Sustainable Shipping and Packaging: Cost- & Environment-Saving
With the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore taking place this week, now’s a good time to talk about sustainability in small parcel shipping. The Expo provides great opportunities for companies to learn how to improve the ways in which they produce, package, and ship their products, but even if you won’t be there, here are a few thoughts on how to reduce both your impact on the environment and your shipping costs.
Shipping: Reducing impact, saving money
The shipping method you choose has a large effect on the environmental impact of sending that shipment. As a general guideline, the larger the shipment size, the smaller the environmental impact (and cost) on a per-item basis.
Even if you’re shipping individual packages, you can still reduce the impact. In general, “slower” ground shipping is cleaner than other transport modes (such as Overnight Air). Analyzing your shipping history will likely reveal times when shipping Ground would have got the package to its destination just as quickly as Air. As a further benefit, not only is Ground less environmentally harmful, it’s also usually cheaper. Logistics technology can enable you to make the best choice each time.
If you find your shipping costs are going down, you are likely making more sustainable choices.
Packaging: Reducing impact, saving money
Every brand wants to protect its products’ integrity during the fulfillment and shipping process. Doing so in a cost-efficient and environmentally sensitive way can take some initial effort and expenditure, but it will pay off in the long run.
The first and most evident consideration is choice of material. Obviously, using less plastic will have less impact on our environment. But the consideration also applies when using corrugated, boxboard, or paperboard. Is the packaging made from recycled materials — and can it be further recycled (or reused) by the recipient?
It’s also important to look at how much packaging is used. Does it fit snugly around the item without the need for filler? If filler is necessary, is the outer packaging sized to require only the minimum amount? What type of filler is being used? Is it recycled (or at least made from a sustainable source) and recyclable?
The economic benefits apply here too. Using too much packaging is not only wasteful from an environmental perspective, it also adds unnecessary cost. As with shipping, if you find your packaging costs are going down, you are probably making more environmentally friendly choices overall.
Shippers: Reduce environmental impact and save money
The volume of small parcel shipping is shooting upwards each year — which means the environmental cost is surging upwards too. Global volume in 2017 was 74.4 billion parcels, a 17% increase over 2016. Companies that make more sustainable shipping and packaging choices will reap a dual benefit: less impact on the environment — and less impact on their bottom line.