Sustainable Production Talk Series: “Sustainable Packaging Approach” with Nick Gumery

Sustainable Production Talk Series: “Sustainable Packaging Approach” with Nick Gumery

Posted 23 March 2020 by Katie Kubrak

During this period of social and economic uncertainty, we all are asked to adopt self-isolation and social distancing for the wider benefit. Acquiring more time to contemplate, read and enjoy little things in life, we also find the importance of questioning what professional practices we should carry forward in the midst of rapidly dropping emissions – a direct by-product of the entire planet slowing down. Something that comes back to mind is Buckminster Fuller’s quote, in which he states that: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

With this in mind, this Material Monday, we examine ideas behind regenerative design practices as discussed by Nick Gumery in talk titled “Sustainable Packaging Approach”.

Nick Gumery is an Ethical Buyer at Lush Cosmetics. He sources the most environmentally friendly materials to use in the packaging and shop fitouts. Nick’s packaging remit covers recycled plastics, glass, wood, cork and metal packaging. He has worked on many interesting projects including: (a) the use of 1000m2 of reclaimed wooden floorboards for shop furniture production, (b) bringing in a wood from Sustainable Forestry and Re-wilding initiatives for use as in-store signage display, (c) giving Lush a fully transparent supply chain, whilst, also supporting regenerative practices on the ground, as well as, (d) leading a two-year regenerative material project in Portugal with an outcome of introducing natural cork pot into Lush stores. The cork pot is the first customer-facing carbon positive piece of mainstream packaging to be released into the marketplace.

The key perspective we learn during Nick’s talk is that we can put packaging materials into three categories: degenerative, sustainable and regenerative. In this thinking, degenerative materials are extracted from the ground with the use of advanced processing technology that uses vast amounts of energy; sustainable materials can be collected, upcycled, recycled or downcycled to extend the lifecycle of such resource; and lastly, regenerative materials are those that nature provides us with.

In other words, we can understand regenerative as renewable resources, while degenerative as non-renewable resources. As our current economy is mainly based on the latter, ‘to regenerate’ brings about a whole new framework of thinking that goes beyond just ‘sustaining’ habitats and renewable resources.

To explain this more fully, “the term ‘regeneration’ refers to design systems and practices that take a holistic systems approach to solving environmental, social and economic problems; aiming to restore and rejuvenate rather than merely sustain. Regenerative design observes ecological systems in order to inspire the creation of suitable closed loop systems, and aims for humans to work in partnership with nature rather than against it. Humans are viewed as part of the broader natural ecosystem rather than a pioneer. Regenerative systems therefore aim for energy, natural resources and materials to be conserved and enriched and contribute towards equitable development.”1

So, what could it mean, if we were to implement regenerative design practices into sustainable packaging approach? Below you can find few thoughts of Nick and our Materials & Insight team synthesised in the list form:

  1. Eliminate single-use everything.
  2. Understand the origin of your material
  3. In material harvesting, manufacturing and finishing, use balanced, pragmatic solutions, which allow all forms of life to flourish
  4. Ensure resource regeneration can happen before the next harvest
  5. To limit unnecessary use of resources, utilize sale of ‘naked products’, i.e. free of any packaging, where possible
  6. Make packaging valuable through the use of regenerative materials that your audience can connect with on a deeper and more authentic level

In order to implement regenerative design practices and strive to further lower our global emissions, as a creative industry we need to shift our thinking from purely design-led thinking and make room for material driven approach at the beginning of every project.

This goes hand in hand with a practice that we are passionate about educating on, “sustainability cannot be designed backwards”. If you would like to find out more inspiring talks from our exhibition “
Sustainable Stories” across themes of “Sustainable Materials”, “Sustainable Production” and “Sustainable Innovation” please follow this link. Alternatively, to find out more about materials for sustainable future, please feel free to comment here or email us at


Opening of the video features and extract from “The 1975 ft. Greta Thunberg – 1975”: “We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis. We can still fix this, but it has to start today.”