Making Packaging More Sustainable
In the quest to make your packaging more sustainable and eco-friendly, it’s important to take stock of every aspect of your process. From the materials you use to how you pack, every little thing can make a big difference when turned into a comprehensive solution to minimize your green impact while maximizing your bottom-line savings.
While the following might seem like obvious things to do, too often people find themselves doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result — a saying often attributed as the definition of insanity. Still, if you expect to make a environmentally friendly difference while doing the same unsustainable things, something has to change.
Here are a few ways that you can get started and breathe some greener life into your packaging process.
Tip #1: Use less material
Remember when I said some of these are going to sound obvious? This is a big one. Certainly, it’s easier said than done, but it comes down to envisioning a better way to package your product. For instance, if you’ve been using crumpled wrapping paper or newspaper as a bracing material or cushioning for fragile items meant to be shipped, your good intent to recycle paper might be causing plenty of headaches for you and your customers.
Aside from decreasing your material usage by switching to more effective bracing materials, protecting your items in transit better will mean less returns and less money spent on replacements. This isn’t to mention the savings on time from having to handle customer service tickets as a result of damaged items, restocking, and keeping your inventory in order.
Tip #2: Opt for cushioned envelopes instead of boxes when you can
If you have low-profile products like shirts and clothing, books, office supplies, supplements, and other small items, cushioned envelopes might be a better option than boxes.
Cushioned envelopes also combine product protection and external packaging that’s easily shippable all in one, lowering your own costs and physical footprint instead of having to store both boxes and pre-inflated bracing materials. They can also save labor time and costs as packaging with cushioned envelopes is much more efficient than standard boxes — of course, if your products can fit in them.
Tip #3: Find the right box for your parcel
Going hand-in-hand with the previous tip, finding a container that fits your package is paramount to sustainability. It doesn’t make sense to package a box of pencils in a 4 sq. ft. container and fill in the empty space with air cushion. You also don’t want the shipping box to hug so tightly to the contents that any blow on the outside is definitely going to be transferred to the products within.
Finding the right product-to-packaging ratio for your products can help you save time, space, and money from the materials used to the associated shipping costs, savings you can absorb or then pass on to your customer. When finding that right ratio, make sure there’s a substantial layer of cushioning between the product packaging and the shipping packaging, but that the layers aren’t tight against one another. A little bit of void and mobility on the inside is good, but not so much that everything shakes loosely, but not too little that one impact will be felt throughout.
Even with oddly-shaped objects, use your best judgment, taking into account the materials the product is made from, how much space is left in the box, and how effectively you can brace the product within its shipping parcel.
Tip #4: Keep DIM in mind
Dimensional weight (DIM) is something that every businessperson needs to keep in mind, especially if you’re shipping literal tons of products regularly. Where the old physical weight system was what determined a package’s shipping costs (i.e. the more something weighs, the more it costs), plenty of shipping companies have changed the model to make more sense: if something takes up more space in the truck, it should cost more because less packages can be packed in the same space.
The formula for DIM weight is as follows:
DIM weight = (package length (in inches) x package width (in inches) x package height (in inches)) / DIM divisor
The DIM divisor is something determined by each carrier so it’s wise to look it up with whoever you ship with if you don’t handle your own logistics. And while it might seem more costly or like an arbitrary inflation of weight, it’s actually a long overdue correction to a model that didn’t make much sense.
Again, a pound of feathers takes up more space than a pound of lead, yet shipping companies charged the same even though they were losing money on the truckload with the feathers simply because it’d have less space to work with. Now, carriers are charging based on how much space your parcel takes up. If you don’t like paying more, find better ways to ship your products while taking up less space.
While it might seem like extra upfront costs as you adjust to the DIM model, over time, the money you’ll save in shipping costs, packaging materials, and the associated labor will more than make up for the minor inconveniences early on. To reiterate, you can’t expect sustainable change without actually changing your own models and habits.
Tip #5: Find recyclable or biodegradable materials
So we’ve talked about size, shapes, weight, and amount, when it comes to packaging, but our last tip is to take the type of material into account. If you intend on greenifying your packaging process, finding green, recyclable materials is a step in the right direction.
In addition to being stronger than paper packaging, our air cushions are also 100% recyclable. And if you don’t want to deal with conventional plastic, we do have green, biodegradable options available. By finding better materials and ways to use less of them, you’ll have a sustainable double whammy that’ll not only keep waste out of the landfills but keep money in your wallet.
Just Use Common Sense
Packaging something properly really isn’t rocket science. That being said, there’s always room for improvement, especially as technology and buying habits change with the times. With more people buying things online now than ever, it’s important that all of these shipping materials are put to the best use possible.
Certainly, this is just a brief list, but what are some strategies you’ve used in your own packaging processes? Let us know what worked (and didn’t) for you!