Green. Sustainable. Fair Trade.

These words are no longer the marketing mumbo-jumbo they used to be. Discerning customers of today are keen observers of the ‘ecological credentials’ of your brand. And they will likely spend more to buy from a brand that’s proven its green inclinations. According to a report by U.S.-based market intelligence company Transparency Market Research, the green packaging market is expected to surpass US$178 billion by 2018. As consumers increasingly take note of – and choose to buy – sustainability-conscious products, green packaging can be a bigger game-changer than you thought.

If that doesn’t give you enough reasons to adjust your approach to packaging, these three emerging trends certainly will. Here are the top three green packaging trends of 2015:

Trend 1: Plant-based Plastics – Moving Beyond Petroleum-Derived Plastics
2015 may well be the year when it dawns on us that our lives will not come to a standstill if petroleum-based plastics were to disappear from the market. Plant-based plastics, or bioplastics, are poised to play a greater role in packaging and will play an even greater role in shaping consumer attitudes towards brands.

We already see companies such as Coca-Cola plunging deep in the bioplastics domain. According to the company’s website, as of June 2014, over 25 billion of its PlantBottle™ packages are in the market in about 40 countries. The company claims this has translated into 525,000 barrels of oil being saved. In yet another instance, in late 2013, a number of global brands joined hands with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to establish the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA) – a forum that aims to increase awareness and set standards for the wider use of plant-based plastics.

Initiatives such as these will be conspicuous in 2015, and brands need to take cognizance of this trend that’s geared toward reducing dependence on plastics derived from fossil-based resources.

Trend 2: Lean is Mean – Put Your Packaging on a Diet
We know that the biggest brands have already set goals to reduce packaging at the source, and 2015 will be the year when mid-size and small brands will feel the pressure to follow suit. The three-pronged approach brands will need to take is: Make packaging size smaller, make it lighter, and use fewer materials while doing so. Phasing out heavier materials such as glass and switching over to other environmentally-friendly rigid packaging alternatives will be the focus.

Players in the food and beverage sector, particularly, will have to begin taking steps towards reducing packaging weight. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), between 2005 and 2010 alone, its members cut packaging weight by 1.5 billion pounds. The GMA expects that its members will reduce packaging weight by another 2.5 billion pounds from 2011 through 2020. Less will definitely mean more as far as packaging in general, and sustainable packaging in particular, is concerned.

Trend 3: Recycled Packaging – It’s About Making the Best of Waste
Every day, millions of tons of waste is generated in the process of producing and transporting packaging materials. In the UK alone, an estimated 5.91 million tons of packaging waste piles up every year. What this means for brands, is that consumers are likely already aware of these environmental issues through the media. They want to know where a brand’s packaging material has been sourced from, what materials have been used for packaging, or whether the packaging can be recycled.

The way ahead, clearly, is to switch to environmentally-friendly packaging materials sourced responsibly to help mitigate this impact, and put brands in a better position to take pride in answering these questions that consumers have.

Sustainable Packaging is the New Competitive Tool for 2015
In an age of self-service marketing—online and offline—sustainable packaging is as much a measure of your competitive standing as your product itself. It sets the scene for the actual consumer experience your product is about to offer. 2015 is the right time to rethink your total impact and take concrete steps to show consumers that you’re not just a great brand, but a responsible one too!