5 Tips for Eco-Friendly Shipping

5 Tips for Eco-Friendly Shipping It is impossible not to leave a carbon footprint in the modern world; even drinking water leaves a trace and affects the environment. Shipping a package does too, regardless of whether you run a small e-commerce business and ship multiple packages several times a week or you’re on occasional private shipper. Luckily, there are ways to reduce your carbon footprint by shipping more sustainably. Here are 5 tips for eco-friendly shipping you might find useful.

Make Sure Your Packaging Materials Are Recyclable, Recycled or Biodegradable

The list of commonly used packaging materials is impressively long; some of them are reasonably sustainable, some are less so, and some can hardly be called eco-friendly at all. Huge amounts of non-biodegradable and non-recyclable packaging materials are thrown away every day, contributing to environmental pollution. For example, tiny pieces of Styrofoam, which is a popular cushioning material, get into waterways and affect aquatic life.

The key to shipping more sustainably is to opt for recyclable, recycled, or biodegradable packaging materials. Shipping boxes are typically made from corrugated cardboard, so they’re perfectly fine; corrugated cardboard boxes can be both reused and recycled. Cushioning materials, though, are another thing.

Try to avoid Styrofoam and plastic and opt for recyclable/biodegradable alternatives, such as shredded paper, bioplastic peanuts (they are sourced from starch and other biodegradable materials), fabric bags, corrugated bubble wrap (an alternative to plastic bubble wrap made from shredded corrugated cardboard), cushioning materials made from recycled plastic, recycled paper, or biodegradable materials, etc.

Don’t Hesitate to Reuse Shipping Materials

If you can’t avoid non-biodegradable and non-recyclable packaging materials completely, you can reduce your carbon footprint by reusing them. For example, plastic bubble wrap, which is one of the most popular options for protecting fragile items during transit, can be used several times. Corrugated cardboard boxes can be reused too. Before reusing a shipping box, make sure it is sturdy enough and remove or cover any labels and markings left from previous uses.

Try to Make Your Packages as Small as Possible

There are several reasons why you should reduce the size of your packages. First, a box of the right size will keep its contents safe; if it is too big, the items in the box will jostle around during transit. Just make sure the box is not too small because you still need space for cushioning materials. Second, the cost of shipping most often depends on dimensional weight, so the bigger the box, the more it costs to ship, even if the items you’re shipping aren’t particularly heavy. Finally, smaller packages are more sustainable because they take up less space on a carrier’s truck, plane or ship, allowing carriers to transport more packages at once and therefore to reduce the carbon footprint of each individual package.

Support Sustainable Shipping Carriers

Although shipping cannot be 100% sustainable, most major shipping carriers at least try to reduce their carbon footprint and compensate their environmental impact by implementing various eco-friendly initiatives. For example, carriers may run recycling programs and/or encourage their customers to reuse packaging, employ solar panels as a source of power at their processing facilities, control their energy and water consumption, invest in hybrid electric vehicles, etc. When you’re choosing a shipping carrier, their environmental initiatives can be one of your choice criteria.

Print Your Shipping Label Yourself and Schedule a Package Pickup

There are several reasons why printing your shipping labels yourself is better than having them printed at a post office: it gives you more control over the process, helps you save time and money, and allows you to schedule a package pickup with the carrier, which is more sustainable than driving to a post office yourself. But what makes package pickups more environmentally friendly?

The thing is, shipping business is all about logistics and optimization. Carriers make sure that the routes of their couriers are as fuel-efficient as possible, so scheduling a package pickup or dropping your package with the prepaid shipping label into a USPS collection box within walking distance from your house leaves less of a carbon footprint than driving to a post office (and saves you gas money).