Every time you send a product , the packaging is either thrown away or recycled. Your business is creating waste every day. It’s possible for recyclable materials not to be recycled or reused. Switching to sustainable packaging can have positive effects on both your business and customers.
This article will provide information about sustainable packaging and tips for ecommerce businesses.
What is sustainable packaging?
The use of sustainable packaging for shipping and storage is an eco-friendly method to transport and store goods. These materials can be used to reduce the earth’s natural resource depletion or to minimize your contribution.
This is the simplest definition for sustainable packaging. However, we can expand our understanding with criteria from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition , an organization which strives to change all manufacturing and eCommerce shipping to environmentally-friendly shipping practices.
The organization stated that custom packaging items must meet the following criteria:
- Packaging is designed to maximize energy and minimize waste.
- Packaging is useful and sustainable throughout its life.
- It is manufactured using the most sustainable technologies and best practices for sustainability.
- Packaging is made from recycled or renewable materials.
- Packaging meets the requirements of standard market prices and performance. It should be functional and affordable.
- It is recycled and reused in closed-loop, reusable and recycling processes.
- Packaging materials are manufactured, shipped, then recycled using renewable energy options.
You can’t satisfy all criteria just by partnering with raw material suppliers who claim to be eco-friendly. It is not necessary to meet all these criteria to make sustainable packaging a priority. This is an excellent start in your journey to earth-friendly shipping practices. You can adapt to all the requirements as you go.
There are many benefits to using sustainable packaging
Online retailers, shippers, as well as the customers who receive these packages, have a lot to gain from sustainable shipping and eco-friendly packaging.
Although it can be difficult to justify the cost of sustainable packaging, these benefits may change your mind and make your business more profitable.
- Sustainable packaging can save your company money over the long-term – Lighter and more efficient packaging allows you to consolidate storage. Shipping costs are also reduced when you focus on smaller packages. They cost less to ship. Sustainable shipping reduces the need for unnecessary packaging, which again cuts down on your shipping costs.
- Large-scale manufacturing contributes a lot to global carbon emissions Not only does it show that your company is helping the planet, but other people will also notice this and be inspired to switch to you.
- Customers base their purchasing decisions on sustainability. Helping the Earth isn’t just a trendy thing that will pass. Companies that help the environment are a key factor in people’s purchasing decisions. You can promote your use of sustainable packaging materials to increase sales.
- Many of the materials used are biodegradable. Many sustainable packaging items can either be recycled or decomposed. Your customers will be able to reuse or recycle their packaging, which can help reduce the environmental impact and guilt associated with disposing of so much rubbish. You can also recycle any packaging that has been returned to you and sell it elsewhere.
- The future of green – While it is not always a good idea for you to follow the crowds, sustainable packaging seems like the new trend. This mentality is similar to how free shipping used to be seen as a tedious, expensive task. This trend is your opportunity to reap the benefits of it by starting early and not waiting until you are forced to use sustainable packaging for economic reasons. You may not be able to do so at that time.
How to transition to sustainable packaging for your online store
It can be daunting and costly to switch from regular shipping materials to more sustainable packaging. It doesn’t have it to be that way. With a little guidance, the transition can be made as easy as possible. Here are the top steps and tips to switch to green shipping materials.
1. Take it slow
It is easy to get excited about switching to sustainable shipping methods, especially if your past experiences with poor packaging materials have led you to believe that customers want a better experience.
But, if you try to overhaul your entire process in a hurry, it could lead to more problems and make you less sustainable. This is usually when a company makes drastic changes and experiences rapid price increases that aren’t sustainable over the long-term. It is possible that major changes in how you ship products can lead to unnecessary costs or confusion within your supply chains.
We recommend that you change small parts of your shipping process in order to adjust to new introductions. You won’t overburden your team or cause problems for customers.
You can start by making one change to your shipping supplies. For example, you might choose a smaller, more recyclable box to hold a portion your shipments. If all goes well, you can then move on to sustainable tape, packaging inserts and shipping partners.
2. Before you commit, test out samples
There are many sustainable packaging options available. You want to make sure that your partner has eco-friendly packaging. It’s important to know if these shipping materials are suitable for your business.
We recommend ordering samples to ensure quality control. Ask if the supplier offers samples. You can test the packaging materials by placing a small order if they don’t provide samples.
To ensure that your packaging remains effective and high-quality, keep an eye on these areas:
- Size Are your boxes large enough to hold your products, but compact enough to offer a sustainable advantage?
- Weight Is your new shipping material lighter than what you used previously? Usually, reducing shipping weight is part of the sustainability goal. This is what you should be looking for. This will also reduce shipping costs.
