Ask any eCommerce business owner, and they will tell you how much emphasis they give on preventing customer orders from getting damaged in transit. This includes packing the product in a bubble wrap, which is then neatly placed in a corrugated carton box.
Sometimes, the bubble wrapped-product is first put in a smaller paperboard box before making its way into the carton. On the other hand, customers have to pick their way through the layers of unnecessary packaging and deal with disposing of the waste later.
Unfortunately, that is often the part-and-parcel of a typical online shopping experience. However, as the planet battles extreme climate changes, eCommerce businesses realize the heavy environmental impact caused by single-use packaging and lightning shipping speeds.
Eco-friendly eCommerce packaging strategies are finally getting the attention they deserve after being under-utilized by many businesses for a long time.
What does an eco-friendly order fulfillment mean?
It means considering how any business can reduce the environmental impact of its packaging design. Since order fulfillment does not have to happen on an enormous scale, there is no need for companies to ensure high costs in terms of waste.
Research shows packaging is responsible for almost 1/3rd of all household waste. Hence, the eCommerce business can alleviate this problem by ensuring more sustainable order fulfillment. This article lists down seven ways to do so:
1. Say NO to overpackaging
Overpackaging refers to precisely what the term means. It involves using more materials [such as bubble wrap, paper boxes, packaging tapes] than necessary to protect a product. In fact, this is a common problem within eCommerce.
What businesses need to identify is, do they even need to ensure such extensive coverage? It is possible they could get by using a lot less! Moreover, the cost of excess filler or boxes hampers the bottom line of eCommerce brands in general.
By reducing packaging, businesses reduce waste, and save money and time taken to put together each package.
2. Eliminate plastic packaging, wherever
Plastic is a petroleum-based, non-renewable resource which takes hundreds of years to break down. A NatGeo report states that only 9% of all plastic has ever been recycled. No wonder it has become such a major environmental issue.
In eCommerce, shrink wrap, bubble wrap, and cling film are commonly used, but they are particularly harmful. That is because they cannot be recycled as easily as hard plastics and might have to be taken to designated recycling centers, which is not possible for every consumer.
The excellent news is that soft plastics can be replaced with air cushions and crinkle-cut papers to wrap up products for extra protection. Tissue paper and compostable substances such as sugarcane and corn starch can also be used.
3. Cut down on returned merchandise
One of the benefits that eCommerce businesses offer their customers is the ability to return an order for whatever reasons. That means products have to be shipped twice, if not more, which further doubles the environmental impact.
That is why it is necessary to let customers know what the exchange or return policies are. Ecommerce businesses should highlight that clearly on the individual product pages. They can also adapt their return policy to discourage the purchase of multiple sizes of a product for seeing what fits or looks best.
4. Increase using renewable materials
Think eco-friendliness in eCommerce, and it is hard not to think of renewable materials such as paper and corrugated cardboard. Not only are those easy to source, but they also can be recycled and reused rather easily. Besides, these renewable materials can be molded into different packaging options:
- Gift wraps and tissue papers
- Packing fillers
ECommerce businesses can also use recycled paper. Another option is to partner up with FSC-certified suppliers offering packaging made from paper-based material created from forests specifically intended for use, thus eliminating undesignated land and illegal deforestation.
5. Include an offset service charge during checkout
Ecommerce businesses can balance some of the environmental downsides caused by order fulfillment through carbon offsets. These are measures designed to balance the CO amount produced by investing an equal amount in projects on reducing GHG emissions.
In 2019, Etsy became the first global eCommerce company to offset such emissions produced by the sellers on their platform. Similarly, businesses can allow their customers to help by providing them with an optional offset charge. Join hands with a reputable offset project for the same.
6. Resell used merchandise
Ecommerce businesses can help their customers give products a second lease of life with the “reselling” option. From a linear perspective, products move from creation to usage to disposal. Businesses can break this vicious cycle by introducing a circular economy.
This concept gives products a second life by encouraging them to be passed on to a second or third owner after the first owner is done using them. Ecommerce businesses can offer a reseller option on their site and enable only their products to be sold.
They can also be shipped in a previously-used package to make the order fulfillment for such products completely sustainable.
7. Implement sustainable shipping
Ecommerce businesses contribute to the carbon footprint during the last mile of the shipping and delivery process when the package is transferred to a home address from a fulfillment center that leads to vehicular pollution in residential areas.
There are many ways to reduce this impact, such as using recyclable packaging like cornstarch bubble wraps and paper cardboard boxes or opting for printing labels that use thermal printers and save on ink.
Partnering with major carriers such as USPS, FedEx and UPS can ensure businesses offer paperless invoicing and other green options to the customers.
Summing it up
Without a doubt — adopting sustainable methods in order fulfillment is the only step forward. Businesses must ensure responsible disposal and save their packaging from “landing” in the “landfill.” Thankfully, there are different options — as mentioned above — that one can fulfill their orders, make their customers happy, and yes, save the environment. Try them today!