Go Green With Your Packaging!

Posted by Marian

Going green with your packaging isn’t just some hype in this technologically frenzied world – it’s a goal or mission that every business should aim for from day one. Eco-friendly initiatives used to be quite novel in the business world.

Several years ago, going green was something that only niche or forward-thinking companies would promote. Today, however, engaging in sustainable practices isn’t something that’s nice to do — it’s increasingly becoming the standard.

Are You Ready to Go Green?

It’s not just a color trend but a way of life if you want to live in a more sustainable fashion. Various organizations are calling for more collective, eco-friendly efforts to sustain the planet – and human life in general.

The United Nations points out that should the world’s population reach 9.6 billion by the year 2050, we would definitely need the equivalent of almost three planets to sustain current lifestyles. It’s time to get serious with green initiatives in business.

We do have just one earth to share. We only have one livable planet and everyone plays a pivotal part in preserving the environment. To that end, if you’re an e-commerce store that wants to be more eco-friendly, one important thing you can do is use sustainable packaging. You’re in the business of selling goods to consumers, so you likely use a lot of different materials whenever you pack and ship products.

Choosing Earth-friendly packaging supplies and processes will go a long way in minimizing the waste and pollution that end up in our landfills and oceans.

To help you navigate the ins and outs of sustainable packaging in e-commerce, we’re covering what sustainable packaging is and how to implement it.

What Is Sustainable Packaging?

Sustainable packaging refers to the sourcing, development, and use of packaging solutions that have minimal environmental impact and footprint.

Simply put, sustainable packaging is earth-friendly and doesn’t contribute to the further depletion of natural resources.

  • Considered beneficial, safe, and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its lifecycle.
  • Meets market criteria for performance and cost.
  • Sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy.
  • Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials.
  • Manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices.
  • Made from healthy materials throughout the life cycle.
  • Physically designed to optimize materials and energy.
  • Effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles.

Reasons to Go for Eco-Friendly Packaging

Stack of carton boxes on table

We’ve talked a great deal about sustainable packaging solutions and the different strategies that go along with it, but what exactly can you get out of eco-friendly packing?

Expand Your Customer Base and Increase Brand Loyalty

Being more sustainable can help you acquire more customers and boost loyalty while you’re at it. Multiple studies have shown that consumers are increasingly factoring in sustainability when choosing which brands to do business with.

Streamlined and Consolidated Storage

Reducing packaging materials and minimizing waste are two big components of sustainable packaging. And when implemented correctly, they lead to more efficient storage, so you can limit the space required to house your products (thus lowering storage costs), or open up additional space to store more merchandise.

Reduce Shipping Costs

If there is a way to ship it small and more compact, then do it. Shipping small smaller packages is a great way to practice sustainability. A bonus to this is it also lowers your shipping costs.

Eco-Friendly Packaging Strategies

Now that you know what sustainable packaging is and what it entails, let’s look at the strategies and packaging innovations you can implement to be more eco-friendly with your packaging.

Share Your Best Practices

Educate your customers on the best ways to recycle and dispose of your packaging materials. This step can be a little tricky because recycling varies from city to city. But you can share general best practices by clearly labeling reusable or recyclable packaging.

Ship in Smaller Packages or Boxes

Reducing your carbon footprint can be as simple as reducing the packaging materials you use. This means using smaller boxes, bags, and containers for your products. Not only does this help you be more sustainable, it can also lower your shipping costs.

Reducing the size of your shipments starts with purchasing smaller packing supplies and using fewer filler materials.

If possible, play around with the size and positioning of your products and see if they can fit in smaller packages.

For example, if you sell furniture that can be disassembled, explore the ways that you can position the different components of your product to figure out the approach that saves the most space. Shipping apparel, bedding, or any other foldable products? Keep them tightly folded or bundled so they’ll fit snugly in smaller boxes.

Use Recycled Packaging Materials

Recycled packaging is a great way to extend the life of previously used materials. When deciding on boxes, mailers, or containers, consider using packaging that’s made out of recycled materials.

Paperboard cardboard is one of the most common examples of recycled packaging. Paperboard is created using used paper pulp; it’s also lightweight and can easily be cut and formed, making it ideal for shipping boxes.

You can also opt for containers and mailers that are made from previously used plastic materials such as single-use bags and bottles. These plastics are processed at a recycling facility and put back into circulation in the form of packaging supplies.

Try Plant-Based Packaging

Plant-based options are rapidly making inroads into the world of product packaging. As its name suggests, these materials are made out of biological sources — everything from mushrooms and seaweed to corn and food waste.

The right plant-based packaging options will depend on the products that you need to package or ship. If you’re selling food, for example, then you should ensure that the material can protect your product without affecting its flavor (bioplastics are a good solution for this). If you’re shipping bulkier items, then select durable plant-based materials such as packaging made out of cornstarch and mushrooms.

Opt for Edible Packaging

Think of edible packaging as a cousin of plant-based. They come from the same family, but edible packaging takes things a step further by being safe to eat.

Edible packaging is an ideal option for retailers that sell food and beverages, as it could serve as a great addition to your already delicious offerings.

