Dual Purpose Designs Baking Sustainability Into Product Packaging

Transformative designs are bringing cost-saving, sustainable solutions to the world of packaging.

Of all the waste that we create each year in the developed world, approximately a third of it comes from packaging accord to the Environmental Protection Agency.

While that may be a disturbing thought, it also a motivational push for many designers, who are creating new versatile packaging that can live beyond its initial purpose.


Transforma, a concept by Brooklyn-based Turkish industrial design student Asli Ozcivelek, seeks to reduce packaging waste by being both packaging and a hanger.

Made out of recycled molded paper pulp, Ozcivelek’s choice of recycled material was ‘in order to provide for durable packaging and hanger, while being sustainable and affordable,’ explains the designer.

Ozcivelek designed the packaging as a compact box to hold the t-shirts, with a small window to allow customers to feel the material and see the color of the shirt.

The package is held closed by a hook that serves two functions. Once the customer opens the hook and removes the shirt, they can reconfigure the packaging, folding up to the sides to become the arms of the hanger, while the hook is then attached to the top to complete the hanger transformation.


It seems intuitive for a package of clothing to transform into a hanger – a natural path in the journey of a t-shirt from store to closet.

But packaging does not always have to follow one path. We are also seeing designers consider secondary purposes for product packaging that has little to do with its original function.

Plastic water bottles are an environmental landmine – although people do recycle occasionally, only about 30% get recycled each year with the rest ending up in landfills and oceans.

Petomato, a Japanese product brought to US by Angel Sales Inc., envisions another role for water bottles – as planters for tomatoes, basil and peppers.


Petomato only has one product: a special cap that is planted with a small amount of sand, fertilizer and seeds. Users can fill any used plastic bottle with water, and place the sand – which protects the seeds and anchors the sprouts as they go –and a maximum of five seeds into Petomato cap transforming the bottle into a micro hydroponic planter.

To simulate the conditions of growing in soil, the water bottle is covered with paper so that is has same levels of darkness as if it were underground. As the roots grow, they attached to the cap and after 7-10 days the seeds begin to germinate.

The bigger the plant, the bigger the water bottle that is needed – but the Petomato cap is formulated to fit most bottles.

Petomato was launched as an introduction to gardening for children, while also a lesson in upcycling.

“[Petomato is] as a mean cross between Chia Pet, Pet Rock, Sea Monkeys, and Topsy Turvy Tomatoes all rolled into one fun novelty item that is educational, silly, cool, and which provides the users with an experience,” said Laura Engels, cofounder of Angel Sales Inc.

While currently Petomato only sells basil, cherry tomatoes and habañero peppers, we can envisage future use for this cap as a planter for other herbs and vegetables to create a hydroponic garden of greenery in urban spaces where soil is limited.


The potential for bringing cost-saving, sustainable solutions to the world of packaging is vast. We have already seen how plastic bottles can be transformed into hydroponic planters – but they can be used for so much more.

The versatility of screwing on a cap to change the function of a bottle has been explored by Coca-Cola, with its 2nd lives campaign. But beyond upcycling, we must consider how we can make packaging smarter – more compact, out of better, recycled materials, with dual purposes to lend them longer lives.

Extending the life of product packaging means less waste – for both the earth and the wallet.

Blending what we desire with what we need is a recipe for pushing boundaries and breaking new ground. In this series of articles published in partnership with iQ by Intelwe look at products, service and technologies that are always evolving to offer versatile applications much like the Intel based 2 in1s, a line of new multifunctional devices that are a tablet when you want it and a laptop when you need it.