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Sustainable Packaging Ideas to Green Your Shipping Strategy

How Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials Can Help Your Business and the Environment

With a quick click, today’s consumers can have just about anything delivered directly to their doorstep. These shipments are carefully packed in a cardboard box, wrapped in layers of plastic and insulated with even more material. 

Many customers aren’t comfortable with this waste and your business can see real benefits by rethinking your shipping strategy. We collected these eco-friendly packaging ideas, with expert tips from Packsize and The UPS Store, to help your business increase efficiency, save money and better your reputation.

What is Green Packaging and Why Is It Important?

Green packaging, also known as sustainable packaging, means using recyclable and biodegradable materials and eco-friendly shipping methods to lessen your business’s environmental impact. 

In 2015, the EPA reports 1.9 million tons of cardboard boxes alone were sent to landfills. Cardboard, along with other shipping products, account for about 26 percent of the waste stream in the U.S. And many common packaging materials, like Styrofoam peanuts, can’t be recycled. 

By refining your shipping and distribution processes, your business can help to reduce energy consumption and keep reusable packaging materials from the landfill.

How to Make the Switch to Green Packaging

1. Find Recyclable Packaging Materials

Think about all the supplies used to ship your products. Do you use shrink wrap, packing peanuts or bubble wrap for extra padding? What kind of tape do you use? Are your boxes made from recycled content? Use the inventory checklist below to stock your distribution center with green materials.

Sustainable Packaging Checklist:

  • □ Biodegradable bubble packaging
  • □ Recyclable inflatable air pillows
  • □ On-demand bubble packaging systems
  • □ Recycled paperboard pads and partitions
  • □ Recycled paper shred
  • □ Biodegradable shipping boxes
  • □ Reusable shipping boxes
  • □ Paper tape 
  • □ Unpadded paper mailer envelopes
  • □ Recyclable stretch wrap

2. Use the Right Size Box for Your Product to Minimize Waste

When it comes to boxes, size matters. By using smaller, custom-designed boxes, businesses can cut their use of corrugated cardboard, reduce the need for unsustainable void fillers and increase their overall shipping efficiencies.

On average, 40 percent of each box shipped today is air, according to Melissa Clyne of Packsize. Instead of defaulting to one-size-fits-all boxes and spending more than necessary on shipping costs, consider finding an on-demand packaging solution to create customized sizes as you need them.   

Packsize Logo
“By using the right-sized box you can actually put more product smartly on that freight carrier, airplane, or other transportation it needs to reach its intended location. This all contributes to a better lifecycle from creation to delivery.”

Melissa Clyne | Corporate Communications & Marketing Director, Packsize International

3. Replace Styrofoam With Biodegradable Packing Material

Fragile items sometimes need a little extra cushion, but the traditional Styrofoam or Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) are non-biodegradable and difficult to recycle. 

To replace Styrofoam fillers and green your shipping strategy:

  • Invest in an industrial shredder to produce your own shredded paper package filler. 
  • Find eco-friendly alternatives to Styrofoam. From mushroom to bamboo, many plant-based, compostable packaging alternatives are hitting the market to safely ship your product.

If Styrofoam is the only packaging option for your product, consider sharing disposal tips with your consumers on your website or as a package insert:

  • Do not place Styrofoam packaging peanuts in your curbside recycling bin.
  • Reuse Styrofoam yourself to pack for a move or store fragile items.
  • Call your local UPS store to ask if they accept clean packing peanuts for reuse.
  • Donate packing peanuts to a local community center, daycare or school to use for crafts or other projects.

The UPS Store Logo
“We have eliminated polystyrene loose fill peanuts from our approved list of packing materials that our stores use. As an alternative to peanuts, our stores use kraft paper as a packaging solution for lighter weight shipments, and inflatable air cushions to protect heavier weight items.”

Jenny Robinson | Public Relations, The UPS Store

4. Secure Boxes Together with Recyclable Plastic

Transporting a large amount of product around the warehouse? Preparing pallets for shipment? Don’t jampack your products into big, hard-to-handle boxes. Save energy and money by securing smaller boxes together with recyclable stretch film to:

  • Keep your products safe and secure during transport.
  • Reduce the likelihood of damaged items.
  • Save unusable products from heading to the landfill.

5. Train Your Team on Proper Packaging Techniques

Make reducing packaging waste in your facility a team effort.  Explain your recycling and waste management plan, and make sure your staff is trained to correctly package your inventory.

  • Select the right-sized box for the product. Use specially-designed containers for fragile items.
  • Reinforce the bottom of the box with a strip of two-inch-wide packing tape.
  • Carefully wrap and cushion the product with paper, recyclable bubble wrap or biodegradable peanuts
  • Insert your packing slip, promotional materials and recycling instructions, if applicable.
  • Seal the box and attach shipping information.

6. Encourage Consumers to Recycle Your Packaging Materials

Tell your customers about your sustainable packaging – they’ll appreciate your effort. Make note of your green shipping strategy on your website and with each package. Include details about your ecofriendly boxes, compostable packaging peanuts or green bubble wrap and instructions for recycling each material to bring your sustainability efforts full circle.

Is Your Sustainable Packaging Plan All Wrapped Up?

Green packaging is just one part of the puzzle. To take your business’s sustainability efforts a step further, consider sustainable manufacturing processes or learn how to become LEED certified

Looking for more tips? Visit the Commercial section of our blog to read waste removal tips and learn how to set a waste diversion plan for your business.