Home

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

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

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

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

  • The use of eco-friendly packaging in your business can cut costs, reduce waste and allow your business to be viewed as an Earth-friendly company.
  • Sustainable packaging materials reduce shipping costs, minimize erroneous costs and eliminate waste.
  • From cornstarch to mushrooms, even the most unexpected materials can be used as eco-friendly packaging materials.

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

Whether you're running a brick-and-mortar business or managing a fulfillment center, the impact of the choices you make when it comes to packaging your products cannot be understated. By opting for eco-friendly processes and materials, you can reduce your company's carbon footprint, minimize overhead costs and make a lasting positive impression among consumers who are increasingly supporting businesses that champion transparency and sustainability.

Of course, the most obvious benefit of eco-friendly packaging is that it reduces waste and cuts costs by minimizing the amount of packaging material used to ship goods. But how does a brand commit to eco-friendly packaging without breaking the bank? It's easier than you might think, and can yield savings in the long term.

There are three surefire strategies your business can adopt to optimize for sustainability. By using lightweight materials to package products, prioritizing durability to minimize the need for returns and improving returns processing in general, you can help the environment without sacrificing consumer happiness. 

Lightweight packaging materials reduce shipping costs and make customers' lives easier

Lightweight and sustainable materials are becoming the top choice for environmentally-minded (and financially-savvy) businesses. After all, 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 such as molded pulp, jute and plastic films have become industry favorites.

What's more, a commitment to sustainability earns high marks with customers, boosting long-term business. 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. Streamlined packaging made with recycled materials enhances the overall customer experience by generating less waste and easing personal environmental concerns. 

The right balance between lightweight design and heavy-duty durability eliminates waste while protecting products

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

For example, an electronics company may use packaging that consists of 100% post-consumer recycled materials, but if the shipping box is not 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 has received a damaged product. While eco-friendly packaging should certainly be a priority, the durability of these materials must be given equal weight. Otherwise, long-term expenses may cancel out any gains you've made from your decision to go green. 

A streamlined returns process reduces logistical headaches for your team while minimizing extraneous packaging and carbon emissions

Return rates are consistently higher for e-commerce sales than they are for brick-and-mortar retail. Those returns add up, which bolster why it's important to design smart, reusable packaging that eliminates waste and facilitates the reverse logistics process for retailers.

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

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

5 types of eco-friendly packaging

Whether you refer to it as green packaging, sustainable packaging or eco-friendly packaging, the meaning is the same; to be as earth-friendly as possible when using products for packaging. In order to be considered eco-friendly, the packaging used should be recyclable, nontoxic, reusable, made from recycled materials and/or natural products. For example, milk in a glass bottle is considered eco-friendly, while a plastic container isn't. Glass meets the eco-friendly packaging definition because it is recyclable and reusable. If you are ready to start using eco-friendly packaging, here are a few of the most common types of eco-friendly packaging materials.

Recycled paper

When considering eco-friendly packaging materials, anything that is made from recycled materials is beneficial for the environment and can decrease garbage. This is why recycled paper and cardboard are one 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 material that can help with your goal of a better environment. The mushrooms are finely ground and make great durable packaging.

Cornstarch

Cornstarch is made from corn, so it low-cost, economic to produce, renewable, and the ingredients used in cornstarch breakdown, making it biodegradable. Cornstarch can be used for a variety of packaging options

Organic fabric

Plastic bags have a big impact on the environment, from filling landfills to harming wildlife. An excellent alternative that is eco-friendly is organic fabric that can be used for reusable bags. There are several organic fabric options to choose from, such as recycled cotton. Using organic fabrics, even when thrown out, will biodegrade in approximately 100 days as opposed to the 10,000 years that it takes plastic bags to biodegrade.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a renewable resource that makes an excellent alternative for plastic or Styrofoam packaging. Bamboo is one of the most rapidly growing species of plants; it can grow 24-36 inches in 24 hours. It is sustainable, it doesn't need pesticides and chemicals to grow, and it decomposes naturally. Bamboo can be used for a wide variety of uses, including the manufacturing of dinnerware, such as plates and bowls and food boxes.

Image Credit: MarianVejcik / Getty Images
business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff,
business.com Writer
See business.com editorial staff's Profile
The purpose of our community is to connect small business owners with experienced industry experts who can address their questions, offer direction, and share best practices. We are always looking for fresh perspectives to join our contributor program. If you're an expert working in your field – whether as an employee, entrepreneur, or consultant – we'd love to help you share your voice with our readers and the business.com community. We work hard to only publish high-quality and relevant content to our small business audience. To help us ensure you are the right fit, we ask that you take the time to complete a short application: https://www.business.com/contributor/apply/ We can't wait to hear what you have to say!