Think Inside the Box (Redesigning packaging to reduce waste)

By Glowforge

Challenge: Redesign packaging for a product to reduce waste and lower costs.

Choose a product and, using Glowforge, design new packaging that minimizes the amount of materials used, lowers production costs, and maintains the product's integrity during transport or shipping. Consider packaging materials, shape, aesthetics, durability, and usability.

Facilitation Guide


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), containers and packaging account for about 28% of all garbage. This has made packaging waste a common concern for manufacturers today. Many companies are trying to use more sustainable or eco-friendly packaging or simply reduce the amount of packaging used. This helps to decrease environmental damage and lower business costs.

By rethinking packaging solutions, companies can decrease their expenses and increase profitability. In addition to the cost of production and materials, manufacturers developing packaging solutions must also account for the impact of shipping in their costs. If packaging doesn’t keep a product secure during shipping, products may be damaged. Companies can then incur additional expenses for returns and replacements and risk losing repeat business. To reduce this risk, manufacturers consider how to use different materials for product packaging and fillers. They must determine the optimal size for packing containers in order to minimize waste, decrease shipping costs, and secure products for transport.

Manufacturers are increasingly using 2D and 3D print technology to create sustainable and cost-effective solutions. Utilizing Glowforge allows you to strategically design packaging that eliminates excess waste while keeping production costs low. Glowforge can cut, etch, and engrave a wide variety of materials that promote aesthetic appeal, durability, and sustainability.


Research and explore solutions for product packaging that minimize waste and decrease costs. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • How do manufacturers adapt product packaging to reduce waste and cost? Consider how bulk production or multi-functional packaging might have an impact.

  • Learn how to complete a cost analysis to evaluate the cost savings of your packaging.

  • How might alternative packaging materials impact the product's aesthetic appeal and packaging durability? Check out these creative packaging solutions and eco-friendly packaging examples for inspiration.

  • How do manufacturers design product packaging to ensure product integrity during shipping and transport?

  • What products have you used or seen recently that you think might need a package redesign?

Explore Tip

Take some time to evaluate product packaging found in your school, home, or stores. Try disassembling the packaging to determine how it was made. Notice how much waste is associated with the packaging, consider if the packaging keeps the product safe during shipping, and observe how the packaging looks aesthetically. Consider the pros and cons of these different packaging solutions.

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the research you did for your packaging redesign.

  • What did you learn about how manufacturers package products?
  • What product do you hope to redesign packaging for?

In the next stage, you’ll brainstorm ways to produce packaging that reduces costs & minimizes waste. Before moving on, are there any other resources or techniques you want to explore?


Brainstorm some techniques and design ideas for your product’s packaging. Think of as many ideas as you can! You don’t need to worry about whether they’re good or bad — just get creative! Think about:

  • What elements of the current packaging may need to change? If you no longer have the packaging for the product, what will you need to create new packaging?
  • How can the product’s packaging design reduce waste, lower costs, and provide safe and effective shipping or transport?
  • How might different materials impact sustainability and allow packaging to be reused?
  • How might you shape the packaging so that it fits efficiently within a box or other packing container?
  • How might you redesign the current packaging to increase visual appeal?

Ideate Tip

Don't be afraid to experiment and think outside the box. Sometimes the most innovative designs come from combining seemingly unrelated materials or ideas. Let your imagination run wild and have fun with the creative process! Search the Glowforge Community to explore helpful examples or guides for creating various packaging.

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on your product packaging ideas.

  • Are any of your ideas similar and can be grouped together?

  • How did cost savings and waste management impact your ideas?

In the next stage you’ll take one or two of your ideas and fully design them. Before moving on, think about any gaps in your brainstorming, and consider if you need a few more ideas.


Review the product packaging ideas you brainstormed. Select one or two to develop by creating sketches, models, or digital mockups. Consider the following:

  • What materials and techniques will you use to redesign the product’s packaging? How can your design ensure integrity during transport, lower costs, and reduce waste?
  • Will additional packing materials or fillers be necessary when preparing the product for shipping? If so, how do those impact your cost or waste? How will they impact the product’s aesthetics?
  • What software tools can you use, in addition to the Glowforge App, to help you design and model the full product packaging? Can you use CAD software like SketchUp or AutoCAD to help you model in 3D? Use this library of dieline templates to help you get started.
  • Compare the cost of your redesigned packaging to the original product packaging. Consider calculating the difference in surface area as well as individual versus bulk material cost.

Design Tip

When designing packaging on Glowforge, arrange components in a way that will reduce waste and possibly even use the scraps for additional packaging components or filler. Learn more about placing designs precisely to optimize material use.

Reflect and Review

Now that you have spent time developing your product packaging, take a moment to reflect on the progress of your design.

  • Does your product packaging reduce waste and costs?
  • How will you ensure that the product will maintain its integrity when shipped?

You’re almost ready to create your redesigned packaging! Consider if there is anything you’d like to change in your design before you start creating.


Select one fully developed design. Using Glowforge, print a prototype of your packaging design using appropriate materials. Consider the following:

  • What materials and tools will you use to create a functional prototype of your product packaging?
  • What are pros and cons of using different materials to develop your packaging with Glowforge? What materials create low waste and low cost while simultaneously ensuring safe and effective transport? What materials are aesthetically pleasing for customers?
  • How will you test and refine your prototype to ensure the product will maintain its integrity when shipped?

Prototype Tip

Ready to test your packaging? Try conducting one or more of these lab tests to check whether your product will maintain its integrity during shipping.

Reflect and Review

Think about the prototypes you created and tested during this stage.

  • What do you notice about your packaging prototype in regards to cost efficiency, waste reduction, and transport durability?
  • Are there elements of your design that you want to revisit after testing your prototype?

You’ll get feedback from your peers in the next stage, so take a moment to consider if there is any part of your design you want to revisit before moving on.


Here are some sample questions to ask your peers to get useful and actionable feedback:

  • How does the cost, material waste, and transport safety of the redesigned product packaging compare to the original packaging? If you no longer have the packaging for the original product, how does the redesigned packaging reduce business costs, minimize waste, and ensure safe transport?

  • Complete a cost analysis to evaluate the cost savings of your packaging. Remember that time is money, so consider production time and labor as part of your analysis.

  • How visually appealing is the packaging for consumers?

  • Approximately how much is saved in business costs? Approximately how much waste is reduced?

  • How efficiently does the packaging fit within a box or other packaging container?

Evaluate Tip

Ask your peers to create an unboxing video of your redesigned product packaging. Post the video on an interactive whiteboard, such as Padlet, or video discussion platform, such as Flip, to receive feedback on visual appeal or customer waste.

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the feedback you received from others.

  • What aspects of your product packaging do you need to revisit or adjust based on feedback?
  • Which stages in the process might you return to in order to make these adjustments?

Once you have completed and finalized your design, share it with a larger audience!

Share your students' creations on social media! Post your photos and use the hashtag #GlowforgeEDU and tag us @glowforge for the chance to be featured.