Understanding Eco-Friendly Packaging for Ecommerce Orders
Eco-friendly packaging refers to designs and materials chosen for boxes, mailers, and packing materials to minimize its impact on the environment. This can vary depending on the industry, but usually takes the following into consideration:
- Minimizes waste
- Maximizes the usage of recycled and biodegradable materials
- Maximizes the use of renewable energy during production
- Is safe for both consumers and the environment throughout its lifecycle
- Meets cost and performance requirements
Since there is no universal criteria for eco-friendly packaging, it can be difficult for many businesses to engage with eco-friendly products, but, as we’ll show you, it’s not as hard, or as expensive, as you might think.
The Brand Boosting Power of Eco-Friendly Packaging
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the damage that excess packaging does to the environment they live in, and many, especially those in the Millennial and Gen Z demographics, have begun ‘punishing’ wasteful brands by choosing to shop elsewhere, based solely on their disapproval of the packaging practices of a certain company.
According to a report from McKinsey, it is an issue that has been on consumers minds even more since the advent of COVID-19. According to that report more than half of US consumers are highly concerned about the environmental impact of packaging in general and are willing to pay more ‘for green’ in the form of sustainably packaged products.
A heightened sensitivity to the issue of packaging safety created by COVID-19 affects their purchasing decisions too, as, the report says, in their minds less packaging means less risk. So, by choosing to make use of eco-friendly packaging you will be helping to safeguard the planet and please many of customers as well.
Here are some considerations to think through when using eco-friendly packaging for your e-commerce business’s orders.
Get Familiar With Eco-friendly Packaging Options
Papers and cardboard
The most commonly used elements in packaging (think the ubiquitous Amazon Prime box), these can be easily reused and recycled by the consumer. Most importantly, they are also easy to source in quantities that suit the business.
These are usually derived from plant-based materials such as corn starch and wheat straw, which biodegrade within a much shorter time frame. They produce 70% less greenhouse emissions in landfills than traditional (petrochemical-based) plastics, making them well-suited to composting. However, they cannot be conventionally recycled because they can contaminate traditional plastics.
These are traditional plastics that have been modified to break down faster through the presence of heat or light. Because they still contain petrochemicals, they can leave behind toxic residues which make them unsuited for composting.
Jute and cotton make excellent eco-friendly packaging materials in the form of reusable bags to wrap your product in, provide a great gift with purchase to show your appreciation, and encourage eco-friendly practices amongst your customer base.
Choose a minimalist design
Here we can dispel the myth of eco-friendly packaging being ‘expensive’ or ‘inefficient.’ Often, the opposite is true. A packaging redesign can show businesses that they can achieve the same results at a much lower price. Channelling a more minimalist approach is therefore a fantastic way to lessen both your environmental impact and your expenses.
Before choosing your materials, consider whether they’re necessary or nice-to-haves. Some packaging elements are cosmetic in nature and provide little support within the overall design. The more your packaging weighs, the more it will cost you to ship heavy packages.
Don’t go overboard on packaging design and customization, especially to start. You can still have a nice unboxing experience without a ton of fluff. Lightening the weight of your packaging is a win-win: it minimizes both waste and cost!
Boxes are the largest and priciest element of packaging. Being able to eliminate boxes will dramatically reduce your shipping costs and environmental impact. If your goods are small, soft, or lightweight, consider whether boxes are necessary. Cheaper packaging materials, such as poly mailers and tissue wrap, might be enough to fulfill your needs.
Evaluate packaging size
If you need boxes, it’s important to check that you are using the correct box size. In particular, you want to avoid the ‘Russian nesting doll effect’ (packing boxes within boxes). This occurs when your main boxes are too large for the goods they are transporting. This can also force you to use filler materials for more fragile products, which are often difficult to recycle. It’s a good idea to review your product range to find the best box size for shipping your products.