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Updated Feb 21, 2023

Committing to Eco-Friendly Packaging Practices Can Save Your Company Money

Eco-friendly packaging is good for your bottom line and your customers.

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Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Whether you’re running a brick-and-mortar business or managing a fulfillment center, the impact of your product packaging choices can’t be overstated. By opting for green innovation in the form of eco-friendly processes and materials, you can reduce your company’s carbon footprint, minimize overhead costs and make a lasting positive impression on consumers eager to support businesses that champion transparency and sustainability.

Of course, the most apparent benefit of eco-friendly packaging is reducing waste and cutting costs by minimizing the amount of packaging materials used to ship goods. We’ll look at ways a brand can commit to eco-friendly packaging without breaking the bank – ultimately yielding long-term savings.

Did You Know?Did you know
Aside from product packaging, other ways to commit to a sustainable business model include pledging a percentage of revenue to a specific charity or organization and thoughtfully considering your resource usage.

Why you should go green with eco-friendly packaging

There are three surefire strategies for creating an eco-friendly business with sustainable packaging. By using lightweight materials to package products, prioritizing durability to minimize the need for returns, and improving returns processing, you can help the environment without sacrificing consumer happiness.

1. Lightweight packaging reduces shipping costs and makes customers’ lives easier.

Lightweight, sustainable materials are becoming the top choice for environmentally minded (and financially savvy) businesses for the following reasons: 

  • Lightweight packages make shipping cheaper. The lighter the packaging, the less it costs to ship your products – not to mention that it produces less waste on the receiving end. With this in mind, materials like molded pulp, jute and plastic films have become industry favorites.
  • Customers appreciate environmentally conscious businesses. A commitment to sustainability can earn high marks with your target audience, boosting repeat business and enhancing customer loyalty. Opting for green packaging – especially lightweight options that cut down on material waste – can set your company apart as trustworthy and respectable in the eyes of consumers. Additionally, streamlined packaging made with recycled materials enhances the overall customer experience by generating less waste and easing personal environmental concerns.
TipBottom line
Eco-friendly packaging can strengthen your company's reputation and differentiate your products from the competition's, helping your customers understand how much you care about the environment.

2. Lightweight design and durability eliminate waste while protecting products.

The materials you use to ship your products must be durable enough to protect the contents along a sometimes tumultuous journey from the warehouse to the customer’s doorstep.

For example, an electronics company may use 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials packaging. However, if the shipping box isn’t strong enough to protect the customer’s smart TV or gaming console, the company will be faced with the (ultimately avoidable) costs associated with handling the return – as well as potentially losing a valuable customer who received a damaged product. 

While eco-friendly packaging should be a priority, you must give material durability equal weight. Otherwise, long-term expenses may cancel out any gains you’ve made from your decision to go green.

FYIDid you know
According to Trivium Packaging, 74 percent of consumers are willing to pay more to companies that use sustainable product packaging.

3. A streamlined returns process reduces logistical headaches while minimizing extraneous packaging.

Return rates are consistently higher for e-commerce sales than brick-and-mortar stores. Those returns add up, making it even more crucial to design smart, reusable packaging that eliminates waste and facilitates the reverse logistics process for retailers.

For example, more companies now include a return package with product shipments. This can help make the returns process easier for customers, but it comes with added costs for your company and the environment. Instead of providing extra materials, consider a return mailing label and use packaging that can be used to deliver the product and handle any returns.

Above all, e-commerce packaging trends reflect a desire to accommodate changing consumer online purchasing habits and attitudes. Understanding what customers expect in their packaging while staying on top of eco-friendly practices can help you stay ahead of the curve.

Bottom LineBottom line
Committing to energy conservation by adjusting your business's lighting, heating and equipment can save you money and help you thrive in a competitive market.

5 types of eco-friendly packaging

Whether you call it green packaging, sustainable packaging or eco-friendly packaging, the meaning is the same: Be as Earth-friendly as possible in how you package your products. 

To be considered eco-friendly, product packaging should include one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Recyclable material
  • Nontoxic material
  • Reusable material
  • Material made from recycled materials
  • Material made from natural products 

For example, milk in a glass bottle is considered eco-friendly, but not milk in a plastic container. Glass meets the eco-friendly packaging definition because it is recyclable and reusable. 

If you’re ready to start using eco-friendly packaging, here are some of the most popular materials to consider:

  • Recycled paper: When considering eco-friendly packaging materials, anything made from recycled materials is beneficial for the environment and can decrease garbage. This is why recycled paper and cardboard are some of the top eco-friendly packaging materials to choose from. Almost any type of paper or cardboard can be recycled as packaging.
  • Mushroom: Mushroom packaging has become a popular trend for those seeking low-cost resources that can be used for packaging materials. This type of packaging is made from mushrooms (really!), so it’s a nontoxic and biodegradable material that can help with your goal of a better environment. The mushrooms are finely ground and make great durable packaging. As a bonus, sharing that your packaging is biodegradable on your product label can help get consumers’ attention. 
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch is made from corn. This renewable resource is low cost and economical to produce. Furthermore, the ingredients used in cornstarch break down, making it biodegradable. Cornstarch can be used for various packaging options.
  • Organic fabric: Plastic bags have significantly impacted the environment, from filling landfills to harming wildlife. An excellent eco-friendly alternative is organic fabric, which can be used for reusable bags. There are several organic fabric options to choose from, such as recycled cotton. Even when thrown out, organic fabrics will biodegrade in approximately 100 days, as opposed to the 10,000 years it takes for plastic bags to biodegrade. People are also more likely to reuse fabric bags, so capitalize on their continued use by imprinting them with your brand image and contact information.
  • Bamboo: Bamboo is a renewable resource that makes an excellent alternative to plastic or Styrofoam packaging. Bamboo is one of the most rapidly growing species of plants; it can grow 24 to 36 inches in 24 hours. It is sustainable, doesn’t need pesticides and chemicals to grow, and decomposes naturally. Bamboo has a wide variety of uses, including the manufacturing of dinnerware, such as plates and bowls; flooring; bed linens; and food boxes.
author image
Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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