Greenhouse Pioneer: Tracy Sutton, Packaging Design & Sustainability Consultant

Tracy founded Root to help thoughtful brands take advantage of the proven business benefits of sustainable design thinking.

Tracy SuttonWith a degree in 3D Design for Sustainability and a wealth of experience in the packaging industry as a technologist, engineer and technical project director, she has seen first-hand how strategic innovation can reap both environmental and economic rewards.

At Root, Tracy harnesses her technical and environmental knowledge to unearth the creative opportunities and innovative solutions that can help brands and businesses bloom. She has worked with both national and international clients, managing diverse design and sustainability projects for brands including Starbucks, Cadbury, Jamie Oliver and Unilever.

Tell us about Root – what’s your mission?

I work with brands and designers to seize the business and brand opportunity of sustainability to reveal desirable, ethical and profitable brands and packaging.

What motivates you?

The combination of design thinking, functionality and environmental factors that work holistically to provide consumers with considered products and packaging that look, feel and function in a seamlessly effective way.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Personally, my biggest achievement has been making the move to set up Root and to carve out my own niche within the design and packaging industry. From a career point of view it has been working with some of the world’s most respected brands that are leading the way in the sustainability agenda, such as Unilever and Jamie Oliver.

What are the challenges you face?

By far the biggest challenge is continually working to help people to shake off the assumptions and complexity surrounding ‘sustainability’ as a whole. Many consumers and clients believe that ‘environmentally friendly’ products are more expensive and substandard.

My aim is to shake off the stuffy, old, ethical fundamentalist stigma attached to environmentalism and introduce an exciting and design-led approach and help clients save money.

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

I’m currently working with an exiting beverage start-up. We’re implementing the sustainability strategy I created and are in the process of exploring suitable packaging formats with their designers while they refine the design. It’s great to see the whole process through from concept to shelf and watch new brands thrive in todays’ competitive environment.

Where do you want to take Root next?

Organic ProtienWhen I set out on my own journey I wanted to devote some time to help bridge the gap between academia and business, specifically in the creative industry. I’m currently working with some well-respected universities to strengthen the curriculum around sustainable design and packaging design.

I want to connect brands and students in a mutually beneficial way to give students interested in packaging a better chance of finding employment and brands the chance to support young blood and gain fresh perspectives.

What can we do to make a difference?

We should be positive by inspiring and engaging others rather than criticising them. By tuning in to what is important to them we can translate sustainability into their language and in a unique way that meets their needs.

If economics is a driver, help identify ways to save money. If they want increased sales, enable them to harness environmental drivers in a way that positively impacts brand trust and loyalty. If they simply want to operate in a more effective way, think strategically and look at the bigger opportunities that exist.

If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?

I would look at two areas; the first is integration of legislation to drive businesses to adopt more environmentally sound packaging design. The second would be to implement a mandatory sustainability component within the education system so that it is not an opt-in or bolt-on decision.

What’s the coolest project/product you’ve come across?

The teardrop bottle designed by Karin Rashid for Method’s handwash is very clever. The shape of the bottle is not only ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing but its design means that the last portion of the product falls to the bottom and does not get wasted in any tight corners.

Method Handwash


Can you recommend a life-changing book for our readers?

Embedded Sustainability is a great read that really supports the message that integrating sustainability into the DNA of your business drives economic, brand and environmental benefits.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

I keep an updated TEDtalk playlist that keep me inspired when I’m being creative in the kitchen.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Jewellery packaging‘Keep things simple’. Packaging and sustainability are two topics that are known for being multifaceted, complex topics. It’s important to strip away the jargon and focus on financial or experiential benefits by delivering a simple solution.

Who would be your Eco Hero?

That’s a good question. There are some big brands such asMethod, Unilever and Puma that are making real progress because they educate consumers about the environment as part of their journey.making real progress in educating consumers about the environment, these global brands have more reach than individuals, especially via social media. It’s something that I hope they will harness to greater effect in the future.

Visit Tracy’s website Root Innovation for more information and to see more of her sustainable designs. You can also follow @tracesutton on Twitter and rootinnovation on Instagram.