- Strength Are your new boxes and mailers strong enough to protect your shipment and ensure that customers don’t return to you with damaged items?
- Compatibility for your products. Take your products out of their packaging and place them in it to check if they fit.
3. Modify your pricing to accommodate
You might have to pay more for eco-friendly packaging. You may save money by using smaller packages with fewer inserts. You must consider the cost difference in your pricing, regardless of how much it changes.
Customers will be delighted to see a reduction in prices because of a renewed focus on sustainability packaging.
It’s important to include any increase in costs into your pricing, or to pay the difference yourself. It’s a smart idea to inform your customers why you’re increasing prices if you do indeed plan on raising them. You might find that people are more likely to appreciate your move than accept an increase in price.
4. Small Orders
Like the first step, taking it slow allows you to gradually transition to a more sustainable shipping method. You have already identified one or two areas that can be improved in sustainable materials. This is the second step. You should order smaller quantities to avoid overcrowding your supply chain. This will also allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of your new shipping materials.
It’s also a great way to see how customers react to the new packaging. You can still use the old packaging in certain areas of your business.
5. Send an announcement to your customers
Your final step in the transition to sustainable shipping materials is to announce it to your customers and to the industry you work in. You can communicate your transition to sustainable shipping practices through everything from social media posts, email newsletters, press releases, banners on your website, and even emails.
This communication serves as a way for you to inform your customers about eco-friendly shipping methods. This communication process also informs people about the choices of your brand, which may encourage customers to recommend you over your competition. It’s possible that you need to explain the reason for price increases. It may be less confusing for customers to see the price rise if they are notified and it is for a good cause.
Barriers to your Sustainable Packaging Goal
It’s a great idea to think about sustainable shipping practices for products. It’s important to be aware of the obstacles that might arise when you try to make your packaging more environmentally-friendly. You can plan ahead for these obstacles and avoid situations or companies that could limit your effectiveness.
You should consider the following obstacles to eco-friendly shipping.
- Domestic laws Many countries are slow to adopt ecofriendly laws. You may also find that certain countries don’t offer incentives or regulations for suppliers to use sustainable packaging. This could mean that entire industries of suppliers may not be able to offer sustainable packaging. If this is the case, it may be necessary to find a niche supplier of packaging or to look beyond your locality if you want packaging that is better for the environment.
- Budget constraints Eco-friendly packaging can often cost more than regular packaging. This is usually not true when eco-friendly packaging becomes popular in an industry or region. However, sometimes your suppliers may not be able to offer sustainable packaging at a fair price.
- Different attitudes from shipping companies There is no standard way to ship products. This is true for all countries and for international shipping. You might find that many shipping companies and packaging suppliers don’t consider sustainable packaging attractive. However, there are companies that have a strong commitment to sustainability packaging. It’s not a big hassle, but don’t be discouraged by the way some companies present it.
- Sustainable packaging is still a new concept. Shipping companies have few experts because of this. Although they may be interested in sustainable packaging, they lack the necessary expertise.
Strategies to Use Eco-Friendly Packaging
It’s one thing to say you will switch to sustainable packaging. But it’s important to be educated about the different shipping options and eco-friendly packaging so you can choose which ones. There are many sustainable shipping boxes available, so it is likely that you will choose one over the others.
This raises the issue of sustainable packaging strategies. Are you aware of the options?
This section will discuss the different types of sustainable shipping products and help you to choose the best strategy for your business.
Here are some ideas:
Choose green-oriented shippers, manufacturers, and suppliers
Partnering with a supplier or manufacturer that values sustainable packaging is a good place to start your strategy. It’s likely that most of your packaging materials are from a third party supplier or shipping partner. You have complete control over the partners you choose. Contact your existing suppliers and manufacturers to find out if they have more environmentally-conscious packaging options.
Talk to them about your plans to make the switch to sustainable shipping. They might be able to make the necessary changes for you. Look for other suppliers or manufacturers that forecast demand accurately to avoid waste. Talk to them about consolidating your shipments so you don’t have to use as many packaging materials. Finding suppliers with the right infrastructure and materials to help reduce your carbon footprint is key.
Reduce the number of packaging materials
To ensure that your items reach their destination in one piece, they are wrapped, wrapped, boxed and taped before being sent to your company.
Some of these materials may not be necessary. You should work with suppliers who are able to forecast the exact demand and eliminate waste. It is possible to get rid of extra items such as multiple boxes inserts, excessive tape and large or thick boxes. You might also consider if there is a way to add more products to each shipment.
