Businesses that want to become more sustainable and minimize their ecological footprint are rethinking their shipping and logistics sectors. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash in 2013, with packaging materials, such as paper and plastics, accounting for approximately 40 percent of that waste. It is important for businesses to employ sustainable packaging and shipping processes to help minimize waste and promote a healthier environment.
Simply sustainable shipping
Increasing your company’s sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, in many cases, becoming green can help your business reduce its costs. Here are four ways your business can build sustainability into its shipping department.
1. Use right-sized packaging
An easy way to make your shipping department more efficient and eco-friendly is by eliminating wasted space from your packaging. Studies show the average package contains about 40 percent wasted space. This wasted space increases your environmental impact in many ways. Larger-than-needed packages result in the manufacturing of unnecessary packaging materials, including filler material. Many of these fillers cannot be reused or recycled. Secondly, larger boxes take up more space on your freight carrier’s trailer, and as a result, increase your carbon emissions and fuel usage.
To eliminate wasted space from your packaging, use a corrugated box making machine. With a box making machine, you can make a box to an exacting size for the product you intend to ship, in real-time. By right-sizing your packaging, you will lessen your environmental impact and reduce shipping charges, open up valuable warehouse space, and decrease the risk of product damage during transit.
2. Reconsider your packaging materials
Though typically used as a packaging material, polystyrene foam contains toxic chemicals and takes several hundred years to decompose. Ditch the packaging peanuts and other harmful materials. Instead, stick to those that are eco-friendly, recyclable and bio-degradable. For instance, corrugated cardboard is cost-effective and recyclable. In fact, it is the most recycled material on the planet.
Additionally, some companies have recently experimented with natural materials to use in their packaging. Most notably, Dell started using bamboo and mushroom packaging, while Tom’s of Maine pioneered using potato starch. In addition to re-using materials, consider creating a packaging design that your customers can reuse. For example, Puma developed the “Clever Little Bag” packaging that works as a shoe bag.
3. Ship items in bulk
Sometimes sending individual packages is a necessity. But, whenever possible, ship items in bulk. Shipping a large number of boxes at once will reduce the amount of wasted freight space, thus minimizing your fuel usage. Also, if a customer orders multiple products, ship them together in the same container to save on packaging material.
4. Improve your supply chain
Assess the sustainability of your supply chain and design a more efficient strategy for your freight that improves its fuel mileage and better optimizes its movements. For instance, if you operate a small business that doesn’t have enough shipments to fill an entire truck or plane, consider co-shipping. In doing so, you can share the freight space with another company, resulting in reduced costs and less fuel. Once you have an accurate depiction of your supply chain’s performance, set specific benchmarks and communicate those goals with all involved. Achieve and maintain your sustainability goals by monitoring your process and performing audits.
By integrating these practices into your organization’s shipping and logistics sectors, your business can minimize its environmental impact and become a greener company.
About the author
Packsize International Corporation is a pioneer of On Demand Packaging®, which enables organizations to create their own sustainable packaging in-house. Its solutions benefit a number of industries ranging from print marketing to furniture.
Feature image credit: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock