How to make your packaging more eco-friendly

First impressions count – and the box that arrives on your customer’s doorstep is their initial point of contact with your company.

The packaging that surrounds their purchase can vary in size, appearance and function, however – if it can’t protect their order, the item will not be the only thing that’s damaged. It costs 17 times more than the cost of shipping to replace a broken product, and 58% of consumers would be unlikely to purchase from you again. It can also lead to negative reviews which can take months to counterbalance, and impact your brand reputation.

Whilst product damage is hard to control once the product has been shipped, it’s still your responsibility in the eyes of the consumer. Unless that is, you have outsourced to an excellent third party fulfilment provider, who will handle your goods with care (hint, hint). Thankfully there are many methods of improving packaging, though they can come at an extra cost. Customers – especially young consumers – are increasingly concerned with corporate responsibility and pickier about where they shop as a result. Even basic decisions and packaging can have a thoroughly negative effect on the ecosystem and the customer experience. So how do you balance the need for robust protective packaging with the desire to limit your environmental impact?

Packing orders, saving the world

With the rise of eCommerce it has become critical that packaging can withstand the rough handling and movement orders may suffer in transit. Not only do companies expect their packaging to protect products, but also to serve as part of the customer experience. More discreet packaging might be desired by brands handling higher end products, whilst others may wish to have personalised options for extra exposure.

Customers are influenced by how well their goods are packaged, and can often decide whether or not they will purchase again from you based on this. If they need to hunt through thousands of annoying styrofoam peanuts to locate their product (none of which are biodegradable and no doubt will be hoovered up for weeks after), their experience will be a negative one (unless they like styrofoam peanuts). The point is, that reviewing the packaging methods and products you use can promote a better experience for your customers, save you money, and protect the environment.

But let’s look at the options available…

  • Flexible, protective packaging such as: mailers, bubble packaging, air sac, and dunnage bags dominate the packaging market because they are cost efficient and protect a variety of goods. However these are often not recyclable or biodegradable.
  • Foam protective packaging such as: insulated shipping containers, moulded foams, foam-in-place polyurethane, rolled foam and loose fill come a close second in demand. They face constant competition from rigid, flexible and environmentally friendly products due to their inability to biodegrade, cost and added weight value.
  • Eco-friendly packaging such as: biodegradable clear bags, cardboard boxes (bonus points if they’re recycled), geami wrap, cornstarch packing peanuts, paper balls, biodegradable plastic and eco paper packing tape. These might be a little more expensive initially, but less needs to be used, they can protect a variety of goods, do not negatively impact the environment and can usually be recycled.

Each of these options have advantages and disadvantages. Whichever you or your fulfilment provider choose, there are still methods you can adopt to limit your impact on the environment. eCommerce provides a more eco-friendly shopping experience from the start (lowering the carbon footprint by enabling customers to browse and purchase from home without having to drive to the nearest shops), so since you’re already on the journey, why not make a few more improvements? Often these will cost nothing (or a little) to alter, and will benefit your company, your products and your customers.

Small changes, big results

This quick guide will provide you with some easy to adopt options which can help to raise the eco-friendliness of your packaging, but also save you funds.

Consider your box sizes

This might seem obvious, but use boxes the correct size for the product you’re shipping. This can save you money on internal packaging, can prevent damage to the item, lower shipping costs and also protect the environment. By using low density cardboard you can reduce the weight of the package. Shipping items together wherever possible is another cheaper, safer option. If you outsource your order fulfilment, this will all be managed for you in the most cost-effective, safe way.

Eco-friendly internal packaging

Whilst it might be more cost effective initially to use synthetic packaging (which often contains harmful chemicals and ingredients like petroleum) such as styrofoam or plastic air bags, you could consider changing to more sustainable options.

Cornstarch cushioning, biodegradable bubble wrap and recycled paper are just some of the many options available now for the eco-conscious. You could also make the choice to remove paper invoices from your packaging and transferring them to the customer via email or SMS. This prevents their loss, and means a better experience for the customer, who won’t have to hunt through endless invoices to locate their purchase.

Buy green

Then, of course, there’s the opportunity to go completely green with your packaging. It can be a little more expensive to do, but it’s a worthwhile investment which can save you money in the long run, guarantee you won’t damage the environment and boost your reputation with customers. Often less is more when it comes to eco-friendly packaging (especially if you decrease box size), and options such as 100% corrugated cardboard are lightweight and strong enough to keep your products safe in transit. You can also use plant based adhesive packing tape and recycled shipping labels.

The added benefits

Going green can be more advantageous to you than you might initially think. Consumer eco-awareness is at an all time high and many people now consider the environmental impact or their products and the companies they buy from.

By having eco-friendly packaging you’re giving the consumer licence to feel good about their decision to buy from you, as they feel they are part of a positive movement. Companies such as Bare Biology have already made the commitment by using all recyclable packaging and by enforcing the message of green/recycled packaging, or even making a few of the small changes spoken about here, you can increase profit, your customer base and reputation.

Should you decide to adopt environmentally friendly packaging, be proud. Talk about it on platforms and social media to increase awareness of both the issue and the steps you have taken to counter it. Your customers will love you for it, especially when their orders turn up safe and sound in recyclable packaging.

If you would like to know more about how outsourcing your fulfilment can help your company become more eco-friendly, why not contact us?