Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Packaging for eCommerce

Updated: 3 days ago




In recent years, sustainability has become a fast-growing trend and for good reason. With the increase in online shopping, eCommerce sales are predicted to reach $5.4 trillion by 2022, which is great news for online businesses but bad news for the environment.


eCommerce packaging constitutes a majority of household waste and will only continue to increase along with eCommerce fulfillment and sales. While we can’t eliminate packaging waste completely, we can try to reverse this trend by selecting packaging that’s just as beneficial for Mother Nature as it is for business.


Luckily, eco-friendly packaging options are readily available in many forms.


What is eco-friendly packaging?


Eco-friendly packaging has many names including sustainable packaging, green packaging, and environmentally-friendly packaging. Eco-friendly packaging involves the use of materials that are biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, reusable, non-toxic, and/or made from recycled or renewed products.


The types of materials used may depend on the industry, but generally sustainable options will account for:

  • Minimizing waste

  • Maximizing use of recyclable and biodegradable materials

  • Maximizing use of renewable energy during production

  • Consumer and environmental safety


Types of eco-friendly packaging and shipping


Papers and cardboard


The most commonly used elements in packaging are paper and cardboard, which can be easily reused and recycled by the consumer. Most importantly, they are also readily and easily accessible no matter the demand or size of the business.


Bioplastics


Bioplastics are usually derived from plant-based materials such as corn starch and wheat straw, which biodegrade within a much shorter time frame. They produce 70% less greenhouse emissions in landfills than traditional (petrochemical-based) plastics, making them well-suited to composting. However, they cannot be conventionally recycled because they can contaminate traditional plastics.


Biodegradable packaging


Biodegradable packaging includes any material that have been modified to decompose or break down faster through the presence of heat or light. There are different levels of biodegradability.


Certain biodegradable plastics, for example, may take longer to decompose. One downside is that because they still contain petrochemicals, they can leave behind toxic residues which make them unsuitable for composting.


Compostable packaging also loosely falls under "biodegradable" by definition, but goes a step further by returning nutrients back to the earth once broken down. Certified compostable packaging have clearer timelines for when they decompose and thus make it a more favored option for sustainable packaging.


Plant-based packaging

Plant-based packaging solutions are made up of bio-based sources. Jute, cotton, and wood pulp are some examples of eco-friendly packaging materials in the form of reusable tote bags or compostable mailers.


However, not all plant-based packaging options are compostable. Some options with added materials may require longer time to break down or may simply not break down completely.


Inflatable air pillows


Air pillows are versatile and lightweight inflatable plastic film bags that can be used to protect products. They are often made from post-consumer recycled materials, but aren’t compostable since they are often made from a plastic-based material.


Corrugated bubble wrap


If you need to cushion a fragile item, an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bubble wrap or styrofoam packaging peanuts is corrugated bubble wrap. This is typically made out of 100% recycled cardboard that’s derived from post-consumer and post-industrial waste. Corrugated bubble wrap can be both recycled or composted.


Why should I transition to eco-friendly packaging?


As a business owner, the main goal is to increase profit while minimizing costs. With this mindset, it’s common to select packaging options that are more cost-effective in the short-term without thinking of the consequences in the long-run.

There’s a common myth that sustainable eCommerce packaging and shipping is more expensive, yet this myth is a result of comparison bias. It’s a classic case of supply and demand; one of the reasons why plastics are cheap is because they are abundant. It’s easy for businesses to see this and believe sustainable options aren’t financially viable.

However, sustainable packaging may actually be more cost-effective than they initially appear. Sustainable packaging is a valuable asset in creating a positive first impression. Sustainable options can oftentimes be a deal breaker when it comes to choosing where to shop, and if it’s not a deal breaker, packaging is still the first thing customers see when they receive your product, tying it closely to your brand’s personality and reputation. Making the effort to reduce your carbon footprint doesn’t just show off your green credentials; it also makes you a much more desirable brand.

If you’re not transitioning to eco-friendly packaging in the near future, you may be losing out on an influential consumer base. It’s time to rethink your brand’s carbon footprint and the packaging products you use. Eco-friendly packaging is here to stay, and businesses that are quick to adapt with new sustainable solutions will prove more successful in the long-run.


How eco-friendly packaging can influence your sales


The going green movement has increased in popularity as more people realize the threats our planet faces due to such things as unnecessary eCommerce waste. Buyers nowadays are more selective in regards to sustainability, where eco-friendly packaging itself can prompt customers to make a purchase.


In 2015, Nielsen surveyed 30,000 global consumers, and 66 percent agreed they were more willing to pay more for products from sustainable sources. That number is likely to only increase as this environmentally-friendly trend becomes a common lifestyle.


The quality of your products and services may determine business growth, but the influence of packaging cannot be overlooked. Using sustainable and eco-friendly materials for packaging can build a strong brand reputation, which in turn can undoubtedly increase your sales.


Promoting and implementing eco-friendly packaging in your business doesn’t just help the environment. It’s also a way to connect with your customers on a deeper, more meaningful level. By showing your commitment to reducing your business’s carbon footprint, you’ll build trust which may strengthen existing customer relationships and eventually bring in more customers.


Need a 3PL to ship your branded eco-friendly packages?


ShipBots is an eCommerce fulfillment center that syncs with your sales channels, stores your inventory, and ships your eco-friendly packages efficiently and cost-effectively. You can use your own custom branded packaging or our free plain brown boxes and recyclable dunnage. Request a pricing quote today to see if we’d be a good fit for your business.