The Easiest Way to Go Green That You’re Overlooking: Green and Sustainable Shipping Practices

Most of us try to use eco-friendly practices in our businesses whenever possible, simply because it’s the right thing to do. But did you know that being green can have a positive effect on your bottom line? A new study by West Monroe Partners shows that more than half of consumers are willing to pay at least 5% higher prices for products ordered online if they’re delivered sustainably.

If you’re ready to consider eco-friendly shipping and delivery options, here are some ideas:

Ship With Recycled Boxes and Envelopes

Today there are many options for recycled shipping boxes and envelopes. UPS, FedEx, and USPS use recycled materials in their shipping boxes and mailers. Here are some additional eco-friendly suppliers:

  • EcoBox offers reasonably-priced, used shipping boxes.
  • Treecycle provides recycled envelopes and mailers.
  • Globe Guard offers recycled and reusable boxes, envelopes and mailers.

Fill With Eco-Friendly Materials

While loose-fill polystyrene packing peanuts were a common package fill material for many years, their inability to decompose and their general messiness led to the development of other options. In addition to biodegradeable starch-based packing peanuts, which are obviously more sustainable, other green packing alternatives were introduced to the market like Void Fill bags and Green Wrap Ready Roll.

In order to choose the right “void fill” product for your package, you’ll first need to determine your packaging needs. “Is the need for a packaging product that will fill an empty space within the box or [one] that is designed to provide more cushioning and protection?” asks Dennis Salazar, of Salazar Packaging. For basic void fill, an excellent option is inflatables, because they add minimal shipping weight and are now primarily made with recycled plastics. When more cushioning is needed, a paper wrap such as Geami Ready Wrap—which is much greener than most other alternatives—is a good choice.

Choose the Right Size of Shipping Boxes

Buying one standard-sized box large enough to hold one or many items might seem to be a smart economic choice now, but really isn’t good financially or environmentally in the long run. Using several sizes of boxes is a better alternative. Boxes that are too large not only waste space, but they require more packing material and may weigh more, both of which cost money. In addition, the extra cardboard and packing material is wasteful, not sustainable. Of course you’ll need to balance the cost vs. the effect on the environment, and even consider raising prices if you’re using sustainable materials, as customers may be willing to pay more. If you’re interested in learning more about reasonably-priced, branded boxes that are eco-friendly, you can find some ideas here.

Print Labels Using Thermal Printers

Direct thermal labels are a more environmentally-friendly label choice since you’re not using ink, which leaves you with one fewer non-recyclable waste product. Thermal labels can eliminate the need for and environmental impact of packing tape if previous labels didn’t have an adhesive backing. A popular thermal label printer choice is the Zebra LP2844.

Participate in Carriers’ Eco-Friendly Programs

FedEx, UPS, and USPS all participate in eco-friendly programs, as well as providing recycled shipping boxes and mailers. They all also offer many paperless invoicing and tracking options. Each carrier also offers additional green and sustainable programs to their customers.

Learning more about the carriers’ environmental options (see Additional Resources below) may help you determine which carrier best meets your needs.

Additional Resources

Here are some resources to help you find eco-friendly shipping and packaging options:

  • Green Packaging Group
  • Green America
  • USPS Blue Earth
  • FedEx EarthSmart
  • UPS Eco Responsible Packaging Program

If you’re ready to do the right thing when it comes to your packaging, start taking action. You can begin by making small changes, like using eco-friendly fill materials. When it’s time to order new boxes and mailers, consider more sustainable alternatives. Not only will you be helping the environment, but you could help your bottom line as well.

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