Use Plantable Packaging

Plantable packaging is exactly what it sounds like: these are packages or materials that you can plant. Plantable packages have seeds embedded in them, so your customers can plant them after they’ve been used.

Plantable packaging works great for containing small and lightweight items such as cosmetics or jewelry. They can also be used as fillers or product wraps.

Use Biodegradable Packaging

Compostable or biodegradable packaging is made out of materials that can be composted at home and commercially. They’re often made from plant-based polymer that can break down in compost.

How long does it take to fully compost these packages? Depending on the quality and materials, a commercial compost facility can break these packages down in 90 days, while domestic compost conditions can do it in 180 days.

Avoid Over-Packaging

Packing materials are abundant in the retail supply chain. Products are bagged, baled, or bundled before they get to you, often using additional packaging. As such, you need to optimize how merchandise moves across the chain so you can minimize these materials — and the waste that comes with them.

Here are some tips to get that done:

  • Forecast demand properly to ensure that you don’t overproduce or over-order products.
  • Consolidate shipments to use fewer packaging materials.
  • Urge your supply chain partners to use sustainable materials throughout the process.

Steps on How You Can Adopt Eco-Friendly Packaging

Pull Rope Bags Used as Rice Packaging

Ready to transition to an eco-friendly packaging solution? Great! Here are some pointers on how to implement sustainable packaging correctly.

Don’t Change Everything All At Once            

If you’re coming from non-sustainable practices, it may be tempting to revamp your entire process to be more eco-friendly. But this approach can do more harm than good.

For starters, introducing new materials and ways of doing things requires research, testing, and even trial and error. If you try to change everything all at once, you’ll overwhelm yourself and your team and fail to implement your initiatives properly.

To make your efforts sustainable, rather than replacing all your supplies with greener alternatives, start with one or two things. For example, if your boxes or mailers come in different sizes, kick things off by replacing one size first to see how it goes. Depending on the results of your efforts, you can move on to other sizes.

Order Small Volumes

This is an important step, particularly if you’ve just started working with a new sustainable packaging vendor. Order small volumes of the packaging materials and assess durability, customer reception, and overall performance compared to your old packaging.

Then, start ordering more as you fully transition to your new packaging.

Order Product Samples

There are plenty of companies that offer eco-friendly packaging. The best way to figure out which one is right for you is to get your hands on some samples. If the vendor agrees to provide them for free, then great. Otherwise, place a small order so you can evaluate their products.

Here are some of the factors to consider:

  • Compatibility with your merchandise – See to it that the packaging materials are a good match for your products. Place your items inside then evaluate how well they fit. Does the package showcase your products in the best possible way? Would it be easy for your customers to unbox or remove items from the container? These are some of the questions you should be asking when evaluating your options.
  • Durability – Do a stress test with the packaging. Place your products inside then try to recreate what a package would go through during a typical shipping journey. If possible, bend the material, apply some pressure, or even throw it around to see how well it can protect its contents. 
  • Weight and size – As mentioned earlier, a few grams and inches here and there can add to your shipping costs. Choose packaging with just the right dimensions and weight — i.e., large and durable enough to contain your products, but not too big or heavy that you end up overspending on shipping.

Adjust Pricing

Depending on what type of packaging you decide on, you may end up paying more for the materials and shipping costs. Be sure to factor this in when pricing your products. If you plan to eat the extra costs, do the math to make sure your bottom line doesn’t take too much of a hit.

Use Recyclable Plastic to Secure Boxes

Transporting a large amount of product around the warehouse? Preparing pallets for shipment? Don’t jampack your products into big, hard-to-handle boxes. Save energy and money by securing smaller boxes together with recyclable stretch film to:

  • Keep your products safe and secure during transport.
  • Reduce the likelihood of damaged items.
  • Save unusable products from heading to the landfill.

Train Your Team on Proper Packaging Techniques

Make reducing packaging waste in your facility a team effort.  Explain your recycling and waste management plan, and make sure your staff is trained to correctly package your inventory.

  • Select the right-sized box for the product. Use specially-designed containers for fragile items.
  • Reinforce the bottom of the box with a strip of two-inch-wide packing tape.
  • Carefully wrap and cushion the product with paper, recyclable bubble wrap or biodegradable peanuts
  • Insert your packing slip, promotional materials and recycling instructions, if applicable.
  • Seal the box and attach shipping information.

Educate and Encourage Consumers to Recycle Your Packaging Materials

Tell your customers about your sustainable packaging – they’ll appreciate your effort. Make note of your green shipping strategy on your website and with each package. Include details about your eco-friendly boxes, compostable packaging peanuts or green bubble wrap and instructions for recycling each material to bring your sustainability efforts full circle.

Work with Companies that have Sustainable Practices

Green box in 3D vector image | Free SVG

Choose to work with manufacturers that prioritize sustainability. Do your research. Before signing an agreement with a supplier, ask about their manufacturing processes and practices.

Do they use sustainable materials? What are they doing to minimize their ecological and carbon footprint?

If possible, check out their premises to get a first-hand look at their facilities, equipment, supplies, etc. From there, you can make an educated decision on whether or not to work with them. Working with Zip Logistics gives you that edge for integrating green practices for your brand. We support the green lifestyle and movement and love companies who have hit the green light on eco-friendly initiatives too.

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