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Environmental protection initiatives were fairly new in the business world. A few years ago, green ecology was something that would only be promoted by companies dealing with the market and ahead. Today, however, engaging in sustainable practices is doing something nice – consistently becoming the standard.
Various organizations are calling for more collective, environmentally friendly efforts to sustain the planet.
The United Nations points out that if the population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, we will need the equivalent of about three planets to maintain the current way of life.
Since we only have one life planet, everyone has to play a role in preserving the environment.
To that end, if you have an e-commerce store that wants to be more environmentally friendly, one important thing you can do is use sustainable packaging. You sell goods to consumers, so you are likely to use a lot of different materials whenever you pack and ship products.
Selecting supplies and packaging processes tailored to the Earth will go a long way in reducing waste and pollution generated in our landfills and oceans.
To help you navigate through still sustainable packaging in e-commerce, covering what sustainable packaging is and how to implement it. You also meet other e-commerce retailers who do a great job when they turn green.
What is sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging refers to the procurement, development and use of packaging solutions that have minimal impact on the environment and trace.
Simply put, sustainable packaging is adapted to the country and contributes to the further depletion of natural resources.
The Coalition for a Sustainable Packaging Package (SPC) provides the following 8 criteria for packaging that is considered sustainable:
- It is beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout the life cycle.
- Meets market performance and cost criteria.
- It supplies, manufactures, transports and recycles using renewable energy.
- Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled materials.
- It is produced using clean production technologies and best practices.
- It is made from healthy materials throughout its life cycle.
- It is physically designed to optimize materials and energy.
- It is successfully recovered and used in biological and / or industrial closed loop cycles.
Advantages of sustainable packaging
We’ve mentioned a lot about sustainable packaging solutions and the different strategies that go along with it, but what exactly can be drawn from eco-friendly packaging?
Review the benefits of sustainable packaging:
Expand your customer base and increase brand loyalty.
Being more sustainable can help you find more customers and increase loyalty while struggling. Multiple research has shown that consumers increasingly take sustainability into account when choosing which brands to do business with.
A CGS study of 1,000 U.S. consumers found that about 70% of respondents consider sustainability to be at least “slightly important”, and almost half (47%) said they would pay 25% more for sustainable products.
In addition, Nielsen’s research found that 48% of consumers are willing to change their consumer habits to reduce their environmental impact. And not just lip service. Nielsen’s analysis found that sustainable product sales in the United States have grown nearly 20% since 2014, and the company estimates that sales would reach $ 150 billion by next year.
Reducing packaging materials and minimizing waste are the two main components of sustainable packaging. And if implemented properly, they lead to more efficient storage, so you can limit the space required to store products (help reduce storage costs) or open up additional storage space for more goods.
Lower shipping costs.
As mentioned earlier, shipping small packages is a great way to practice sustainability. A bonus to this is that it lowers shipping costs.
For example, shipping a 12 x 12 x 12 pound box from New York to Los Angeles costs $ 23.65 via UPS Ground. But if you manage to fit your product into a smaller 10x10x10 frame, lower the price to $ 17.72. Bad difference of $ 5.93, which can add up quickly!
Sustainable packaging strategies
Now that you know what sustainable packaging is and what it involves, looking at the packaging strategies and innovations you can implement to be more environmentally friendly for your packaging.
In this section, we have described the following strategies:
- Share disposal and recycling best practices.
- Send in a small package.
- Recycled packaging materials.
- Plant-based packaging.
- Edible packaging.
- Planned packaging.
- Composting and biodegradable plastic alternatives.
- Avoid over-packaging throughout the supply chain.
- Use production partners with sustainable practice.
Take a closer look at them below and see which practices make the most sense for your e-commerce business.
1. Share best practices for disposal and recycling.
Educate your customers on the best ways to recycle and dispose of packaging materials. This step can be a bit tricky as recycling varies from city to city. But you can share general best practices by clearly labeling reusable or recyclable packaging.