Ship products in smaller packages
Although you may believe that your products ship in the smallest possible container, this is often not true. Most mailers and boxes are designed to allow for extra space within the shipping container. Your company can include inserts or packaging materials such as paper, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap.
This strategy requires you to examine the final shipping product before it is sent to customers. Take the time to open these boxes and check how much space is left. Also, consider how big the mailer or box is in relation to the product. Do you find that most of the space in the box is taken up with protective bubble wrap and tissue paper? Is it really necessary to cushion your products?
It is not unusual for perfectly durable products to be sealed-wrapped in their protective boxes, then wrapped in bubble wrap and finally placed inside a box. It’s not necessary, as most products can withstand movement and aren’t considered fragile. A smaller box is similar to bubble wrap in that it prevents the contents from sliding around within the box.
Look into biodegradable alternatives to plastic
If you are looking for sustainable packaging options, consider biodegradable and compostable plastic alternatives. These options allow your customers to send their packaging directly to a compost site, or to place the items in their compost piles.
It is important to inform your customers about how to dispose of these boxes properly. We’ll go over that in detail below.
Overall, compostable and biodegradable packages are able to be broken down in the soil within three months.
Get Plantable Packaging
Your customer can plant a plantable packaging item by taking a piece of their shipping container or a paper insert and planting it in water or soil.
This strategy is resourceful and fun for customers. Although there is more work involved in printing instructions and educational information on packaging, it makes the experience much more eco-friendly.
Plantable packaging is also a great option for small items that are usually packaged in paper or plastic bags. Consider jewelry, cosmetics, small toys, and other small items.
Take a look at edible packaging, especially when selling food and drink
While edible packaging is not as well-known as compostable or plant-based options, it is a viable packaging option for companies that already ship food-based products. The packaging can be used in a variety of recipes, including a seasoning, cracker or broth base.
Plant-based packaging options are available
A plant-based option, similar to biodegradable packaging uses food waste such as mushrooms, corn, and kelp to make durable boxes and other packaging containers. All of these can be recycled or composted.
While plant-based packaging is still gaining popularity, it is worth noting that not all plant-based materials can be as strong as others. You might consider the more robust plant-based packaging materials if you are shipping heavier items. These materials are usually made of cornstarch or mushroom packaging.
You should order several batches and test them to ensure that the packaging is sturdy when it gets from your warehouse to your customer.
Consider Recycled Materials as Packaging
Recycling is one thing. But you must also consider where the materials were originally made.
Many materials can be recycled and used for packaging. These materials include cardboard boxes made from corrugated paperboard and recyclable plastics. These items can be recycled and made into compostable mailers or box, which is a great option for those who want to prolong the life of their materials.
However, recycled materials lose their effectiveness once they are recycled more than once. This removes them from closed-loop recycling. We often find that plant-based and compostable packaging has a greater impact on the environment. You can recycle and reuse those.
Educate your customers about sustainability
Communication with customers is the final strategy. Although it is a great idea to send products in sustainable packaging, what if customers don’t know how to recycle the packaging?
Consider plantable packaging as an example. Let’s suppose your paper inserts can be biodegradable and have flower seeds embedded within them. A common person might look at the paper and assume it is just another insert. It is your job to add some marketing text to the paper to show how it can be used for other purposes.
Educational materials have two main purposes. They help the world by encouraging people to reuse and recycle materials. They also boost your brand’s image by explaining that you are committed to sustainable packaging.
Start Your Sustainable Packaging and Shipping Journey
These steps will help you get started on sustainable packaging and making a difference in the global marketplace.
- Learn the many benefits of using sustainable packaging. These include the financial savings and the environmental benefits.
- Do not rush the transition.
- Before you commit to a supplier, make sure to test out the packaging samples.
- To make your packaging more sustainable, you can change the product pricing
- So that your employees are not overwhelmed, order small quantities of durable shipping items.
- Your customers should be made aware of the changes. This will help educate your customers and attract more customers who support your cause.
- Learn about the obstacles to sustainable package use
- Consider eco-friendly manufacturers and shippers.
- Get rid of unnecessary packaging.
- You can ship in smaller packages
- Consider using biodegradable and compostable packaging materials.
- Look out for plantable packaging materials.
- You can consider edible packaging but ensure it is strong enough to protect and hold your products.
- You might consider using recycled materials to start, but this is often not as eco-friendly than other options.
- Continue to educate your customers about sustainability and how they can reuse packaging once it reaches their doors.
If you have any questions regarding the transition to sustainable packaging or making your shipping more environmentally-friendly, please let us know. If you have already begun your journey, please share your thoughts.