Before wondering how you can make your packaging more sustainable, it is worth asking whether it is possible to reduce the volume of packaging used by your business. This could mean buying boxes in more sizes to better fit smaller items, or even getting customised boxes to suit your products perfectly. Another way of generally reducing packaging would be to ship more items in bulk wherever possible. When it comes to packaging, you have to impose strict austerity at every possible juncture. That is the first major step.
And then, of course, it is time to think about the packaging itself. Are you using paper where a biodegradable alternative is available? Chuck the former out right away. Use paperless invoicing wherever possible as well. Consider whether printing out labels is a truly necessary process and whether there is a more efficient way to produce product labels. If you cannot use biodegradable packaging, please, I ask you kindly, at least use packaging that can be recycled.
Returns and Recycling
In an ideal world, everything used by your ecommerce website – the items themselves and the packaging – would either end up either naturally dissolving back into the earth or being used again and again. One way of easily doing this with packaging is ensuring that, either through recycling or an arrangement with a third party, every piece of cardboard and plastic is repurposed. Avoid plastic and paper wherever possible, obviously. Many companies recycle 100 percent of their packaging by using biodegradable cardboard.
When it comes to items, the task becomes harder. Once someone is done with a product, it ends up being discarded, but attempts are being made to change this. There are, for instance, a number of companies getting involved with what is known as the ‘circular economy’. This practice gives products a second life by encouraging them to be passed to a second owner once the initial owner no longer needs them, meaning that the product can be recycled to be made into a new product.
Offset Carbon Emissions
Even if all of your packaging is completely sustainable, with all packaging and items being repurposed or going back into the earth, there is still the problem of shipping. If you ship internationally, the carbon emissions of massive cargo airplanes are, well, massive. Even if you ship domestically, the build-up of emissions from delivery vans in already crowded urban areas serves as a major problem – one that nobody has produced a concrete solution for as of yet.
Currently, the best way of tackling this problem is through carbon offsets. These are measures designed to balance the amount of carbon dioxide produced by shipping your products with an investment of equal amount in projects – usually tree planting organisations – that are related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. You can purchase these carbon offsets as a retailer and encourage competitors to do the same. Moreover, you could insert an option for the customer to contribute towards carbon offsets once they enter the checkout process.
Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. Think hard. Ask difficult questions of yourself and others. Do your own research. We are in a total war against the forces of evil who have created this crisis. You have the responsibility as a small business owner to fight back by setting the right example with how you navigate packaging and shipping.
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