Cleaning brand, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, works great here. In addition to having a recycling icon on its bottles, there is a line on the brand’s labels that reads:
KEYS ARE MADE WITH AT LEAST 30% POST-CONSUMABLE PLASTICS. PLEASE RECYCLE.
2. Send in a small package.
Reducing the environmental footprint can be as simple as reducing the packaging material you use. This means that you use small boxes, bags and containers for your products. Not only does this help you be more sustainable, but it can also reduce transportation costs.
Reducing the size of your shipments starts with buying smaller packaging materials and using less filling materials.
If possible, play around with the size and position of your products and make sure they can fit in smaller packages.
For example, if you sell furniture that can be disassembled, explore ways you can position different components of the product to determine the approach that saves the most space. Delivery of clothing, bedding or any other collapsible product? Keep them tightly folded or tied so that they fit snugly in small boxes.
3. Recycled packaging materials.
Recycled packaging is a great way to extend the life of the materials used. When opting for boxes, shippers or containers, consider using packaging made from recycled materials.
Cardboard paper is one of the most common examples of recycled packaging. Cardboard is created using used paper pulp; it is weak and light, and can be easily cut and shaped, making it ideal for shipping boxes.
You can also opt for containers and mailboxes that are made from previously used plastic materials, such as disposable bags and bottles. This plastic is processed in a recycling plant and placed on the market in the form of packaging.
4. Plant-based packaging.
Plant-based options are rapidly entering the world of product packaging. As its name suggests, these materials are made from biological sources – from mushrooms and seaweed to corn and food.
The right plant-based packaging options will depend on the products you need to pack or deliver. If you sell food, for example, then you should be sure that the material can protect your product without affecting its taste (bioplastics is a good solution for this). If bulkier items are exported, then choose durable plant materials such as cornstarch and mushroom packaging.
5. edible packaging.
Imagine edible packaging as a relative of plant origin. They come from the same family (i.e. biological sources), but edible packaging makes it a step further a safe dish.
Edible packaging is an ideal option for vendors selling food and beverages, as it could serve as a great addition to your already delicious offering.
6. Planned packaging.
Packing with a plantation is exactly what it sounds like: these are packages or materials that you can plant. Planting packages have built-in seeds so that customers can plant them after they have used them.
The packaging with the plantation perfectly contains small and light items such as cosmetics or jewelry. They can also be used as fillers or product coatings.
7. Composite and biodegradable plastic alternatives.
Composting packaging is made of materials that can be composted at home and on the market. They are usually made of a plant-based polymer that can be broken down into compost.
How long does it take to completely compost those packages? Depending on the quality and materials, a commercial composting facility can demolish these packages in 90 days, while domestic composting conditions can do so in 180 days.
8. Avoid over-packaging throughout the supply chain.
Packaging materials abound in the retail supply chain. Products are packaged, pounded or packaged before they reach you, often using additional packaging. As such, you need to optimize how goods move through the chain to minimize these materials – and the waste that comes with them.
Work with your suppliers and suppliers to optimize your supply chain processes. Here are some things you could try:
- Properly anticipate demand to ensure that you consume products that overproduce or over-order.
- Consolidate shipments to use less packaging material.
- Invite your supply chain partners to use sustainable materials throughout the process.
9. Use production partners with sustainable practice.
Choose collaboration with manufacturers that prioritize sustainability. Explore. Before signing a contract with a supplier, inquire about their manufacturing processes and practices. Do they use sustainable materials? What are they doing to reduce their environmental and carbon footprint?
If possible, take a look at their premises to get a first-hand look at their facilities, equipment, supplies, etc. From there, you can make an educated decision about whether you want to work with them or not.
4 steps to the transition to environmentally friendly packaging
Are you ready to switch to an environmentally friendly packaging solution? Great. In this section, discuss the steps you should take to make a successful transition. Here are some instructions on how to properly implement sustainable packaging.
