When it comes to eco-conscious packaging, materials matter most. And today, consumers have more choice than ever, with packaging options from glass to cardboard, aluminium, and more recently, compostable plastic, plant-based plastic and post-consumer waste recycled plastic.
However, picking the best packaging option isn't easy. The reality is there are pros (and cons) to all the different options when you're mindful of the carbon produced in making the material, freighting the material, along with the end-of-life options, including recycling facilities in different regions and countries. Our product packaging blog has a great rundown on the options if you're keen to dig deeper. But one thing we know for sure is that from an environmental perspective, reusing packaging is always the best option.
Reuse over recycling
When it comes to reusing your product’s packaging, this is one area that glass really comes into its own. It's durable and looks stylish, so finding fabulous ways to give jars of all sizes a second lease on life is only limited by your imagination. From pickles to peanut butter, skincare to makeup, here we share fifteen fun and practical ways to reuse old jars.
1. Pantry storage
Glass jars are fantastic for kitchen storage and organisation and look wonderful, filled with nuts, seeds, baking ingredients, herbs, and spices.
2. Lunch jar
Getting a little bored of packing a sandwich for your midday meal? Grab an old jar and layer your salad ingredients in or pour in a serving size of your favourite soup to heat and eat later.
3. Breathe easy
If seasonal ills and chills have left you with a stuffy nose, pop a few drops of essential oils (eucalyptus and peppermint work well) onto a cotton ball or two and pop them in a small jar with some holes nailed in the lid.
Storing your food in herbs and oils until it's ready to be cooked will impart an incredible flavour that's sure to impress, and a large jar is just the ticket for this task.
5. DIY dressings and sauces
If you're a whizz at making your own sauces and dressings, keep an old maple syrup jar handy for mixing up your ingredients in (a funnel will let you add the ingredients quickly), then simply shake and pour when needed.
6. Meal prepping
If meal prep is your thing, slicing up your carrots and cucumbers and storing them in some cold water in a jar keeps them fresh for a few days (in the fridge) and makes them easy to grab for speedy snacks. Glass jars are also ideal for freezing leftovers.
7. Pickled vegetables
While you're on the meal prepping buzz, try our pickled vegetable recipes – they are sensational on a sandwich, salad, or side to any meal, to add an extra kick, flavour and health benefits, plus they keep well in the fridge in a glass jar.
8. Mini herb gardens
Wide-mouthed jars come in handy when propagating seeds. Just fill with potting mix, plant your seeds, pop on a sunny windowsill, and wait for the magic to happen.
9. Party favours
While we don't think that little ones need party favours, a soil-filled jar and a bag of seeds are far better for encouraging little greenies than a pile of cheap plastic toys and a balloon.
10. Body and bath indulgences
11. Nuts and bolts holder
A glass full of nuts, bolts and screws might feel old school but it’s a real time saver! The handy aspect of glass storage is that you can see what's in the jar at a glance.
12. Cookie/muffin mix
For a thoughtful homemade gift, simply fill a large jar with dry ingredients for a cookie or muffin recipe (in layers if you'd like a pretty look), and then seal the jar and attach the instructions for adding the wet ingredients and the method for baking.
13. Storage container
Make gorgeous storage containers by covering them with a vinyl wrap, easily purchased from a stationery shop. The lids can be painted. Or be more creative and make storage jars for the kids.
14. Happiness Jar
Each day, take notes of happy memories, tickets from events or nice things people have said or done and then on New Year's Day, open it up to reminisce all the lovely things that happened in the previous year.
15. 52 Reasons Jar
This is a cute homemade gift for someone you care about. Label your jar with '52 reasons I love you' and then roll up 52 pieces of paper which state your reasons. The recipient can open one each week.
Glass as good as new
If you decide to use any of these ideas, you'll want to remove the label, so your glass comes up as good as new. Start with a good soak in water - you may want to leave it in a bucket for 24 hours. Scraping the label with the back of a butter knife usually does the trick. However, if the label is attached with sticky glue, add a drop or two of orange essential oil – it does wonders!
Glass recycling – the breakdown
If your home is already full of glass storage containers and you've run out of ideas for using them, you might like to post in your local community forum on Facebook to see if any home picklers or jam makers have use for them. If you do need to recycle your glass packaging, the good news is that recycled glass uses 40% less energy than manufacturing new glass.
But care must be taken to recycle responsibly. New Zealand's system of single-stream recycling (putting all recyclables into one bin) increases the risk of glass breaking. Unfortunately, broken glass contaminates everything else in the bin so that the papers and plastics in the bin cannot be recycled. And many people don't realise that dirty glass cannot be recycled. So, if you are going to (gently) put glass in your recycle bin, make sure that you've given it a quick clean first.