Eco-Friendly packaging: Why and how you should use it

Intro

When thinking about E-Commerce, product packaging is probably one of the most important aspects, not only to deliver your products from one place to another but also to give your customers a great unboxing experience. 

With the E-Commerce market growing to new heights of estimated ~3 trillion USD in 2021, the world is facing an equally strong increasing amount of packaging waste.

But luckily the sustainability trend has also found its way into the packaging industry and by consequence, eco-friendly packaging is becoming increasingly popular. 

This blog article provides you with an overview covering the following aspects:

  • What is eco-friendly packaging?
  • Rationales for using eco-friendly packaging
  • Best practices for the usage of eco-friendly packaging
  • How to best communicate eco-friendly packaging

What is eco-friendly packaging?

Nowadays, probably most of the packaging material that you use for fulfilling your products can be sourced sustainably. Depending on the industry the degree of application of eco-friendly packaging may vary, but eco-friendly packaging usually pursues the following objectives:

  • Be cost efficient while being sustainable
  • Minimize waste
  • Use green energy in production
  • Is 100% recyclable

Sustainable packaging, however, does come at a price premium, which is why some E-Commerce brands are still hesitant to implement eco-friendly packaging in their workflow. We believe that now is the time to take action. But to make sure that you also understand our opinion, you will find our thoughts below.

Rationales for using eco-friendly packaging

We strongly believe in sustainability and would like to share our thoughts on why you should be using eco-friendly packaging for your online business

Packaging waste

Packaging, both cardboard and plastic, are necessary to get your products from A to B. Especially plastic packaging like protective bubble wrap help to make transportation more secure and efficient. But, at the same time, plastic packaging adds greatly to pollution on a global scale, which makes it is crucial to recycle and reuse plastic.
While there have been tremendous efforts to combat pollution through plastic waste in the past decade, roughly 91% of all plastic ever created has never been recycled. 

There are alternatives to classic plastic packaging that are equally secure, albeit at a higher price point. It is up to you to decide, whether you want to invest in sustainability or believe in the notion that your plastic packaging belongs to he 9% of recycled packaging.

Reputation for your business

Being eco-friendly and talking about it is a real asset. According to the Harvard Business Review, roughly 50% of consumer products growth in the United States between 2013 and 2018 came from sustainable-marketed products. By establishing your brand sustainably end-to-end, you may also benefit from this trend towards more eco-friendly products

Being an eco-friendly brand, including packaging, may also increase your customer base. A recent study found that millennials prefer eco-friendly products over conventional ones. 

These are only some reasons to make you think about using sustainable packaging. Should you now consider to “go green”, we have compiled some tips on how to do so below.

Best practices for the usage of eco-friendly packaging

Below, you will find some pointers to consider when thinking about using eco-friendly packaging for your E-Commerce business.

Make use of biodegradable and generally recyclable packaging

Paper and Cardboard

The most obvious and most commonly used packaging - paper or cardboard. Already recycled material is easy to source and can also be reused by the end customer. Look out for the “RESY”-symbol to be sure that the packaging material is recycled.


Bioplastics

Corn starch or wheat straw are excellent plant-based alternatives that are used in the manufacturing of bioplastics, because they degrade in less time than regular plastic. They also produce a significant smaller amount of greenhouse gases than regular plastics. 

Plant fibers

Reusable plant-based fibres like cotton make for excellent eco-friendly packaging choices in the form of, for example, bags that you can put your products in. These bags can be reused by your customers and can reinforce the notion of your brand’s eco-friendliness amongst your customer base.

Biodegradable plastics

This type of plastic has been modified to decompose quicker through external factors such as heating or light. These plastics are conventional in nature and thus do leave behind some toxic waste when decomposing


Make wise design choices

It is widely believed, that eco-friendly packaging is more expensive than its conventional alternative. However, this is most often not the case! Rethinking your packaging design can often have a positive impact on your bottom line and prove to your customers, that you care about the carbon footprint of your business.  

Consider the weight of your packages

The weight of your packages contributes heavily to the overall carbon-footprint and cost of your parcels. This is why you should evaluate the necessity of each and every packaging material you want to use for your products - sometimes less is more!

Boxes (either cardboard or other materials) are usually the driving force for weight and cost. Eliminating boxes from your packaging material lists will not only save you a lot of money but make at the same time a beneficial contribution to the overall carbon footprint of your packages. Think about using, for example, shipping bags instead of boxes!

Consider the size of your packages

Evaluating your product range and finding the optimal packaging size for the average order can save you a lot on packaging and shipping costs and increase your shop’s overall eco-friendliness at the same time. In Germany, for example, small packages can be sent with “Warenpost”, an alternative to classic DHL parcels that are a lot cheaper than their competitor. 

Using correct box sizes will also reduce the need for vast amount of filler materials that are usually very tough to recycle.

Not all inks are created equal

Inks are an important but often overlooked part of the packaging supply chain. Especially when you want to print a custom design on your packaging boxes, the choice of ink will play a crucial part in the overall sustainability of your packaging. 

Commonly used types of ink include the incumbent petroleum-based inks and eco-friendly alternatives such as soy-based inks. Petroleum-based inks are the end-product of various chemical processes that are by themselves harmful to the environment. Use of eco-friendly alternatives such as soy-based inks is not only cheaper, but also results in much brighter colors. 


How to best communicate eco-friendly packaging

No matter how eco-friendly your packaging is - its impact will be limited if your customer base does not know about it. Eco-friendliness is becoming increasingly popular and you can benefit from that trend by implementing eco-friendly packaging and communicating that use to your customers. 

By investing into marketing around the use of eco-friendly packaging you can not only bolster an eco-friendly image of your brand but also increase your control over your product’s lifecycle. 

If you want your customers to reuse, recycle or compost your packaging - always make sure that the instructions are clearly legible in and outside your packaging. Adding eco-friendly brochures or QR-codes with links to instructions may also help to facilitate the process. 

Being eco-friendly will also likely have an impact on your company’s bottom-line. A crowd-sourced survey by surveymonkey, revealed that over 90% are likely to buy a product that is better for the environment over another that is cheaper. Considering these numbers, you should make sure that everyone knows about your company’s eco-friendliness!

Summary

Going eco-friendly is not an easy decision - we know. But engaging in the use of environmentally friendly products can not only have a positive impact on the carbon footprint of your business but may also benefit your company financially. In any case, we would love to talk about your packaging needs and bring you together with one of our partners!