1. started changing everything at once.
If they come from unsustainable practices, it may be tempting to rework the whole process to make it more environmentally 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 at once, it will overwhelm yourself and your team and will not implement the plans properly.
To invest your sustainable efforts… well, tenable, leads slowly. Instead of replacing all your supplies with greener alternatives, start with one or two things. For example, if your boxes or retailers come in different sizes, throw things out by swapping one size first to see how it goes. Depending on the results of your efforts, you can switch to other sizes.
2. Order product samples.
There are a lot of companies that offer environmentally friendly packaging. The best way to figure out which one is right for you is to grab some patterns. If the seller agrees to provide them for free, then great. Otherwise, make a small order so you can evaluate their products.
Here are some factors to consider:
Compatibility with your goods – Make sure that the packaging materials match your product. Put your stuff inside, and then evaluate how well they fit. Does the package show your products in the best possible way? Could customers easily unpack or remove items from the tank? These are some of the questions you should ask when evaluating your options.
Endurance – Perform a resistance test on the packaging. Place your products inside, then try to recreate what the package would go through during normal shipping. If possible, bend the material, press some pressure or even throw it around to see how well it can protect its contents.
Weight and size – As we have already mentioned, a few grams and inches here and there can increase transportation costs. Choose a package with the right dimensions and weight – i.e. large enough and durable to hold your products, but not too big or hard to end up consuming more.
3. Adjust prices.
Depending on the type of packaging you decide, you may pay more for materials and shipping costs. Be sure to consider this when pricing your products. If you plan to eat extra, do the math to make sure your end result hits too hard.
4. Order small quantities.
This is an important step, especially if you have just started working with a new sustainable packaging supplier. Order small quantities of packaging material and evaluate the durability, customer acceptance and overall performance compared to old packaging.
Then start ordering more until you completely switch to the new packaging.
Examples of packaging for the environment
If you are looking for ideas and inspiration for your sustainable packaging efforts, the following brands are worth checking out.
1. T-shirt mill.
Tshirt Mill is an e-commerce retailer that manufactures custom clothing and accessories. It allows customers to transfer their designs to different products so they can create unique pieces.
When it comes to fulfilling an order, Tshirt Mill delivers orders in 100% composting postage, and they are made from polymers and plant materials consisting of organic wheat and straw.
The vitamin supplement company Ritual serves as a great example of a business that uses recycled packaging (with plant-based ink) for recycling. Earlier this year, Ritual switched to a mail-making device made exclusively from recycled newsprint and fiber.
Ritual’s environmental efforts also apply to bottles and stoppers. Its vitamin bottles are made of remanufactured plastic, and the lids are obtained from post-industrial resin (i.e. residues from the manufacturing process).
3. House Tess.
Home textile brand Maison Tess. it is about sustainability. Its products are recognized for their high standards of sustainability and social responsibility, and these measures are also applied to meet efforts.
In addition to sending your products using 100% composted mailboxes, Maison Tees. also offers reusable packaging. All Tess. orders come in cotton tow bags that customers can use over and over again.
FoodCraft, a company specializing in organic, dairy-free and vegan foods, ensures that its packaging is also plant-based. FoodCraft uses boxes made from plant-based PLA products and are completely composted.
5. Mrs. Meyer’s clean day.
Brand of cleaning agents, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, uses recyclable bottles for a variety of soaps and cleaners. Furthermore, the bottles are made from at least 30% plastic for consumers, and as mentioned earlier, the brand promotes environmentally friendly behavior among its customers by reminding them to recycle bottles on labels.
There are many ways to pack green with your packaging, and the right approach depends on your business.
Whether you choose to use environmentally friendly materials, adjust suppliers, or optimize processes in your supply chain, you need to make sure your initiatives are adhered to. The best way to do this is to work step by step, measure the results, and then expand from there.