Reducing the Environmental Impact of Your Shipping Plan

The recent e-commerce boom has positively impacted retailers and shoppers by increasing the bottom line and making shopping easy. Shoppers love the convenience of being able to browse, select and receive from the comfort of their homes. The development of same-day and two-day shipping has only increased the desirability. Unfortunately, e-commerce and the highly desirable same-day shipping does not benefit the environment.

When e-commerce and home-deliveries first started to become prominent in the retail world, it was praised for being beneficial for the environment. Researchers determined online shopping was ‘greener’ than brick-and-motor shopping since fewer people are making personal trips in their car and multiple orders could be delivered at one time in one truck. But these predictions were made before the boom of same-day deliveries and the prominence of convenience shopping online. 

The desire for quick deliveries limits any environmental benefit of e-commerce. To fulfill all the same-day orders, retailers now rely on multiple delivery drivers to fulfill orders and need to use more packing materials. At its worst, with one delivery per trip, carbon emission can be 35 times greater than a delivery-van making multiple-stops.

The holiday season only increases the environmental impact.

Every year, retailers see a spike in orders during the holidays. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day there is an increase of 25 percent in extra waste from retail shipping alone. As we go into the holiday season it is a good time for businesses to reconsider their shipping practices to help curb excess waste. 

Decrease Package Material Waste

One of the best ways to cut down on your business shipping waste is to cut down on the material you use to ship an item. Instead of using the same size box for every order, consider the size of the item or items being shipped and the size of the box needed to keep the items safe while shipping. Your company may first need to invest in shipping software to help optimize packaging. The software can develop packing presets based on your items and create a list of rules based on dimensions and weight of the order, so you fully utilize the box and do not waste any cardboard. 

Using a smaller box is not the only way to cut down on waste. Using less package filler and switching to digital packaging slips and receipts waste less paper and plastic and cut down on your carbon emissions.

Use Biodegradable Packaging

According to a study by the Fast Company, 165 billion packages are shipped in the US each year— equal to more than one billion trees. All the packages are shipped in a large cardboard box, filled with plastic-wrap, tissue-paper, and wrapped in masking tape. Although the cardboard boxes used are technically recyclable, most of them end up in the landfill and not the recycling plant because they are deemed too contaminated to be recycled. 

Switching to a biodegradable alternative —such as air-pillows made of recycled materials mushroom packaging, and organic materials like hemp or recycled cotton— can help cut down on the waste that ends up in landfills and oceans.

As a bonus, biodegradable packaging is not only good for the environment. It also benefits your companies, and your customers, wallets. Biodegradable packaging tends to be less expensive to create and is lighter compared to non-biodegradable alternatives. Since biodegradable packaging weighs less, it is cheaper to ship. 

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

If you are not ready to make the switch to biodegradable materials, consider opting for recycled materials instead. Using recycled materials for both boxes and fillers can help reduce waste and save you money. Boxes are not the only shipping items you can get made from recycled paper, many companies now offer recycled mailers, fillers, and cushioning.

Bundle Items

Recently retailers have opted to remove minimum spending requirements on the delivery order. Before a shopper would need to spend on average 25-50 dollars, and therefore need to buy a couple of products, before qualifying for two-day shipping. Enforcing minimum spending would reduce the number of carbon emissions by limiting the number of trips made, and reduce cardboard waste. Now consumers are free to order one item which increases the number of delivery trips and boxes used. 

As a retailer, opting to enforce minimum spending would make it easier to bundle items. Doing this would reduce not only your business’ carbon emissions, but also reduce the amount of packaging used and save you costs in shipping and packaging.