Whether you’re looking to create a 100% sustainable business or just trying to partially reduce your impact on the environment, adopting sustainable packaging practices is one of the best ways to start. For many product based companies, shipping is the second largest component of their carbon footprint (with the first being manufacturing). But it’s also one of the easiest places to reduce your business’s impact on the environment.
Here are 5 tips for making your packaging sustainable:
1. Minimize the total amount of packaging
This one sounds like it should be obvious, but millions of companies are still over-packaging small items. New entrepreneurs often over-package because they don’t know any better, and big companies often only pay attention to the branding aspect of their packaging.
Always use the smallest amount of packaging possible. If you’re not sure what that is, get the measurements and weight of the items you’re trying to ship and ask! You can ask either the person working at your local post office/shipping center or a customer service rep at a company like ours.
2. Choose sustainably sourced materials
Minimizing the actual amount of packaging is arguably the most important aspect of sustainable shipping, but using sustainable materials isn’t far behind. You have two options here: recycled materials, or Forest Stewardship Council® certified materials sourced from responsibly managed forests. Some companies offer a large variety of FSC® certified packaging options.
When choosing sustainably sourced materials, remember to say no to Styrofoam. Styrofoam is made out of petroleum, which means it’s bad for the environment from one end of the product cycle to the other. If you want to build sustainable shipping practices Styrofoam has got to go. Sometimes you’ll still need a filler material to keep your products safe within their primary packaging. In these instances, choose biodegradable bubble wrap or recycled paper instead of Styrofoam.
3. Consider durability
Another marker of sustainable packaging is that it’s durable. Recycling is great, but reusing a product is even better. If your packaging can be used to store other things once the initial product is delivered, or as a permanent home for that product, you’ve successfully created a sustainable package.
To maximize durability, always choose corrugated cardboard over regular cardboard. And be sure you know exactly how much weight the packaging is supposed to hold—you definitely don’t want it to break on the first use!
4. Choose a packaging company that cares
To truly maximize the impact of your sustainable shipping practices you need to work with a packaging company that cares about the environment. Using recycled or FSC® certified materials is a great start, but there’s a lot more they can—and should—do to build a sustainable future.
Many responsible businesses take sustainability very seriously. They purchase carbon credits to offset the environmental impact. Often, a variety of energy saving measures are implemented in their business facilities and processes, including measures to prioritize the usage of natural light over artificial light. And they’re always looking for ways to further reduce our impact on the environment.
5. Research the best sustainable materials
Creating a sustainable business—or transforming your existing business into something sustainable—is all about paying attention. Research the best sustainable materials and packaging supplies. Know where everything you buy comes from. Commit to working with other companies who are trying to build a sustainable future.
If you pay attention to all of these things, you’ll notice that sustainability doesn’t have to be painful; it can be about making a series of small changes over time, without disrupting your regular work at all.