Make Your Business More Eco-Friendly with Sustainable Packaging – GUEST POST

So many emerging ecommerce brands are rooted in sustainability and ethics. These days, however, even the most traditional brands have to commit to the planet in order to meet their customers’ needs. In fact, a recent study by IBM and the National Retail Federation have found that 70% of consumers in North America think it is important that a brand be sustainable or eco-friendly.

Whether your company is already focused on environmental initiatives or you are just coming around to the fact that this is an important business strategy, packaging is a great focus area for your sustainability efforts.

Why? We see packaging as low hanging fruit. It is fairly seamless to upgrade to more eco-friendly packaging choices, in comparison to changing out the raw inputs or recipe for your product. Packaging can represent about 5-10% of your product’s overall carbon footprint, so positive changes can have a measurable impact. Additionally, packaging is your first impression, meaning that customers will notice the thoughtful or not-so-thoughtful choices you’ve made. In fact, research has shown that Nearly three-fourths of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. Over 50% of consumers take sustainable packaging into consideration when selecting a product.

So How Can You Move to More Sustainable Packaging?

Each product has unique packaging needs, so there is no one-size-fits all approach to eco-friendly packaging. However, the following guidelines can help you navigate the majority of decisions out there.

  • Prioritize Recycled Content: In almost all cases, we recommend maximizing your recycled content as step one in your packaging strategy. Why? Recycled content means goods have a lower carbon footprint and require fewer natural resources to produce. Additionally, buying recycled content will strengthen the entire recycling supply chain, making it much easier for all of us to recycle (instead of landfilling) our waste. In fact, we believe that the most important question to ask of your sustainable packaging is “How Much Post Consumer Waste is Included?”
  • If virgin content is required, seek thoughtful options: If you’re considering paper-based packaging and can’t get to 100% recycled for some reason, you want to ensure your virgin paper isn’t destroying ancient and endangered forests. Look for FSC certified virgin paper or paper made from agricultural waste if 100% recycled isn’t feasible for you. We recommend against bioplastic packaging, particularly compostable bioplastics that is made from PLA. Unfortunately, today’s commercially viable bioplastic technologies are based on highly intensive crops that are heavily fossil fuel dependent (thereby negating the concept of them being “renewable”), highly polluting to our waterways and lands, and lead to the release of carbon sequestered in our soil. When virgin plastic is absolutely required, consider recyclable bioplastics (like Braskem).
  • Design your packaging for reuse and then recycling: Once a raw material is created, we want to see it being reused and then (when it can’t be reused anymore) put back into a new functional item that would otherwise need virgin inputs. Composting does not make sense for ecommerce packaging. The vast majority of Americans do not have access to a composting facility that accepts packaging, and even those that do would prefer you to recycle packaging. Save composting for food packaging only.
  • Be thoughtful about the manufacturing practices of your packaging partner: As with any supplies or inputs your business purchases, how goods are manufactured is a key component of sustainability and ethics. Are manufacturers paying and treating their workers well, adhering to high standards when it comes to ecological practices, and finding ways to operate with more renewable sources of energy? These types of steps are often unseen, but are essential to businesses minimizing their carbon footprint.

What Are My Sustainable Shipping Options?

100% Recycled, Recyclable Mailers: Mailers work great for many thin, single item shipments – cosmetics, jewelry, apparel, prints, books, etc. They come in a variety of material types and styles. If you’re going eco-friendly, look for 100% recycled paper mailers (including kraft mailers, rigid mailers and cushioned padded mailers) or recycled poly-based mailers (including flat poly mailers and poly bubble mailers).

100% Recycled Shipping Boxes: Many businesses need boxes, especially if they ship multiple items, bulky items, or fragile items. The great news is that shipping boxes can easily be 100% recycled and have very high recycling rates.

Eco-Friendly Void Fill and Tape: If you go with a box, chances are that you’ll want void fill and tape. Most paper-based void fill options – packaging paper, GreenWrap, tissue paper, etc – can be made either 100% recycled or with certified paper fibers, and are curbside recyclable. Tapes are available in pressure-sensitive and water activated options, and both types can be made with paper facestock.

Branded Packaging: If you’ve made the investment in sustainable packaging, we recommend shouting your efforts to the world, or at least to your customers. By custom branding your packaging, you have the opportunity to including information on your mailers or boxes themselves that tell your customers what sets your packages apart (and guides them on how to recycle what they receive). As an added bonus, branded packaging has been shown to increase customer loyalty and referrals.

GUEST AUTHOR: Saloni Doshi 

Saloni is the CEO and Chief Eco Geek at EcoEnclose, a leading provider of sustainable shipping solutions for ecommerce brands. She is passionate about helping conscious companies launch, grow, and thrive. In the last three years, EcoEnclose has helped over 40,000 companies ship their products in ways that strengthen their brand and support the planet.


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