Sustainable Packaging For Shipping

Having been selling online for over a decade, one of our goals as a small business is to be more sustainable with our shipping process. In striving to be more sustainable with our packaging materials, we have been looking for sustainable packaging alternatives for our shipping needs. In this post, we will go over tips on how you can ship sustainably without having to sacrifice being able to ship cheaply.

Reduce Returns

If you are a small business, you will want to start with preparing your sale before it even leaves your home or warehouse. This includes describing what you are selling as thoroughly as possible. Take clear pictures so that the customer knows exactly what they can expect.

Then, pack your items well to avoid damage during transit. If you are shipping breakable items, pack your items well so that they do not break in transit and the item requires a return. These are important proactive steps you can take to reduce or avoid returns.

If there is a possible return, see if you can offer an incentive for the customer to keep the item. Many times, buyers ask for a return because of they changed their mind about the item. Certain websites like Poshmark offers a credit for a future purchase if the customer chooses to keep the item instead.

You can offer a similar deals or discounts for a future purchase as an option. Avoiding returns also help with your cashflow. Reducing the number of trips that your item travels is just as important as the sustainable packaging used.

Reduce Your Packaging

Next, see what packaging can be reduced. Evaluate what excess material you can reduce to ship nonbreakable items such as clothing. If you must use certain packaging like bubble wraps or tissue paper, there are options for alternatives we will mention next.

Re-Use What You Already Have

This tip should not be a surprise–reuse, reuse, reuse! Before buying any new eco-friendly packaging materials, it is better to use materials that are already produced. We reuse common packaging material all the time that we already receive, even though they may not be in the best condition.

Tissue Papers

If you have received Christmas presents, birthday presents, or any type of presents that has tissue paper, they are great for several things. First, they can make a great presentation to wrap an item before shipping. Even if they are ripped in a few places, they are still usable. Do not throw them away!

Tissue papers are great to use as fillers or padding around the box to keep contents from moving. You can also use them inside shoes or bags to keep the shape. Another option is to wrap fragile or breakable items with them if you do not have or can get away with skipping bubble wraps.

Boxes and Bags

Let’s face it, many of us have ordered too many things from amazon. While amazon boxes are not the prettiest to re-use, you can use them anyways. You can then place a recycling sticker on the top. We have FREE recycling stickers to use with your thermal printer here. You can also leave a small note inside indicating your commitment for susbtainbility by reusing boxes and bags.

By reusing, you are extending the life of the boxes and poly bags before they go into the trash. The only thing to make sure is that you are not using torn or crushed boxes to ship fragile or high-value items such as electronics. Boxes lose their structural integrity from humidity and use so you will want to recycle instead if you are shipping breakable items. We reuse our boxes to ship items such as clothing, shoes, and certain home goods.

Invest In An Air Pillow Machine

While investing in an air pillow machine may not make sense for occasional shippers, if you are a growing small business, invest in an air pillow machine. These will pay for themselves in the long run from having to buy a ton of bubble wraps or even pre-filled pillows.

Air pillows are great as fillers, especially for more fragile items. They prevent any parts from moving within the box during transport. Air pillows consist mostly of air and a very small percentage of the actual film. They will fill up the voids in your box without adding weight.

Although the film is made of plastic, it can be recycled. There are options for air pillow machines that offer bio-degradable films. You can check out this model here. They have options for film that is actually made of 40% potato starch.

Choose Eco-Friendly Materials

There are many options when it comes to sustainable packaging materials. While you do not have to perfect your sustainable shipping methods all at once, see what items make sense for your business to replace.

Wrapping Paper Alternative

For wrapping paper, choose ones that are sourced from 100% recycled material. This wrapper paper is made without the use of wax or coating. A bonus is that it is made in the USA so the footprint is closer to home if you are based in the USA. It is important to look for items that did not have to fly from overseas.

Bubble Wrap Alternative

Bubble wraps can be necessary to wrap many different items. Instead of plastic bubble wraps, there is a paper alternative. These are made of paper and designed in a hexagonal cell. However, they are pricier than regular bubble wraps. If you are more cost-conscious, you can use wrapping paper mentioned above instead.

Poly Mailers Alternative

There are many poly mailer alternatives out there with companies claiming theirs is biodegradable or compostable. But what is the difference between the material being biodegradable and compostable? Biodegradable means the product will eventually break down and decomposes into the environment. They can leave a residue. However, many companies market this term easily without specifying the rate of time in which the material degrades.

Compostable material on the other hand breaks down into organic waste. They will decompose into tiny particles and does not leave toxic residues on the environment. All compostable material are considered biodegradable but not all biodegradable material are compostable.

While reusing shipping material is our first choice, we also look into biodegradable and compostable options. These include biodegradable poly mailers that are compliant with U.S. standard ASTM D6400 or compostable. These are some of our choices here, here, and here.

Boxes As Options

Another sustainable option is to choose corrugated boards over plastic. Corrugated boards are considered some of the most sustainable packaging materials. This is because they are often produced without dyes or bleaches. They can contain up to 70 to 100 percent recycled materials that can further be recycled.

Last Thoughts

We certainly order a lot online from amazon, other online resellers, and retailers so we receive many packages. We are conscious of how much plastic and paper waste we may produce as a result.

No matter your views about being more eco-friendly, it makes sense financially to reuse shipping materials as eco-friendly packaging. Using sustainable packaging is also great for your brand. Many people are conscious about being eco-friendly so it can also drive future sales.

Lastly, if you are looking to 100% invest in sustainable packaging materials, do your diligent research. Many companies market with certain buzzwords to claim certain things about their products. It is important to evaluate for yourself to avoid greenwashing.

All in all, here is a summary of what you can do to implement sustainable packaging for your shipping needs.

  • Reduce number of trips your package will take by reducing or avoid returns
  • Reuse shipping material you have
  • Look for materials with the least amount of footprint, such as materials manufactured in the same country
  • Choose paper over plastic
  • Look for recycled paper
  • If not paper, look for certification and compliance to ensure that the materials you are choosing is what they claim to be. Look to see if they meet certifiable standards. For example, if they are claiming biodegradable, look to see if they meet U.S. standard ASTM D6400.

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