consists of candles in glass votives. Typically with pillar candles you see them wrapped in cellophane (plastic). The wrapping is there to protect the wax from any scratches that may happen during delivery. That's the standard. By protecting the candle with plastic wrap, we pollute the environment, mostly oceans. We knew right away that we would not be wrapping our candles in plastic, but we still needed to protect them.
Our solution was (and still is) to wrap each pillar candle in cloth and then place it in a recycled, unbleached cardboard box. We started doing this back in 2008 and have not changed the packaging since. Both, the cloth and the cardboard box, are sustainable, natural materials. They're biodegradable, reusable or recyclable.
When it comes to our glass votive candles, we don't place them in a box at all. We hand-sew fabric bags / pouches that are very practical in design. To avoid using ribbons or string, we cut out the handles from fabric and tie the pouch with those. This is what it looks like
Although it is possible to package products sustainably, most companies still choose to not do it. Usually it is because sustainable packaging is more expensive than plastic, more difficult to customize with your branding and the selection is very limited. This has also been our experience with our body product packaging. So let's talk about that next.
If there's a will, there's a way
In 2019 we launched our skincare collection. At first it consisted of body oils, liquid and bar soaps, and hand lotions. One of our first thoughts when it came to packaging was to stay true to our values and avoid plastic as it only brings harm. We chose to go with glass bottles for all the products. This is not crazy innovative as you've probably seen hand lotion in glass jars before. It's not the standard, but some brands have done it in the past. And since it's a material that is sustainable, we were happy to use it for our products.
We fill the glass jars with product and then wrap it in a fabric pouch. The fabric pouch was our invention after choosing to cut down on cardboard usage and wanting to offer reusable packaging. The cloth is 100% cotton, the packaging is glass, and the tag is cardboard. The very little plastic we do end up using (for the pump) is recycled as well.
When we decided to extend our skincare collection, we knew right away (from customer suggestions), that we will be adding body lotion and body wash to the line. But with this, a problem arose. Glass packaging was no longer an option, because using glass in the shower (for the body wash) can be quite dangerous. Our quest for a better packaging alternative was very long, because it just seemed that there is no packaging that is sustainable and practical for storing liquids.
We tested milk type cartons, but after receiving them from the manufacturer, discovered that they are coated with plastic on the inside to stop the liquid from leaking. This wasn't an option.
Our next choice was a brand new concept in the beauty industry – a cardboard bottle. It looked very promising and we could completely customize the packaging. But imagine our disappointment when we received the first test products and discovered that there's a plastic bottle inside and only the outside is cardboard.
Finally, after months of research and testing, we settled on beautiful matt black aluminum bottles for our new body products. They were light, completely sustainable and great for being stored in the shower. This was a victory for us.
When possible – reuse what you have
The best solution for cutting down the world's plastic problem is to reuse what you already have. Taking this mindset seriously, we launched large refills for our skincare products. The concept is quite simple. Our standard product packaging is glass or metal. You keep the bottles your product comes in and repurchase only the refill. One large refill bottle will fill up the forever bottle 5 times. This way we can reuse what we have and cut down on the overall use of packaging (even if it is metal and sustainable).
So we launched the large refill bottles – all made from metal, thus making them sustainable, recyclable and reusable. They've done very well. We see that environmentally conscious and responsible consumers appreciate the option to choose products that do take sustainability seriously and are willing to offer a solution.
Manufacturing products yourself absolutely cuts down on the production chain, yet there are elements we can't fully control. Let me give you an example – we order our ingredients from certified partners, however they are delivered in large cardboard boxes. They often create waste because we're unable to re-use them for our orders due to their large size. That is about to change because of an innovation we're introducing to our production chain. To avoid wasting these large boxes, we invested in a machine that turns them into packing material.
The most popular packing materials are packing peanuts, bubble wrap or styrofoam, but these are all byproduct of plastic. We've avoided using them for that exact reason and relied on paper as our packing material. Although paper is a better alternative to the above mentioned, we're happy to be able to follow the golden rule of “when possible – reuse what you have”. From now on, our packing material will consist of reused cardboard boxes or paper.
Sustainability isn't cheap
There are 3 rules for packaging to be classified as sustainable. In general, when talking about eco-friendly packaging, this means:
- Materials: 100% recycled or natural materials
- Production: Smaller packaging, cleaner and well managed supply chain, zero-waste and closed loop manufacturing
- Circularity: Packaging that can be easily reused, up-cycled, or recycled
All of the above fit our brand, but it's true – sustainability isn't cheap. The market is so saturated with products that are affordable because of how inexpensive and widely available plastic is as a resource, that looking for alternatives is an expensive hobby. Unfortunately, sustainable materials are more expensive to begin with and there's not a large selection to choose from. Most brands are interested in staying competitive, which means offering low prices for their products. To do that, you can't prioritize sustainability. In our society, sustainable products are a luxury not everyone can afford.
But here's how we fix that. As consumers, we need to focus on supporting brands that do prioritize sustainability and stop funding the bigger corporations that don't. If consumers start demanding better packaging, the market will have to adopt. The problem is not so much that aluminum is so much more expensive to produce than plastic. Rather, it's that the market doesn't demand anything different or better, so there's no pressure to focus on finding sustainable, less waste options.
Our goal with this transparent look into our product packaging choices is to shed a light on a worldwide problem that we are determined to fix. And if we alone can't fix it, at least we won't continue adding to the problem.
Know that when you shop or products, you are reducing the thousands of tons of plastic waste that goes to landfills each day. For that, we are thankful.
the MUNIO uses 100% organic soy wax. We scent our wax with eco certified aromas – all natural and 0% harmful. If you're curious, take a look at our soy candle selection at our shop.
If the topic of sustainability piqued your interest, we recommend reading these articles that focus on the beauty industry and how it can do better.